Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tell Us What You Want to See Here

Ask the farmers and/or ask the critters on the farm. if you have a question you'd like us to address on our blog, ask away! If you want to hear from any of the critters on our farm - ask them a question. We'll ask them for you and record their response on the blog as well. Post as a reply here OR send to our email address.

Questions may be directed to Rob or Tammy, any of the Farm Supervisors (the cats - Cubbie, Sandman, Mrranda, Bree or HobNob), the Barnyard Manager (Harold the Rooster) or any of the hens. Turkeys and ducks will be silent for a while now.

If you do send questions, you may have to wait a bit to see an answer, but we'll try to get to them within the week.  Sometimes getting answers from Rob can be very difficult.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fingernails on the Chalkboard

edit: This post was started in August of this year (2012).  We typed a number of things at that time that we did not post until we felt that we had removed anything that was not consistent with something we wanted others to see.  It turns out this one would have been fine as it was.  It has been edited to be more current.  And, yes, I've been fighting this feeling recently, so it seemed appropriate.

Every once in a while, I have trouble with my attitude and it stems from a general feeling of unease and discomfort.  Yes, it happens at some level every season.  But, I have to admit that I've been fighting it more this year than other years.  And, if you've been reading our blog or know the events of the season, you can probably deduce why.

It's the feeling that nothing is quite right and it is so uncomfortable that it reminds me of a combination of the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard while feeling like you hit your funny bone on the corner of the kitchen table as you were looking at plaid, lime-green, golf pants flying on the flag pole outside your office window.  And, as you are experiencing all of this, you feel guilty about not liking it because there certainly are much worse situations that are far less temporary.

Before you go anywhere - this is not a rant.  I'm just saying that I've been working hard to keep my attitude positive, but it hasn't always worked.  So, here is one thing that I make myself do when I'm feeling this way.

I make a list.

  • Mom and Dad Zenk made a special trip from northern Minnesota because they heard we could use some help.  And they did a number of wonderful things to help us.  And, then they spent some time on the farm again just this last week.  We are grateful for the help and the chance to see them.
  • Dad Faux made a special trip to the farm soon after the spraying event to help with a number of projects, but particularly to move us forward on the project of getting the laying hens into a new room.  We are thankful to have this help.  And, the birds are happy in the new room.
  • Mark Quee at Scattergood Friends School was kind enough to realize that some of the eggplant and peppers at his farm needed picking, but the school did not yet have students to feed them to.  He offered to give this to us so we could pass it on to our CSA members.  And Dana Foster helped Tammy pick the last batch.  We wonder how we deserve friends such as these.
  • Melissa and Andy Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm and Glen & Beth Elsbernd of G It's Fresh offered to help us with crops we lost to the spraying event as well. As a result, our Farm Share CSA members did not go without sweet peppers and hot peppers.  It may have hurt a little to have to go get peppers from somewhere else when we had so many good looking fruit on our plants.  But, you do what you have to do - and when you have these good people making these kind offers, it humbles you to think that they think of you enough to reach out.
  • Rachel Braunigan, Walter Beck and Anden Drolet each took trips to help acquire peppers and/or eggplant from these various locations.  I'm not sure they know how much this helped us.  
  • We received a check from a long-time CSA member to use in order to help with the farm.  The money went to hiring a college student who needed a little more income before going back to college.  He helped us get some pasture areas cleaned out - a necessary project.  We are grateful for this support and pleased that we could help someone else out at the same time.
  • The number of people who expressed outrage or sadness on our behalf was both difficult to deal with and desperately needed.  We still don't always know how to talk about it, nor do we always know what to say.  We probably never will.  For now, we'll try this.  Thank you.
  • We had a work crew of people who really do care about the farm.  Thank you to all of you for your hard work.  
Healing happens faster when you remember things that matter.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

One Week

It's been a busy week, so I thought I'd post a summary of the week for interested persons.  Part of the motivation is the question I often get from people "So, what do you have to do once the Farm Share CSA ends?"

This is a partial answer.

There was much painting on the truck barn done by Mom & Dad Zenk.  The weather was good for it and many hands were willing to work on it, even if two sets of hands needed to do other things.  Monday ended up being a big paperwork day for Rob, and Tammy was in at Wartburg for a very long day.  There was alot of promoting and organizing for the extended season CSA, turkeys, stewing hens and ducks.  It's at times when I'm doing these kinds of things that I remind myself that it is all good in the end.  We end up with 24 Extended Season members, which we feel is a reasonable number to keep things worthwhile without being too stressful.

