Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let Me Sum Up...

There is too much, so you'll have to do with a summary:

  • We are sitting at 95 CSA members right now.  Our goal is still 120.  We like to balance things out and have a few more Waverly folk join us.  Split is 38 Waverly, 3 Tripoli, 54 Cedar Falls
  • Thank you to all of you who have been so prompt with payments after receiving the bill and SASE in the mail.  The Spring purchases for farm tools, seeds, etc continue at a reasonable pace.
  • Speaking of purchases, there is an auction coming up we plan on attending.  We've got some specific goals for that auction.  Let's hope we can meet them.
  • Spring extended season CSA is getting set up now.  We'll be in touch with those of you who have participated in the past first.
  • Why are we getting on the Spring season share now?  Well, we have lots of kale, spinach, mustard and other things growing in the high tunnel.
  • The spinach, arugula, mustard and radish we put in about a week ago in the field - already up.  Wow.
  • The raised bed implement has been created, now we just have to go get it and paint it.  
  • The disk harrow has been partially disassembled and its needs have been identified.  Hopefully it can be completed in the next week so we can use it soon!
  • We have some flat tires to fix on wheel hoes and carts.  Nothing major, just means we're working on getting tools ready for use.
  • Seed trays are getting filled so we can seed LOTS of things today.
  • Trying to get some mice caught so they stop digging in our trays and eating the seed we plant.  We're NOT happy with that one.
  • Cold frames are out (except two).  We need to fix a couple and finish cleaning up their area to use them.
  • Tom Sawyer Day?  Anyone for a TSD this coming weekend?  Saturday's weather is supposed to be nice and we have a long task list that would be friendly to a group of people being involved.  This would be our first EVER March TSD.
  • Go Green Fair - we'll be at the Go Green Fair at the W on Sunday.  Come say hello.  And, if you were thinking about signing up (we're looking at you Waverly folks!) stop by and ask questions and see if we can convince you.
  • Tammy will be staffing the Waverly Community Gardens table and Rick Montgomery will hold a table for the Waverly Farmers' Market.  Yours truly will staff the GFF booth.
  • We have a presentation coming up on Thursday at the Waverly Hospital.  Looking forward to it.
  • The Gang of Four (four farms from Iowa who visit each other during the season for a work day) will be having a pre-season gathering coming up at the end of the week.
  • Hens are laying!  'Nuff said.
  • We start getting chicks at the farm around April 14.  Uh oh.
  • Been catching lots of raccoon in the live traps.  So far they haven't hurt the chickens, but have bothered the bees and things in one of our buildings.  Minor, but irritating and often a prelude to more.  We're working to prevent it.
  • 45 bags of seed starting mix in the garage, 45 bags of seed starting mix!  Take one out....etc etc...
  • Garlic is up (8 inches above the mulch line already)
  • Durnik, the Ford 8 1/2 N tractor, started right up this Spring.  Looks like he wants a good run at this year.  Barty, the BCS tiller also took little coaxing.  Biter and Beater (the two lawn tractors) hesitated only a little.  A flat tire on one.   An oil change due in the other.
  • We're working on the employment scenario for 2012 summer.  It always takes more effort than we think it should.  Here's hoping we can get the right crew together for the year.
  • Jeans and barn lime.  Yes, that was the purchase at a store recently.  
  • Still have a couple of turkeys in the freezer we would like to sell.
  • Speaking of freezers, the time has come where we are going to try to combine everything into one of these so we can at least have a month or two where our electric bill isn't handling three of them where one might suffice.  Still some question as to whether it will all fit in one.
  • Speaking of electric use, ours goes up about this time with the use of grow lights, heat mats and more water.
  • Travels are over for us.  And, I think we're both grateful that they are done.  We enjoyed the opportunities, but the 'digging out' after returning is always difficult.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mulling Ideas and Some News

Participation is requested with this post!

This is just one way you can make your Farm Share work more for you.

The following probably has more to do with our CSA than anything else.  But, as with all things farm...there is overlap.  So, feel free to read and participate even if you are not in the CSA.

