Thursday, May 30, 2013

Liquid Assets?

The recent rains are on all of our minds right now.  People are worried about wet basements, flooding rivers and gardens that have yet to be planted.  We are also struggling with the rains on the farm and wanted to give you a quick look at what is going on here.  We're dealing with it.  But, sometimes, the sharing of a story is both therapeutic and educational.  So, we'll take a moment to give you some observations as to what is happening on the farm.

 This first picture is West of our farm.  It shows the lake that was our neighbor's corn field.  This is the picture that shows the most dramatic impact of the rains.  For many of our fields, there is greenery, etc that obscures how wet they are, so it is harder to see.  Some of the lightning strikes in this storm were hitting these new ponds instead of the taller objects in the area. 
This picture is blurry, we know.  But, we were trying to take pictures when the light was fading.  This shows some of the water in our cold frame/seedling area.  The cement slab in the back had water as high as 8 inches.  That's where the cold frames (and many seedling trays) were at the time this photo was taken.  Soon after they were moved out.  We've never really considered this an area where water would pond.  Why?  Because it never has before this storm.  We know of several other spots, but this wasn't on the radar.  It was still very damp today, but it was less a pond and more a muck and mire area.

We didn't get to other pictures, but we have more stories that fall into the "I never thought THAT would happen" category.

Our high tunnel is essentially an artificial desert environment.  The pathways are always dry and only the places we water with drip irrigation get wet.  Apparently, this offended the storms enough that they rained hard enough to cause waves of water to roll down our lawn and through the high tunnel from East to West.
Here is a March picture to help visualize this.  The high tunnel is at left.  As near as we can figure, the water from the buildings at right had nowhere else to go with the soil being completely saturated.   As a result, they followed the slight decline to the West and through the high tunnel.  We really thought we'd go work in the high tunnel today because it would surely be the only dry place on the farm.  We were wrong.  It was too wet to do work.  Absolutely amazing.

An acquaintance a couple of miles to our East installed a couple of ponds on his property with berms that might even exceed the recommended height to hold back water during heavy rains.  Each of his ponds overflowed in this rain.  As we discussed this with him all any of us could do was shrug and admit that nature has her way when she wants it.  But, it is still up to us to find ways to work with nature where our efforts do less harm than is currently the case (yes, that is the collective "we" and it does include our farm).

One of our workers is trying to do some horticultural farming on land by Dumont.  He reported that the beds he had planted and put plastic mulch on were destroyed by the torrential rains.  What a quick way to literally and figuratively dampen someone's spirits as they try to do the very thing they really wanted to do for a living.

We hope the next week or two is dry.  It will take at least one week for our fields to dry up enough to work.  We know there are people who are worried about flooding.  There are many frightened and worried people in Iowa right now and we must be prepared to provide support to each other.  And, once we get through this, we need to remember.  And, in remembering, maybe we can make some changes that help reduce the pain weather extremes can cause.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Farm Report

A quick farm report to keep everyone up to date.

Farmers Market in Waverly 
We will be attending this Saturday's market in Waverly.  We will have plants one last week.  We will also have lettuce, asparagus, kale, eggs and chard.  This will be the last gasp from the Spring high tunnel planting (for the most part).

Cedar Falls Sales Friday?
Who is interested in us coming down with some lettuce, asparagus and kale on Friday?  Maybe some plants if they are still needed?  We are considering it.

Why selling stuff now?
The high tunnel is a 30 foot by 72 foot piece of real estate.  It is about the only thing, other than the asparagus patches, that can produce right now.  There isn't really enough to do regular season shares from this, but there is too much for us to just sit on.  So, we'd like to sell it.  And, it won't just sit there and wait either.

Iris Festival?
We're not sure.  We planned to reschedule for Sunday of this weekend.  But, if the rains don't stop anytime soon, our place will not be fit for visitors.  Please bear with us as we wait to see what Mother Nature has in store.  We'd like to hold the festival, but we also would rather not hold it when conditions make the entire event difficult and unpleasant.

Staying in Touch with Everyone
 We apologize if we aren't reaching everyone in a timely fashion.  We're currently struggling a bit with all of the rain.  Weather extremes wear us down and make it hard to have the energy to do everything.  We'll get there, but we ask for patience AND for reminders.  Do not feel bad if you are reminding us of things, we will appreciate kind nudges if they are needed.

The ducklings arrived today.  They are pretty cute when they're this age.