A nice day all around.  This is a good thing since we have the first week of the extended season Farm Share CSA to deliver in Waverly today.  Tammy was at Wartburg, but Rob had the help of Mom & Dad Zenk for this delivery - and it was much appreciated.  Rob picked and they got to clean, pack and bundle.  We managed shares that included lettuce, kale, chard, arugula (2 types), mustard (2 types), broccoli, onions, garlic and potatoes.  We remembered to bring eggs and printed the proper things for tracking everything that went on.  Distribution ran from 4 to 6pm at St Andrews Church in Waverly.  We went and had a little dinner and then zipped home.  Managed to do chores and then we went to the area where the retiring hens were and loaded them up.  The great thing about chickens (if you raise them and wish to process them) is that they are very mellow when they've roosted.  So, it was fairly simply to pick each one up and get it into a crate.  It's only difficult when they roost in a difficult spot.  Our first of several trips to Greene and Martzahn's Farm for poultry processing occurred that evening once the three crates were loaded into Chumley the truck.

A pretty nice day with a bit of wind and then some storms overnight.
The big dirt pile behind the garage didn't get the 'love' it was supposed to get earlier in the season.  It was used to fill a few holes in our traffic paths, but some of the area was supposed to be worked to make a bed for some plants.  So, progress was made on that front.  We ran Durnik out to the potatoes and slid around a bit trying to dig the last two rows.  We managed one and a third.  We got them pulled, but we think it was mostly mud with some tater.  Some repairs were made in the new chicken room (additions made to the hen box and a repair to a roost). And, we did need to go get the stewing hens from the processor midday.  It was a bit windy, so some painting was done on the East side of the truck barn only.  That may be all that gets done for the season.  We managed to get polycarbonate sheets up into the rafters for storage and got coolers, etc put away from Tuesday's veg deliveries.  We began a migration of frozen things from outdoor freezers to our indoor freezer.  The impending arrival of turkeys, the arrival of stewing hens and the remaining ducks will make this a near thing.  The real highlight (?) was loading the turkeys for their trip to the "park" (Martzahn's Farm for processing in Greene,IA).  We loaded 30 of the 49 birds and decided it would be too crowded to do them all in one trip.  So, we drove there (45 mins) unloaded (10 mins) and drove back (45 mins) and loaded the rest (10 mins), etc....  Not the most efficient solution, but it was what we had at that time, so we did it.  We were pleased to be back before midnight.  And, in fact, it was more like 11:00 pm. 

Very cool and very windy and rain on and off during the day.  After the days prior, this is hard to take.  Thursday was a our big 'poultry day.'  We ended up sleeping a little longer than usual since we only have the hens to worry about now (as far as chores are concerned).  But, once up, we had to take the outdoor kittens to the vet for shots and clean out the truck.  Hey, we just had 49 turkeys in the back - they are not toilet trained.  We had to spend time trying to make sure we were set up for everyone who wanted to get their birds today.  It doesn't seem like it should take that long, but it always does.  We packed up stewing hens and a couple of ducks and then went to Greene and Martzahn's Farm where the birds were processed.  About 45 to 50 minutes later, we are being quizzed by Ardi.  "What do you think the biggest one weighed?"  Tammy wins by nearly hitting it dead on (26.55lbs).  We load up the 49 turkeys and head to Waverly, getting there a minute before the 3pm time we told everyone we would be there by.  Nice.  At 4:30, we are done after delivering 22 turkeys, 22 stewing hens and 2 ducks.  Quick drive to Fredericka where the locker takes 22 more turkeys for freezing.  We had to do some quick moving to get the hay rack into the truck barn and the yellow cart out.  Then, we transferred the potatoes to the hay rack.  Got to keep those things a bit warmer than the outside will do.  Not sure what else happened after that, but there was some more promoting of the birds and some record keeping.  Dad Zenk managed a win in Ticket to Ride in the evening, so there was some fun and games!

Today was cool and windy, with some sunshine early.  Tammy did some baking to donate to a local Tripoli event.  We've started breaking the garlic into cloves so we can plant (thanks Dad Z).  And the curtains Mom Zenk made are now up (yay!).  We needed to replenish chicken feed for our hens, so a trip to Frantzen Farm north of New Hampton was in order.  Now, we have a bin full of 3000 pounds of feed to keep our hens happy for two to three months.  The season for irrigation is over, so we brought in two hose reels with 300 or so feet of hose on each - but that's just the beginning for cleaning up the irrigation equipment.  We also began to clean up the cold frame area.  Since temps are getting very cool the next several days, we had to be sure all of the potatoes and pie pumpkins were in a closed building.  That meant some rearranging in all three buildings..or was it four?  The hay rack is loaded down with potatoes and pumpkins now - and in the truck barn.  Oh, and we had to clean out the truck again...  Glad the new topper makes that easier to do.