  1. Tammy and I are taking the time to update our recipe pages on our web page today.  So, take a look and see what we've done.  We added a number of recipes suggested to us over the past year and a half by CSA members (and others).  Sorry it took so long to do that.
  2. Speaking of recipes.  Surveys have indicated to us that there are certain veggies that are either loved or hated by our members.  But, more appropriately, people aren't sure what to do with some of them.  As a result, we are designing brochures for certain veg along the lines of the summer squash/zucchini trifolds we did some years back.  We will reprint that one and we will reprint (with modification) one for eggplant.  In development is one for kale, one for greens (other than kale), one for winter squash.  Other suggestions?
  3. The idea of having some brochures is so we can have something to hand to people at our CSA distributions (and maybe farmers' market) to help people with figuring out what to do with everything.  We really would like to do better in this area.
  4. We've noticed that many people seem to like option boxes in our distributions.  For example - a bunch of kale OR a bunch of chard OR another head of lettuce.  Another example - turnips or beets or a mix of the two.  And yet another - a box of whatever excess we have that you may select from.  See the next point for discussion.
  5. The issue here, of course, is that we don't want a situation where someone who comes later has less choice than those who come earlier.  So, there are management issues here.  But, there are if we do this other ways as well.  So, from your perspective - how do YOU feel about these selection options?  
  6. Tammy and I both felt we might be able to get a group of people together to discuss ways to make vegetables more accessible to their children.  We have a number of members (past and present) who have children - and everyone has a different approach to introducing foods to their kids.  We'd like to figure out a way to host a group meeting once or twice before the season starts - or during - that can discuss ways to be successful in doing this.  Tammy will be in charge of this - so if you don't want to post here, send it to her.  Either way, it will get to her.  We think this idea is worthy of pursuing and would like to see it happen.  What do you think?
  7. Farm gatherings.  We have held three festivals and a myriad of Tom Sawyer work days on our farm each year.  Last year, we participated in the "Farm Crawl" sponsored by NIFFP and UNI-CEEE.  What sort of farm events do you want to see us offer in 2012?  We have not set the schedule yet.  How many of you are interested/willing to participate in a work day or two?  We want to focus our energy on things you want to participate in.
We realize this is a lot to read through and think on.  But, we do want to hear from you about what you think.  One of the advantages to consumers with buying local is that they can make their feelings known and expect that the local producers will either make a change to accommodate OR explain why the proposed change cannot be made.  Try doing that with a large farm 1000 miles away.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oh, That's Where THAT Muscle Is!

Yes, it is that time of year again.  The time of year where Tammy and I reacquaint ourselves with the locations of various muscles as they make it know that they weren't as happy with the work we've done the last two days as we hoped they would be.  While we know we haven't worked out as much as we probably should have over the Winter, we also know full well that working out in a gym doesn't prepare us for full days on the farm. 

This weather has been fantastic - and we'll be happy that we have it - all the while realizing that we can have snowstorms and below zero temps in April - we've seen it before.  But, that doesn't mean we have to be unhappy about some nice days to be outdoors.  Of course, since we are farmers, we worry about what this weather tells us about the upcoming growing year.  But, we'd worry if everything fell right on all the averages - it comes with the territory.

It's March 18....  we've planted spinach, arugula, mustard and radish *IN THE FIELD*.   That is just plain weird.  But, the soil is workable and the 4" soil temp this evening was 60 degrees F.  You get a better baseline with an AM reading, in my opinion, but I was curious and dug the reader out.  We'll check again in the morning.  We got some annual ryegrass cover into last year's high tunnel location - after cleaning the area up the rest of the way. 

We did a great job last Fall putting all of our equipment, etc under cover for the Winter.  Now we're pulling things back out for use - all the time realizing that things could still get covered in snow.  But, you go with what the weather gives you and prepare to handle it if it all turns the other direction.  I mention pulling things out because we pulled all of our cold frames out for use.  Some need repair - and this is a great time to get to that.  But, the big news is that we are acting on moving the cold frames to the area just south of the old hog building that came down some years ago.  For those who don't know - we've been pecking away at cleaning that thing up for some time now.  The news that the cold frames are going there is *big* because it means we're finally getting it cleaned up enough to use that area. 