Broilers and Hens
We're having a difficult time getting the broilers out on pasture - and once they are - we're having fun keeping them dry and avoiding hypothermia.  We built a new shelter and have been modifying both that we have to handle the excess in rain and wind.  We did some crawling around spreading hay a couple nights ago and managed to save the day.  Today's rains, however, has water creeping up to the shelters.  We've made a few more modifications and hope we won't be forced to do an evac of the whole thing.

Workers on the Farm
We have had a chance to have Brittney, Tyler, Elliot, Kailey and Denis on the farm so far this season.  Thanks to all of you for your efforts so far.  Rachel and Chase will join us next week if all goes as planned.  All of our workers are part time and have varying schedules and they all bring various talents.  We are honored to have them join us.

CSA Regular Season
We are certain we will be starting at least one week later than our normal start.  It is possible it will be later than that.  OR, we may do one week and skip one - or alternate between Cedar Falls and Waverly.  We just have to see what survives this deluge and figure out what we are allowed to do by soil conditions.  We appreciate your patience.  Either way, we still intend to get you 20 weeks of produce - and we fully intend to do our best to provide you with our best effort to bring you excellent vegetables.

Lake Front Property
First - our normal disclaimer - we are not trying to say we need to be the focus of attention and we're not trying to bring all of you down.  But, we feel we need to report what is going on to you.  It is all part of being a local producer of food with a connection to the community.  So - hey community!  We're having a rough time of it - but we intend to deal with it, move on and do our best to succeed anyway.  We appreciate your support, we may need to lean on you a little so we can stay positive on days like this when it is very hard to do so.

We'll show some pictures later.  But, you likely knew our fields have been very wet all Spring.  We've barely had a chance to get into them to plant.  The recent batch of rains leaves us surrounded in water. Our cold frames (where we keep many seedlings) were under water at 8:30pm today and we had to go pull out all of the the trays and put them on carts, etc to get them out of the water and under shelter.  Too early to tell if we have some losses on that front.  The old hog pit in front of the Poultry Pavilion is actually overflowing.  We've never seen that before - not even in 2010 or 2008.  On the plus side, we have yet to have the erupting toilet and water seeping through our basement floor that we had in 2010.  NO!  That is NOT a challenge. 

What are we doing about it?
We are working at finding ways to extend plant ability to stay in trays.  We may even find ourselves transplanting things we normally don't transplant into pots or larger sized trays just to keep them going.  We're planning on digging up and transplanting some of the kale and chard plants in the high tunnel if the fields dry out to allow it.  We're also looking at changing our field rotation to allow us to use the fields that dry out fastest for crops that need to get in. 
It is likely we will not plant sweet corn this year, we simply can't give it the space.  And, frankly, we may not find the time to put it in. 
We're beginning to look and see if there is a source for more seed potato in case the current planting rots out on us.  We did plant most of the potato seed as whole potatoes in part to try to avoid more opportunities for rot.  We hope that works.  And, we're modifying plans to figure out what trays of seedlings should be planted to adjust for the weather and to adjust for losses up to this point.
Assuming this weather pattern has to have a stopping point, we will get into the field and we will get things planted.  We're doing what we can to be prepared for that moment.  Until then, help us to hang on.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Life on the Farm

Rather than cry a river about all the rain - we thought we'd show you some pictures of things going on at the farm right now.  Besides that, if we cried a river, it would only get wetter!  Don't want that now, do we?

This year, the apple trees were covered in blossoms!  Last year, they started a bunch of blossoms that were frozen off.  As a result, there were no apples (but we got one peach!).

 This year we had blossoms and we had warm enough weather during the bloom period.  We did not, however, see much for pollinators on our trees.  We're not sure if we just weren't looking at the right times of day or we didn't look in the right place.  Either way, we hope there were pollinators and we are dreaming of a wonderful apple, plum and peach crop in 2013.  The trees you see here are in the pasture just north of the barn.  They are old enough now that we should be getting some fruit off of them.  Since we both like apples - this is a good thing.

We had a pretty nasty POOOF of wind come through the farm a week (plus some) ago.  We had just put everything under cover and shut it all down when the poof came through.  Rob witnessed arbovitae trees bent over so that they were horizontal and heard some odd grating and groaning noises coming from the barn area.  He did NOT go looking at that point.

This is what we saw the next day.  The first picture is the North side and the second is the South side.  Yes, our barn got shorter.  The peak fell in and is mostly resting on the first layer of crossbeams.  In the top picture, you can see a large section of roof that blew onto the next part of the barn.

 The henlets (as we like to call them) are now outside just South of the Poultry Pavilion.  This is their first step to learning how to day range properly.  We'll move them into the North pasture after a while and begin to integrate them into the main flock.  For now, they get a bit more shelter here.
That was a good thing with some of the recent weather events.