Of course, Saturday has yet to happen.  But, it is forecast to be cool, sunny and calm. 
If the forecast holds true, we will be moving the high tunnel (building) to its Eastern position tomorrow.  We have to have a calm day to accomplish this, so that's the plan.  Tammy and Mom Zenk are going to do the annual Stoellen bread baking and I believe we plan on eating the last turkey from 2011 for dinner.  If we are able, we hope to drain more of the irrigation lines and pull them in.  It would be overly ambitious to say that we'll get some covers on a few of the crops still in the field.  But, it is on the list.  Here's hoping I have the energy to do it.

And beyond...
We've got to finish the freezer shuffle in hopes that we can fit 22 turkeys into the remaining space on Monday.  It's going to be close.  Tuesday has an extended season CSA to pick, clean and pack for, but this time Rob goes solo.  We also plan on delivering eggs and poultry on Tuesday in Waverly.  And, eggs/poultry will be delivered in Cedar Falls on Thursday.  Assuming we don't get more rain, the fields should be dry enough for field prep to plant garlic.  As soon as the beds are made, we'll need to put them in.  That process includes breaking the rest of the heads apart.  Once planted, we'll need to spread straw mulch to keep them from 'heaving' over the Winter.  The cold frame area cleaning should be finished by the end of the week and we need to finish work with the irrigation lines.  Portable fences for poultry, the portable buildings and all of the other equipment needs to be gathered from the fields and brought to their Winter locations.  That's likely enough to take us through next week!

Tune in later and we'll regale you with more adventures in farming!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let the Day Begin

editors note: This post was largely written in May.  For some reason, it was not completed, nor was it posted.  But, it is still interesting, if only to give Tammy and I perspective on how things are different in October!

This blog post title references a great tune by the Call *and* it's appropriate for the topic.  Nice when that happens.

The last several mornings, Tammy and I have taken note that our days come in sections with their own characteristics.  In particular, we have noted that it must be May.  Why?  Because Part the First is fairly long because the sun gets up pretty early and because we often feel like we've put in a fairly full day before Part the Second begins.

Part the First  also known as Chore You Do!
Every morning finds us doing chores.  And, as the season gets into May, the chore list gets quite long.  Another thing that comes with May?  Work crews and other business.  As a result, Tammy and I try to get a long list of things done that need to be done before these people arrive on the farm.  This includes dealing with the critters, watering plants and preparing for the tasks workers might be doing on the farm that day.

Part the Second aka Glad You Could Come, Now Get To Work!
Well, we're not quite that mean on the farm.  Although, I have to admit that sometimes the arrival of people to do work on the farm is difficult for us.  Don't get me wrong - we're glad they're there.  But, we've already put in a good bit of effort.  And, as odd as it might seem, we often want to accomplish things before people arrive, and we never get it all done.  So, there is some level of disappointment there too.

It might make sense to take a break just prior to the arrival of workers.  But, that never happens as we try to get "just one more thing" done before they get there.  Morning sessions are often the most productive - unless it's a Tuesday or Thursday.  These are CSA days and we pretty much pick, clean and pack after chores until we leave.

Intermission (Lunch)
One of the compensations for work on the farm is lunch.  Food is good.  But it leads to..

Part the Third aka You've Run One Race, Here's Another
We are certain that the lunch breaks are an important part of the day.  In fact, Tammy and I often eat dinner so late during the growing season that we try to eat less then.  So, lunch was our big meal.  That means we have to keep moving even though our stomachs are full and our minds and bodies tell us we've already worked a full day.

That said, the afternoon session usually goes to about 4:00 or 4:30, which is our usual quitting time for our workers.  Tuesday and Thursday afternoons usually kick into a higher gear to get everything ready so we can roar out of here in the truck as close to on time as we can for the CSA.  For Monday and Wednesday, it requires a bit more mental effort to get everyone really moving for the second race.  And, if it is going to be warm, it will be warmest during this time slot.

