Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 in Review

Many people send a Christmas 'form' letter with their Christmas cards.  We make a year in review post for our blog.  In the past, we've used the top 10 (or 11) countdown format.  For an example, you can look at 2011's list.  But, this year, we know what the "number 1" event would be if you consider impact on the farm.  Or at least, the impact on the farmers.  And, frankly, while we feel it needs to be included, we will not honor it with a "number 1" ranking.

So, here we go - with the "almost a top 10 list" for that "kid in the back."

Dishonorable Mention: What? You didn't *want* to be fumigated?

"At approximately 6:50pm on Friday, July 27 a plane applying Lorsban, Sniper and Stratego tried to apply to the field to our north and west. The wind at the time was low, but still there. It was out of the NNW. Not only was the application bound to drift some because of this wind, the applicator did not turn off the spray when they flew over the farm."

Original Post
Follow Up - Collateral Damage
Several other posts follow as well.

A quick note on this.  I did a quick read of the "Collateral Damage" post.  It remains an accurate assessment of how I feel when I think about this.  The difference is this - I don't think about it every moment of every day.  Be grateful for even the smallest amount of healing.

10. Moving Cedar Falls pickup to Hansen's Outlet

We made the decision to move from Roots to Hansen's Outlet for our Cedar Falls distribution this year.  Our biggest reason had to be safety - we were getting too nervous about the congestion and traffic by Roots and had visions of a small child dashing in front of a vehicle.  We were lucky to have Eric Cornish at Hansen's Outlet looking out for us and recruiting our presence at their store.  Our thanks to the Hansen's and to the Cornish family for their support.  The location worked well and we expect to return in 2013.

9. Mrranda and Sandman

Cubbie is a wonderful farm manager.  But, she's been handling all farm manager duties since Doughboy moved on to the great kitty hunting ground in the sky.  We welcomed Mrranda and Sandman to the farm this fall.  Kittens are usually fun for us to begin with, but these two have been extremely rewarding.  The goal is to have some friendly cats that we can trust to be able to handle gatherings and workers on the farm.  That - and we'd like them to help with rodent population control.  So far, so good. 

All that - and we ended up with this great picture of Sandman!  We suspect he'll be a part of our promotions this Spring.

8. A year without flying cold frames

An old hog building came down five or so years ago.  We've been plugging away at getting it cleaned up for a long time.  Finally ,the area in front of the old buildings foundation was cleaned up enough so we could be our cold frames and young plants there.  This is one of the locations on the farm that provides some shelter from some of the most damaging winds.  You may have noticed - well, maybe you didn't - BUT that's the point!  We didn't have a post here bemoaning the demise of young plants, or even a cold frame in a wind event.  Now - if we can get the slab cleaned up the rest of the way this March...

7. Gang of Four Revisited

Want some of those plantings weeded? 
Let's start taking the roof off of that building. 
How about getting 4 rows of sweet potatoes in?  Eh - let's get eight of them in.
Maybe we'll start a few fence posts and try to make some progress on a chicken room.  No problem!
Maybe we'll dig some garlic?  Or prune some tomatoes?  Or perhaps, we'll just eat some really good food!
With this group - we just say "let's do all of the above."

Some of our favorite people in the world happen to work at Scattergood Friends School Farm, Blue Gate Farm and Grinnell Heritage Farm.  In 2011, we started a farm visit schedule, where all members of the group came and worked on a different farm each month.  We continued this program in 2012.  Each farm dealt with some stressful life events this year - and the support we were able to give each other meant a great deal. 

6. The hens get a new home

We can't use the barn anymore, so the hens needed a new home.  It took most of the year to get it done, but there is now a new room in the Poultry Pavillion.  And, the host of people who helped us accomplish this is impressive *and* we are most appreciative.  Trying to build a decent room that will keep varmints out is no small task.

However, I will say this - I'm not sure I want to take any more of the old ceiling down - though I know I will have to late Winter/early Spring.

5. Dry weather, dry soil and dry humor(?).

Dry dry dry.  Hot hot hot.  But, you all know this because the press made sure we knew this was a big deal.  So, instead, we'll talk about what happened on our farm in response to the weather.

If you've talked to us or read about our farm in the past, you know that too much water is very much an issue here.  So, we were looking forward to drier weather.  But, maybe not this dry.

Even so, we showed that we have more tools in the toolbox to handle dry versus wet.  We brought out the drip tape.  We adjusted our poultry schedule by removing the second batch of broilers to give our pastures a break.  We changed planting schedules and sacrificed some crops in order to secure the success of others.  We drank *alot* of fluids.

4. Sweet corn, melons and more!

So...the dry weather and spraying resulted in the loss of pepper, eggplant, okra and winter squash crops and it reduced others.  But, our efforts still netted some crops that we don't usually push hard for the CSA.

Because it was drier this year, we were able to get the planting done - which included the sweet corn.  Sweet corn is a crop we usually try to grow just for us.  But, we rarely manage to get it in on time - and if we do, it is low priority and ends up getting too weedy.  Not this year!  And, we got enough to freeze for ourselves, share with the CSA *and* sell one Saturday at market. 

Then, there was the melons and watermelons.  We attribute this to the addition of a mulch layer this Spring.  Durnik the tractor was more useful than ever now that we have a reasonable set of implements to use on the farm.  The paper mulch helped us to manage a decent crop of melons and watermelons this year and we're anxious to take what we learned and get a bumper crop next year. 

3. Granted, we had to work for it

The Genuine Faux Farm was performing work for two grants in 2012.  The first was a SARE funded research grant.  This was the second of two years for this grant and we were pleased with the results.  We are hopeful that continued research on our part will encourage more intercropping by vegetable producers.

We were also able to research renewable energy options for our farm with a Farm Energy Working Grant.  The next steps?  We need to seek out funding in order to install a solar photovoltaic array on the farm.  It will be 'grid tied' and we hope it will offset extra power needs we bring to the farm with our irrigation, cold storage and other power needs we wouldn't have if we weren't growing vegetables and raising poultry.

In the meantime, we are seriously considering a smaller, portable solar array for recharging batteries for various tools. 

2. Grover retires, Chumley is hired.

When you do what we do, a truck is not just a truck.  It's got to be reliable and it has to do the job.  Grover has done the job for us since the inception of the farm.  But, the 20 year old truck was showing its age and the frame was falling apart.  Enter Chumley, the big, red troll of a truck.  With the new topper, we should be able to increase our capacity and it is much easier to load and unload. 

1. Sabbatical - How a change of pace may have saved our year.

For those who may not know, Tammy teaches Social Work at the college.  And, for all who know anything about teaching, you realize how demanding that job can be.  Thus, we are grateful that she is eligible for a sabbatical every 7 years.  She received the Spring term off to pursue other academic interests (and to work on the farm a bit more during the early part of the season). 

While she did plenty of work during this time period for the college, the benefit comes in the form of freedom of schedule.  As a result, we took a trip to Oregon in March (before the farm season really got going).  We thoroughly enjoyed our time out there and it helped recharge our batteries for the growing season. 

If this had not been a sabbatical year, we might not have been able to respond to the early Spring weather as well as we did.  And, we would not likely had as much done by the time we got into June and the super dry/hot weather.  But, more important, we might not have had the reserves of personal energy we needed to get through the mid-season crisis. 

Oregon Pictures:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Blog Post on the trip.

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