The picture you see below is an oddity for this May.  It is a day where some of the fields were workable and worked in the fields.

You will see some cages and other things that were an attempt to keep critters out of our very early May planting in the small area that was able to be worked then.  Most of those plants have not survived, for various reasons.  Closer to the camera you see beds tilled that were soon after seeded with spinach, radish, turnip, swiss chard, arugula and mustard greens.  Of these, we see evidence of all of them emerging despite the wet weather.  But, there is a bit of a pond in the center right at present.  We'll try to take a picture or two tomorrow.

Since we can't plant in the fields, our seed starting facilities are getting stretched quite a bit.  Below is one of our seed starting shelves with trays we just seeded to get the seeds to "pop."  We want to get them started in the trays in hopes that they will be able to be transplanted in the next two weeks.  We shall see.
Above is a picture of some of our eggplant in trays prior to our transplanting them into 3.5" pots.
And below are some peppers plants awaiting the same treatment.  The problem with that?
We have to find places to put all of the plants.  With the severe weather, we've been putting them under shelter.  For now, most of our production tomatoes, peppers and eggplants reside in the high tunnel.  They like it, but it makes it hard to plant the next crops in the high tunnel.

And, most horizontal surfaces are dedicated to seeding, transplanting and storing these little plants until we can get them in the ground.  We've found that it is easier to leave some of these on tables or in carts so we can roll them in and out of buildings (morning out, evening in). 
We do alot of this in part because of the possibility of severe weather.  You might argue that once they are planted, they have to handle it out there - and you would be correct.  But, at this point, we have control over where they can stay.  And, when they are in trays, they are more likely to get washed out of their pots and trays than they would be if they were planted in the ground.

And, consider this - we have the ability to protect them at this stage, so why not?

If that isn't enough, we'll give you one more piece of data.  Raccoons like to dig in these pots and throw them around.  They do not tend to dig them out of the ground.  'Nuff said.

Hope you enjoyed the nickel tour!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Farm Festival Postponed

Iris Fest, scheduled for tomorrow, is cancelled. The farm is a giant puddle and is certainly not conducive to a farm gathering. The forecast is calling for more rain tomorrow. We are tentatively rescheduling for NEXT Sunday, June 2, starting at 4pm. Here's hoping the rain has stopped by then.

Rob & Tammy

Friday, May 24, 2013

Date Night and Other Stories

How we do Date Night at GFF

At one point in time, Tammy and I saw Friday as the gateway to the weekend, just as so many people do.  But, since we started this vegetable farm thing, Fridays just don't mean the same thing they used to.

Today's 'date night' began with a wild flurry to get the truck loaded with vegetables, eggs and plants for our plant sale down at Hansen's Outlet in Cedar Falls.  We were also delivered egg orders and our Spring CSA shares to our Cedar Falls members.  While we were at it, we delivered a few other orders for lettuce and asparagus.  Nearly everyone who placed orders showed up, many plants were purchased and we were able to converse with many wonderful people.

Once the truck was reloaded, we did manage to go somewhere for dinner.  But, we did so with the knowledge that rain was coming *and* we still had to pick and prepare for the Waverly Farmers' Market tomorrow morning.  We ate fairly quickly and rolled home watching the clouds in the West.

Veg Cleaning by Candlelight

While days are long, dark clouds in the West make it hard to see much earlier.  Of course, if you start cleaning your veg at 9:15 PM, you probably are asking for some problems with available light outside.  So, we grabbed a trouble light and an extension cord and hung it up in the cleaning area.  Tammy thought it was romantic to be cleaning veg by 'candlelight.'

Ok, maybe she didn't think it was romantic.  But, it was still part of our date night.

To make a long story less long, we were still outside cleaning veg when it started to sprinkle about 9:30 PM.  It's moments like that where we are both amused and a bit irritated by the situation.  It's better if we emphasize the amused part.

What is it about 9:30PM and RAIN this Spring?

It seems that 9:30 PM is time for rain over the last week or so.  If we could count on this schedule, I suspect we could find some way to deal with it...

But, we're finding it difficult to deal with the amount of rain we are getting again this Spring.  It is terribly frustrating for us to see that some of our fields might be ready to work in the next day or so, only to have it rain again.  We might have been able to get into some of the fields tomorrow afternoon.  But, all you have to do is look at the forecast to see that we will not do so.  Ah well, we'll make it work.