If Tammy and I are feeling energetic enough, we might work harder to give shorter tasks in the afternoon that can keep people motivated.  Either that, or we find shorter term goals that can be reached with smaller projects.  When we aren't feeling energetic enough, everyone just muddles through it all!

Part the Fourth aka So, This is Sitting?
When the workers leave, Tammy and I usually take a break.  Not always, but usually.  Obviously, we make an exception to this when we are not at a stopping point.  And, of course, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we are taking a break by riding in the truck as we go to a Farm Share CSA distribution.

Speaking of the truck drive...  Do you know how hard it is NOT to doze if you've been in motion nearly all day and you finally find yourself sitting still?  Of course, if we still haven't calculated all the numbers for a distribution yet, we'll still have adrenalin going.

Part the Fifth aka Revival
 If it is a CSA day, we have to unload, set up and get on with the distribution.  If it isn't a CSA day, we will usually take to the fields or work on other projects after we have a quick snack during the fourth part.  Once we get moving, this isn't really all that bad.  But, it is often difficult to convince yourself to go back out there once you've given your body permission to sit for a few moments.

The Grand Finale
May is particularly bad, but it happens throughout the year.  We often work until the sun is going down, then, we have to do chores.  It is often best to clean up tools and start with the animal chores before it gets too dark, but we don't always get them started in time.  We also admit that the evening chores are the ones we come to resent at times.  After all, we've worked hard all day, can't the chickens lock THEMSELVES in at night?  No?  Oh, well, ok then.

One thing we could work on for our own mental health is trying to find a way to end with something that reaches a point of completion OR something that we can look at for a second and feel some pride in our work.  It always makes the chores easier if we're feeling good about what we've done for the day.  But, it doesn't always work out that way.  That's just how life is.

We often follow this up with a dinner, unless we integrated one into Parts the Fourth or Fifth.  Then, there is often a little office work (like typing a blog post).  Sometimes we will play a quick game or watch part of a movie.  Then, we go to bed so we can get up the next morning! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Building on Success

Tammy and I often have good conversations when we are driving from our CSA distributions and tonight was no different.  This night's discussion was, not surprisingly, about completing the regular season Farm Share CSA.  The good news is that the discussion was largely positive and we thought it might be a good idea to share this with others.

First and foremost, we both feel good about our accomplishments this year.  We also feel good about the support we have received from farm share members, our farm friends, our families and so many other people who are kind enough to give us positive notes when we need them.  We actually feel good enough about it that we are already talking about things we can do to improve on this year. 

If you have been a member of our program, or are looking to become one, we would love to hear your opinions on these ideas.

More Choice/Option Items
For a period of time, we took to offering kale OR chard bundles.  We also often offered broccoli or cabbage or...etc  in another box.  A few times, we just threw things we had extra of (or a shortage of) into a box and let people choose that which appealed to them most. 

In the first case, it was an attempt to address the fact that many people love kale and others do not - and other people seemed to love chard while others disliked it.  In the second, it was a simple matter of the way the crops grew.  If they didn't want to give enough for everyone at any one time, we just kept bringing some every week and put them together.  We figured things usually worked out. 

What we'd like to work out is a way to allow for a little more in the way of choice boxes.  The issue is finding a way to do this that maintains a nice set of choices for everyone throughout the distribution.  We don't want people coming at 5:55 having too much limitation on their selection.  At the same time, we also don't want to bring a truck full of optional material that we have to go home with in order to maintain that choice. 

Remember, signage is often limited because (unlike this season) we often set up in poor weather.  Feel free to comment and give thoughts on what you would like to see.  Opinions can include suggestions that we do less with this idea. 

"Tasting Days"
We get closer to doing something about this each year, but time always runs out on us.  For example, we would have liked to have had some tomatoes sliced up for members to taste prior to selecting.  But, this requires space and time to keep the tomatoes on the plates, etc.  Another example, we would like to have had the time to have a bunch of kale chips available for everyone to taste.  But, when push comes to shove, these things fall off the list because we only have so much energy and time.

Still, we like the idea of having a tasting day every fourth week of the CSA.  If we want this to work, we will need some things to happen.
1. We need a good season where we have excess of a particular item for samples.  (of course)
2. We need volunteers to help us with the sampling at the distributions.
and perhaps if the item(s) to be tasted require cooking/baking/preparation we might need
3. volunteers to cook/bake/prepare tasting items

What do you all think of this idea?  It would be a way we could help you see why we say some of the veggies we grow taste good.  It is often finding the way to prepare an item that is appealing to each taste.