We did do a lot more than this, of course - but it's what I felt like typing about at the moment.  We'll give you more tomorrow!

Take a walk between the raindrops tomorrow!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

That Big, Bright, Round Thing in the Sky

Tammy and I are back from an extended (for us) trip away from the farm.  We don't travel much, though it might not seem like this were true if we listed all of our roaming around this year so far.  But, this sabbatical thing for Tammy only happens every so often.  And, there were things that were done in her official capacity on this trip as well.  Even so, we both had moments of guilt mixed in with the enjoyment of seeing some beautiful things (see our prior blog posts for some of our best pictures of our travels).

I was tempted to write a quick note to Mother Nature and ask her why she saw fit to put so many beautiful days in Iowa while we are away.  Maybe she knows we can handle the adversity?  In any event, we should send a note to Florence, Oregon apologizing for bringing the nasty (for them) weather that came their way while we were present.  It's our understanding that they don't get snow at all often.  We checked their annual snowfall average charts.  It is essentially a straight line all year at 0".   Ups.  We hope you can get over the 4-6" that came your way our last evening there.  The snow made things beautiful, but it also took down alot of trees and power lines. 

Another thing about heavy snow on the branches of very tall trees.  A little bit of wind sends heavy snow blobs down from on high.  We found that trees can win any snowball fight they wish if they really want to.

The weather wasn't really all that bad and beautiful places in Oregon look good in whatever weather they happen to be dressed in.  On top of that, we were prepared for 'the worst,' so the spells where it wasn't raining and the bits of sun here and there were extra bonuses for us.  And, since we're not used to crowds, it made a difference to be there in the "off season."  All in all, it was trip we'd be willing to repeat, if we are given the chance.  Favorite hike had to be by the Haceda Head Light House, but the hike in Silver Falls Park might have rivaled it if we hadn't felt we should cut it a bit short (remember the trees had too many snow balls to throw).  Latourrel Falls wins for most excellent photo ops, etc  but our best photos were of the North Falls at Silver Falls Park.  We didn't manage to get very close to it, but the picture was stunning from the overlook we had a chance to stop at.

We spent a good deal of time staring at the waves as they came rolling in, or paying our respects to some really big trees.  We were amazed by the complexity to be found in light house lenses and learned to tell the difference between the different sounds of water.  The robins of the forest greeted us and the elk deigned to glance our way.  We even took a liking to lichen.

On top of it all, Tammy got to tour Wartburg West and see some of her students there.  She also visited food banks in Denver and Portland, presented at a conference in Portland and was able to be present when her colleague, Susan Vallem was the esteemed presenter of the Ron Federico lecture.  Social Workers...pretty darned good people with an interest in making things better for everyone.  Got to like them!

Now the farmer and his Social Worker bride are back home.  We are now acclimated to being outside in rain and 47 degrees Fahrenheit.  What's with this sun, wind and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in March?  We cleaned up a couple of plots with the intent of planting spinach and some cover crops tomorrow.  We also worked on cleaning up the new area where the cold frames are going this year.  We'll put in another full day before the rain hits us Sunday night.

We loved Oregon, but it is good to be back home in Iowa.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Picture Fest V

Latourell Falls, OR

Bridal Veil Falls, OR

Picture Fest IV

Silver Falls Park, OR

Winter Falls at Silver Falls Park, OR

North Falls, Silver Falls Park, OR

Siuslaw River, OR

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Picture Fest III

South Jetty, Florence, OR

Dunes at Umpqua Lighthouse

Umpqua River

Elk at Dean Creek

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Picture Fest II

Heceda Head Light House

Trail over Heceda Head

Holman Vista

Cape Perpetua

More that's Likable about Lichen

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Clearly Not Used To This

We are guessing that a large number of blog posts, facebook posts, twitter feeds and other things mentions something about beautiful weather in Iowa today.  They would, of course, be right.  But, why were you posting/tweeting/typing about it?  Get out there and do something in it!  I can get away with it because the day is over.... so there!

Ok, ok.  I'm just mad that you all beat me to it.

In any event, we did have a fine day to do work on the farm.  Our accomplishments in the last several days are worth reporting.  But, you should first take note of the title.  I'll pause for a second while you read it.