Volunteering for the Farm - at the Distribution
We have had people suggest that they could help at distributions in the past - and we hope we have not seemed to dismiss these offers.  They are always kindly given and appreciated.  We just haven't always figured out how to accept and use the help properly.  However, it is clear that there are people who would like to volunteer some time, but cannot do so by coming to the farm.

If we had people sign up for 1/2 hour increments during distributions, would there be enough interested parties to actually make this work?  We're not looking for volunteers every single week.  But, there are times when having a person dedicated to one task could be so helpful.  Some examples include:
1. staffing a part of the table where we have brochures with recipes (or some other resource).  This may sound silly - but if there is a breeze, they become a problem.  It is also difficult to stock the trays, handle questions, clean things, up, etc etc AND remember to tell everyone about the nice brochures we printed up. 
2. Helping with Tasting Days.
3. Contacting members who have not yet picked up at the end of a distribution - and perhaps taking that family's share to provide them with an opportunity to get their produce.

I'm not sure that we're looking for volunteers on every day.  And, the goal of getting some volunteers is to further improve what we do during the distributions.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The End of the Farm Share Season

We are currently in the middle of week 20, and at this writing, we have delivered the final shares of the season to our Waverly and Tripoli members.  Thank you to all of you for choosing us to grow good food for you.

Twenty weeks seem so long, and yet, so short - especially when you look up at the calendar and realize you are in mid-October and the label "week 20" is in your datebook.  While Rob waits for a shower to blow over, it seemed appropriate to write a quick set of impressions for this year's season.

Overall Share Quality
Despite everything, this may have been one of our better seasons as far as farm share quality, diversity and volume goes.  Of course, each family has its own idea as to what veggies should be in greater (or less) quantity.  But, you have to admit you got a bit of everything.  And, frankly, we don't feel we overextended you too much on anything either. 

Share amounts were actually pretty sizable, even starting at week 1.  Yes, things peaked a bit in August and September, just as they always do.  But, it really didn't seem like it was exponentially more veg than the earlier weeks.  We attribute that to better early season practices, an expansion of the types of veg we grow early and the addition of Jeff Sage to our team over the last two years.  Jeff is the man when it comes to early season carrots and beets.  We also enjoyed his sweet potatoes and parsnips this year. 

We also felt that we provided quality produce this season.  It is true that we expect to provide you quality every year, but we feel we are getting better at being more consistent in this area.  Our cleaning techniques are better, our growing strategies are better and our experience in handling the farm sahre CSA is beginning to show.

There are always some exceptions to the rule.  For example, early tomatoes were not without splits.  But, we make the argument that we could either bring you some tomatoes with splits and give you the option to eat and enjoy them (which you did) OR not bring them and fail to give you that choice.

Dry and Hot
It would figure that we would go from several seasons that were way to wet directly into a drought.  But, we've always maintained that our soil and location would respond better to a drought than a deluge.  And, while it was hard work with lots of new processes, this held true for us.  Of course we would rather have a year that was a little less dry and warm (closer to the mythical "normal").  But, if we have to have extremes, we'll go with this year versus 2008 or 2010.

As far as produce went, we had some difficulty with mid season lettuce and getting fall crops started.  But, we only lost the winter squash field due to the weather (and bugs - but that's another story).  Some crops, like cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini produced well below average during the hot and dry weather.  But, we kept them alive and kept them picked early.  You got what they provided until things cooled a bit and we got a little bit of rain.  Then, you got the peak on those crops that would normally occur a bit sooner.  In fact, I bet most members don't even recall a 'trickle' from those crops.  Your memories probably tell you that you got as much (or more) of these crops as you wanted. 

We learn more about what we do every season.  Some of it is planned learning and some of it is...not.

We've been planning to do more with drip irrigation for several years, but the excessive wetness has forestalled that effort.  We had a crash course this year!  There is more to be learned, but we're pretty happy with our response during the season and hope to be more efficient next year.

We continue to learn how to use the tractor (Durnik) and our other tools, such as Barty (the tiller), much more effectively.  And, we added the use of paper mulch on a trial basis this year.  And, frankly, the learning as we do this job is continuous.  It is actually difficult to identify what belongs to this season and what belongs to past years.

Just Imagine
What would this season have been like for Farm Shares if we hadn't had to throw so much produce away after we were hit by an aerial sprayer on the West side of the farm?  While it is true that some of the changes would have been in the form of more excess that we could sell to improve our bottom line for the year, there would have been some differences for the CSA as well.

Farm shares would have seen sweet and hot peppers as an option starting in full force in August and going into October.  We would easily have had an average of 3-4 sweet peppers per share each week.  You could have expected 1-2 eggplant every week and there would have been some okra for those who like it. 

The tomato season would have opened with much more volume and quantity since the salad sized tomatoes in the high tunnel were doing well and looking great - ready for their first big pick at about the point we got sprayed.  We would have liked to have shared the rosemary we were growing there for you and we would have liked to have been able to pick the green beans growing in that tunnel so we would have more available for sale.

There would have been more melons because we would have been able to get out there and weed them at the point where it was very necessary.  And, while it is difficult to fully determine how all the dominoes would have fallen, we wonder how much better things would have been in quality and volume if we hadn't felt the need to make major adjustments to fill the voids created by the spraying.  But, maybe the best news is that we made the adjustments, we received some support, and the farm share quality remained high.

Looking Forward
We end this season's Farm Share CSA program with very few regrets about how we handled things.  Of course, there were some mistakes.  Of course, there are things we would like to have done better with.  Of course, many things did not work out the way we planned or wanted.  But, that's the nature of the beast.  What we are saying is that, given the circumstances of the season, we did well. 

We will run an extended Fall program for a smaller group of people this year and we will do the same in the Spring.  But, we can't help thinking about how we will make adjustments for 2013 in an effort to provide an even better experience for Farm Share CSA members and more opportunities for our farm do do well.

We are especially excited to enter a new growing season with a better truck with a much better topper.  We can get much more into the truck with much less of a struggle.  And, can you imagine the relief for both of us as we enter 2013 with a room for the hens AND a room for the turkeys ready to be used.  Now, if we can get that brooder room ready!

For the first time, we actually had a "permanent" location for our cold frames and seedlings that was near to a water source and protected from many of the winds we get out here.  And, we can actually close up a couple of our buildings after the addition of some decent overhead doors.   All of this progress actually gives us a chance to put together a new cleaning/packing area and adding a walk-in cooler to the farm. 

We are hopeful that increased use of paper mulch will prove to be an economical and sustainable addition to growing on our farm.  This season's trial seems to imply that this will be true.  Now that we've figured out the basics, we are anxious to do a bit more with it.

Thank you
To everyone who worked on the farm this year - our deepest gratitude.  To all who supported us by being members or by making purchases of poultry, plants or produce, we are pleased to have received your support.  And to our family and friends - we still don't know how you tolerate us!  But, thank you for doing so nonetheless.

Rob & Tammy 

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread
2c flour (recommend using ½ c whole wheat)
1c packed brown sugar
1T baking powder
1t cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ t baking soda
1/8 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
1 c roasted (use blender or food processor if stringy variety) pumpkin
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil

Bake at 350 for 60-65 min.
Makes 1 large loaf. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Newsletter for mid-October

While our honest to goodness 'newsletters' are inconsistently produced, you can at least say we try to be consistent with our CSA emails and our blog postings.  So, in an effort to stay in touch with everyone, here is a newsletter that includes links to recent blog posts (along with a summary of each so you can decide if you want to read each one).

General Farm News:
  • We have about 18 ducks still available.  If you are not interested, please point others who might be to us.
  • We need more people to reserve turkeys.  Note to all: Roots is no more.  They handled a large number of turkey orders.  You want a bird, reserve it now with us!  Process date is Oct 25 (Thus).  If you can pick up on that day before we freeze them, you get a discount on the price.  Usually mid-afternoon in Waverly as we return from Greene (where Martzahn's is located).
  • We will have stewing chickens (about 40) available.  Processed on Oct 24.  These are good for the crock pot (slow cooking).  We will be keeping the price down on these.
  • Last week of the regular season CSA is this week.  Thank you all.
  • Sign up for 2013 as soon as you know.  We say this every year, but we want to fill up as soon as possible so we can concentrate on growing the food for you, not selling the program to others.
  • Fall extended season.  We will start with a short 4 week extended fall.  Interested persons should send a note - we know who many of you are already.  Note coming to you soon.
Genuine Faux Farm in The Iowan.
    We were recently featured with three other farms in the Iowa.  There is a link to view the article online here.  We also note that the Iowan issue with our article is on news stands NOW.  Thank you Gerry for encouraging us to continue to let people know about the article. Our blog post explaining further is here.