(insert elevator music here)

While Tammy and I did not work as hard or for as long as we will in days to come, we did find that we have gotten a little soft this Winter.  It's something we find out every Winter, so we aren't really surprised.  But, it can be a bit irritating when you feel a bit wiped out - even when you feel what you did doesn't quite justify it.

Now that we have that over with - on to a farm report:

  • The organic certification paperwork is *DONE* and will be mailed tomorrow AM.  For those who do not know, this is a big deal for us and represents some amount of effort on our part.
  • Billing for those who have signed up for the CSA is *MAILED.*  Again, this requires a some effort on our part and requires a number of things to be done prior to this effort.  So, please forgive us if we mention it as an accomplishment of some import.
  • We are currently at 79 members for the Farm Share CSA.  41 to go.
  • You might notice we are doing a number of things to get the word out about our Farm Share program.  You might notice a spot on Iowa Public Radio soon.  There are posters up here and there for our farm and brochures are getting pushed around a bit.    You may even notice that we are pushing a couple of aspects more than the past.  First -we are a Farm Share CSA - which means you invest in our farm and you become a part of our operation.  Second, we are emphasizing the fact that we are certified organic.  More on that in a later post.
  • Our first year SARE report is sent.  We currently have a 2 year SARE grant to study intercropping spacing issues with "larger" equipment.  
  • We have been selected to be a part of two Practical Farmers of Iowa studies in 2012.  One investigates companions for cabbage.  The other attempts to use living mulch in peppers.
  • We just rebuilt one of our plant starting tables.  We actually built this in Minnesota and moved it down with us.  It was not initially intended for what we do now, so the shelf spacing was....not efficient.  We have now added another shelf and improved the shelf surfaces so the heat mats will have better contact with the trays.  Here's hoping.
  • In order to celebrate the rebuilt shelf, Tammy planted 15 trays of onions today.  There are already about a dozen going.
  • Tammy took a trip down to Dyarsville (Farmtek) and picked up about 750 egg cartons.  Among other things.  Let's just say the car was full.
  • Tammy just finished editing/working on chapter 12 of a 12 chapter text.  Now she needs to do some of the end of chapter material.  Good work!
  • Plants in the high tunnel just got a nice day of drip irrigation.  The plants are small, but they are there.  Surprisingly, the arugula and mustard appear to have made it through this Winter.  We'll have to watch them closely to see if they want to bolt.
  • We even got to hang some clothing on the line today.
  • Lots of acquisition for the coming year going on right now.  We picked up 3000 lbs of hen feed from Frantzen Farms in New Hampton and 800 lbs of seed starting media from Beautiful Land Products in West Branch.
The roller coaster has only just begun.  You want a front seat?  Pick up a farm share with us!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our first 2012 CSA "Newsletter"

Below is the email (edited slightly for each distribution group and combined here) sent to those who are already signed up for our 2012 Farm Share CSA.

If you did not receive this email, but expected to - contact us!   It is possible we have the wrong email address OR we don't know you want to be a part of our program this year. 

Greetings all!

March is time to begin thinking Spring.  And, for us, it is time to do something about Spring heading our way!

We have sent out emails for each of our 2012 Farm Share CSA distribution (Waverly, Cedar Falls and Tripoli).  If this email is going to one of your email addresses that is inappropriate for Farm Share CSA announcements, please indicate this to us at this time.  This is our primary method of making announcements and we will send out emails weekly during the distribution season (June - October).  Thus, we need at least *one* email contact that will reliably receive and be able to read these emails.  If you are splitting a share, we want certain that each family unit has an email so no one is inadvertently left out.

This email is atypical because we are cc'ing all members of the list at this time.  This will allow you to look and see what addresses are on the list in case a person you share with is *not* there.  Typically, we will use a blind CC for security purposes.

And now, a brief Genuine Faux Farm newsletter:

Watch Snail Mail: Yes, we just sent out the billing for 2012 shares.  Even if you have paid, or you use electronic bill pay, we would appreciate it if you return the lower portion appropriately filled out.  The top half is for your records.  Among the things we are asking for are primary phone and email information.  We found that we had a number of members last year where we had no phone number.  Thus, we were unable to call them late in a distribution to remind them about pick up.