Blog Post Index:
 Happy October everyone!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Sandman Speaks

Hey!  Buy a pie pumpkin from Genuine Faux Farm.  And a duck!  While you're at it, order a turkey.  And for goodness sakes, you should sign up for the 2013 Farm Share CSA program.  I, the Sandman, have spoken.

Then, you will take a nap.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pie Pumpkins

Pie pumpkins are simply a subset of winter squash.  But, it turns out that we grew the varieties of winter squash that qualify as pie pumpkins in the field with the sweet corn this year.  This is fortunate since the field with the rest of the winter squash had a very bad year.

We have additional pie pumpkins that we would like to sell to you!  These are all heirloom varieties and we grow each because we appreciate their taste.  They can serve as decoration for quite some time before you have to cook them down and use them.  Price is 50 cents per pound.  Consider how much you might be spending for a jack o lantern.  Then consider that you are buying only for decoration.  You can decorate with these THEN eat them!

Sizes range from 5 pounds to 30 pounds.  All certified organic.

Amish Pie

The Amish pie is the most difficult to grow of the group, thus we have a small number of them.  These are are cucurbit maxima, thus they have hollow stems that vine borers love.  Essentially, pests regularly take out about 75% of our plants each season - assuming all else goes well.  You'll get alot out of one Amish Pie and you can easily freeze cooked squash if you find you have more than you need this time around.  Typically, these land in the 15-25 pound range.  A few smaller ones appear as well.  These do have smaller seed cavities, but that is true of most pie pumpkins.

Long Island Cheese

Long Island Cheese is probably the easiest of these pumpkins to work with, so we often recommend this one to people who are trying pumpkin pie from scratch for the first time.  A very nice, mild flavor also lends itself to all tasks and spicing depending on your recipe.  Range of sizes go from 8 pounds to 15 pounds.  These are c. moschata, so have solid stems.  As a result, we have less trouble with borers.  These have been our most reliable pie pumpkin for the last 7 years.  Enjoyable to grow.

Musquee de Provence

Don't let the looks fool you!  These are, in our opinion, the most tasty pumpkins you can find.  Flesh is incredibly dense and the weights of these can get up to 30 (or so) pounds.  Wonderfully spicy flavor.  Smells like a pumpkin pie (without adding any other ingredients) as you cook it down.  Once you get over the 'but pumpkins are orange' issue, you'll find them to be beautiful in their own way.  We love plopping one of these down in the kitchen during the fall as a centerpiece.  We usually cook it down in December, unless we really need one for Thanksgiving.

New England Pie

The New England Pie looks most like the pumpkin everyone pictures.  It is small (5-8 pounds) and is good for pie making.  Easy to use and easier to handle if you aren't prepared to freeze extra.  If we had to choose for taste, we might choose the others, but we wouldn't turn a pie made from this one away either.  It's all a matter of scale.  This one starts the scale with good taste.  That tells you how much we think of the others!  This seems to be as reliable as Long Island Cheese and is similarly prolific.  The advantage for us is the need for moderate sized pumpkins for our Farm Share CSA.  It takes alot of space to grow 120 pie pumpkins that are 15-25 pounds.  Then we have to figure out how to deliver them (along with other produce).  This is where this pumpkin earns its place with us.  It has quality for pie making and it fits the needs of our farm. 

Eating Pie Pumpkins
   We have instructions for cooking and using pumpkins on our website's recipe pages here.  Take the tab for winter squash.  Remember, you can eat a pie pumpkin like you might other squash.  In general, pie pumpkin flesh is less dry than many winter squash.  You may find that they are good for a soup or other dish, you need not use them only for pies.  But....we DO like pie!

Soup Recipes
  • 5 cups Pie Pumpkins
  • 1 quart Vegetable Or Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
  • Dash Of Nutmeg
  • Salt To Taste
  • Extra Cream, For Serving
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pumpkins on a cookie sheet and roast them until slightly shriveled and soft. Allow to cool slightly, then slice in half and carefully scoop out seeds and pulp. Scoop yummy flesh into a bowl. Set aside.
In a pot, heat up the pumpkin flesh with the stock and maple syrup until simmering. Mash out the big chunks, the transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and puree until velvety smooth. Add cream and nutmeg, then blend again.
Reheat if you need to, or just go ahead and serve in a hollowed-out pumpkin of whatever size you'd like.

Low Fat Pumpkin Soup (
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups canned low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or homemade)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups 1 percent milk (or use plain soy milk)


In a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil until translucent — about 3 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium , add spices and stir for another minute. Add pumpkin puree and broth. Simmer for 5 minutes. Now add milk and heat for another 5 minutes (don’t let it boil again or it will separate).
Serve with some cornbread and a big spinach salad (add sliced green apple, blue cheese crumbles and chopped pecans and toss with balsamic vinaigrette dressing) for a wonderful autumn meal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Interesting Results

We do various experiments/research every year.  This year, some of the research was a part of a SARE grant and we're looking forward to running some of the numbers.

Green Bean Production - Double vs Single Rows

# #/seed ft #/row ft
Provider Single 193 0.97 0.97
Provider Double 235.65 0.59 1.18
Jade Single 169.85 0.85 0.85
Jade Double 353.5 0.88 1.77

We have planted our green beans in single and double rows in the past and have not been sure as to which might provide the best production.  A double row is essentially a single seed bed with a double row of seeds at a spacing that allows our thinnest wheel hoe between the seed rows.

In this case, our single rows were in a seed bed with a potato row.  So, it is not a pure comparison.  Nonetheless, there may be a reason we haven't been able to get an intuition on which did best.  It turns out that one of our bean varieties doesn't seem to care (Jade) and the other isn't so fond of the doubling (Provider).  Interesting.

Cucumber Succession Variety Results

pct total Pct succ
Wautoma I 307 5% 8%
Boothby's Blonde I 834 14% 23%
Green Slam I 577 10% 16%
True Lemon I 896 15% 24%
Marketmore I 689 12% 19%
Cool Breeze I 394 7% 11%
AC Pickling II 345 6% 16%
Boothby's Blonde II 707 12% 33%
Green Slam II 234 4% 11%
Parade II 373 6% 17%
Marketmore II 313 5% 15%
Wautoma II 162 3% 8%

We have planted as many as three successions of cucumbers, but we don't always have time to manage them.  On the other hand, we have determined that some varieties do not like certain successions.  For example, True Lemon failed miserably in succession II a couple of years ago. 

I 3697 63%
II 2134 37%

These successions are not created equal.  There was a poor germination rate for succession II, thus a lower set of production numbers with fewer plants.  The varieties that were in both successions seemed to be consistent for Green Slam, Marketmore and Wautoma.  On the other hand, Boothby's Blonde did remarkably well.  Germination rates were slightly better for Boothby's, but not that much better.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weather Computer Model Fail

I realize the weather and how things interact on this earth is very complex.  I realize that it is only October 6.  But, a 40% or higher likelihood of above average temps for October.  Given the last several days AND the forecast for the next week.

It's going to have to be VERY warm the second half of the month to do this.

September in Pictures

 This one is easier to appreciate if you look at the slightly larger version by clicking on it.  Fall asters (both white and purple) are all over our 'wild area' this year.  The coneflowers took a hit this year, as did the rudebekia, etc.  But, the asters are happy.

this is a difficult pictures to understand, but it is an attempt to document the dry bean harvest we must forego in the sprayed area of our farm.  They were really looking good with lots of pick.  To the compost pile with you!

We have some new additions on the farm.  Cubbie was complaining that she can't keep up with the rodent population, so we now have a couple of new kittens.  We are starting them outdoors in one of our cages normally used to protect lettuce.  We're trying to control their early exposure to the elements.  Those elements include wind, rain, cold, tractors, trucks, hayracks, carts and human feet.  In addition to that, we want to establish where their 'home base' is early.  We need to be able to find these two - especially while they are small.   Above is Mrranda (Carmen Mrranda - she knows her rights).  In any event, she doesn't like the camera.

And here is Sandy aka the Sandman or Mr. Sandy Claws.  He'll purr at nearly anything - including the camera.

Our CSA distribution just East of the Hansen's Outlet building in Cedar Falls.  We've liked the location so far!

 And, here is a sampling of a CSA share in September.

We had tomatoes.  Here is the spread from a Waverly Farmers' Market Saturday AM a couple of weeks ago.

Dry bean picking is labor intensive.  For the cost of a chili dinner, we got some helpers!  Yay!  By the way, these are the dry beans in the East section of the farm that was NOT sprayed.  And, yes, there is still one half of that field to pick.  Oy.

The truck barn was scraped in the Spring and still needed some paint.  Tammy and I managed to get the lower part of the South side primed during one of the really warm days just PRIOR to the currently cool weather.  Since then, we've primed the top half and painted the bottom half.  Things have to warm a little for us to do any more on it.