Farm Shares Still Available: We still have many spots available in our program.  We're doing what we can to get the word out.  But, our best advertising is YOU!  People will respond when someone they know vouches for a business or program in much higher numbers than they will for any other advertising.  We do understand that this program is not for everyone, but we also believe there are enough people out there for us to fill all 120 slots this season.

Payment Plans: We recognize that the economy works from the coasts to the interior.  That means we're having some difficulties with our economy.  We don't want anyone to feel priced out of our program.  The price per week is quite reasonable and you do get excellent value for your share price.  But, the large check at the beginning of the season may be daunting.  We will work with any reasonable payment plan as long as you help us do the tracking.  The bookkeeper on the farm *IS* the farmer.  He gets kind of busy mid season and can use the help.

Change of Venue: Many of you may already know this, but we ARE moving in 2012.  We will now distribute produce at Hansen's Outlet.  They have been kind enough to offer use of the parking area behind their retail space.  We were becoming increasingly concerned about the traffic combined with a growing number of children coming to our distributions.  The Roots parking lot is simply not meant for the type of setup we require to do our distributions.  The good news is that we are still only a few blocks from Roots.  So, you have the convenience of being able to get dairy products, meat products and other grocery items at Hansen's AND you can make a run to Roots for other items on your shopping list.

Feedback Welcome:  We do appreciate feedback on the services we provide.  Tell us what is going right and what is not.  We'll try to keep doing the things you like and change the things you do not.  This will be our 8th year, so we have the feeling that we are starting to get the hang of this!

Farm Work
:  In addition to Rob and Tammy, Jeff Sage will be working to make the Farm Share CSA successful again this season.  We have also identified one person who will work with us during the summer months at the farm and another who will help us at the distribution.

In a fix trying to get to a distribution this year?  There are a few of you who occasionally run into a series of events that prevent you from getting to the distribution.  We are looking at the option of having a person take care of handling these shares for you when this happens.  We are uncertain as to how this might work, but it could take the form of leaving at this persons home to extend the hours.  Or, if there are issues with transportation, we are looking at delivery options for those cases.  We are looking for your thoughts on these things.

Tripoli Delivery  At this point, we are still planning on a Wednesday delivery to your location.  There are currently only two shares in Tripoli.  If more are added, we will deliver to them or find an amenable drop off location on Wednesday.

Egg Shares: For those of you interested in eggs and those who are currently buying eggs from us.  To help us with tracking, we are going to work to make sure all current contracts run out prior to our distribution season.  If you want eggs during the season, we will have you take out a contract(s) for the entire season.  More details forthcoming, but feel free to express interest in eggs and we'll fill the shares in first come first served order.

Thank you for reading all the way to the bottom! 

Rob & Tammy Faux

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Everything That's On My Mind

You know, I've been thinking.
A dangerous pastime.
I know....

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately - but that's part of what the Winter months are all about.  For the most part, I enjoy thinking, considering and planning for the growing season.  On the other hand, it gets frustrating when you are aware that there are no "right" answers other than this:


The hard part about that answer is determining exactly what IT depends ON.

Most things on the farm depend on time.  To be more specific, they depend on how much time we have to spend on ... well... whatever it is we are considering.  Assuming we have the time, there is the matter of motivation.  There are just some times when we don't want to do much of anything.  This hits home this time of year more than any other.  We're fully aware that once we really start rolling on the farm, the rolling will not stop until December.  Forgive us if we are just a little bit loathe to start that treadmill.  Nonetheless, we are already walking on that treadmill whether we want it or not.  Today's errands to pick up chicken feed (3000 lbs) and then a truckload of seed starting mix tells us it has begun. 

Then there is the issue of money and resources.  What can we and what should be spend where?  Which projects get priority?  How many can we do?  Which ones are critical?  This is tied in nicely with the issue of securing the income by getting more people to sign up for the CSA.  And, of course, getting the billing out for the year.  Which brings us back to time.  Guess we're going to have to jump into that circle somewhere!

It's time to think a bit less and do a bit more.   Here we go!