It Huffed and it Puffed

One of our 9:30pm rains packed a wallop.  That wind that knocked down trees in Waverly gave us a pretty good poof on the farm as well.  The arborvitae trees were bent over so that their tops were horizontal to the ground. 

There was some loud noises I couldn't identify for awhile, though the back of my brain told me it was the barn.  It seems the peak of the barn decided to get a bit lower during that Poof.  It did not, however, do us the favor of falling all the way down.  I wonder if we could ask the Port Authority to help us?

Blue Cars and the Port Authority

One of the best things about having new people work on the farm is that Rob can teach them all about farm-related things - even if some of those things might fall under "creative writing."

For example, every weekday at about 3:45pm, a blue car speeds down our road.  About 2 minutes later, it comes back the other way.  I've already got our workers looking for that blue car every day.  We're trying to come up with the best reasons for this behavior.   Some that we've discussed over the past summer + this Spring are:

  • this person is rushing home to get his 'super suit.'
  • they fall for the phone prank "Is your refrigerator running - it's running down the street" every day and have to go check to see if their appliance is all right.  Their friends must think it's a real hoot to get them to take that drive every afternoon.
  • the GPS in the car has a glitch that takes them down this detour every day.  It takes them a couple of miles to realize that they've followed its mistaken directions yet again.  It must be that Army Corps of Engineers turn that reminds them of this.
Then, there is the Port Authority.  Did you know that the cars you see on rural roads where the person is driving while sitting in the passenger side are Port Authority vehicles?  They're checking to see if there need to be tariffs placed on things in your mailbox.  It doesn't have to make sense.  In fact, it is better when it doesn't.

Nuggets sans Wisdom

These are not nuggets of wisdom.  Instead, they are chicken nuggets!  The broilers are at nugget size right now.   Old enough to be past the 'cute' stage and well on their way to the 'annoying' stage.

They are growing well and we're trying to get them outside on pasture.  There are several issues - among them is the weather.  It has been hard to find a day to put them out when the night won't present challenges.  Eventually, you give up and get them out there anyway.  The problem is, it means you spend an inordinate amount of time finding ways to tighten up the shelter to keep them healthy. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Planting Progress

We try to do a little of this every season to keep everyone up to date with where we are at with getting things growing.

As stated before, we are feeling like we're under the gun right now.  Fields continue to be too wet to do much and the windows we've had for planting have been short.  Nonetheless, we've got some things in!

Short Season Crop plot:
450 feet of spinach went in just this week.  Also, 150' radish, 150' turnip, 150' arugula and 150' mustard greens and 150' swiss chard. 
On the negative, we have to report losses of the earlier planted swiss chard, pok choi and kohlrabi due to numerous circumstances.  It just was not meant to be.  But, the early lettuce crop has started to show positive growth.

Melons/Watermelon plot:
nothing in the ground.  Seeds in trays.

Pepper/Eggplant plot:
most plants transplanted from trays into pots.  Beans and okra for this field have yet to go in.

Garlic/Summer Squash plot:
Garlic is up and looking reasonably good with all of the new seed we bought.  Our retained seed only had about 5% germination.  Good thing we only planted 15% of the field with them.  1st and 2nd summer squash/zucchini planting in trays.  None in ground at this point.  But - we did get a turnip row in.  And, these aren't just any type of turnips.  these include Scarlet Ohno - we'll tell you more about them assuming they germinate and grow well.

Tomato/Basil plot
Nothing in the field, tomatoes all transplanted into pots and waiting patiently.

Pea/Cucumber plot
Peas all in the ground.  Pole beans for this plot all in.  Carrots are all in.  Cucumber succession 1 is sprouted in trays and waiting for a drier field for planting.

Brassica/Allia plot
Entirely too wet.  Lots of brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) in trays.  Lots of onions in tubs waiting planting.  Lots and lots.  this could get nutty.

Winter squash plot
Nothing in.  Seeding in trays tomorrow.

Potato/bean plot
All potatoes in.  All beans in.  Companion flowers still need to be planted.

Corn/pumpkin plot.
We're not sure if we'll get to this one this year.  We might have to make adjustments if certain fields don't dry out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Farm Festival on Monday!

Come join us for our annual "Iris Fest" this Monday starting at 4pm.  We usually begin eating around 5pm.

We'll have room for kids to roam.  Bring games to play, chairs to sit in and jackets in case the weather is cooler than you expect (it is always cooler and windier in the country). 

We'll have sandwich makings available (either sloppy joes or turkey depending on time available) as well as lemonade and ice water, glasses and plates, forks, etc. 

We invite people to bring a dish to share (if someone is willing to provide s’more makings, let us know and we’ll get a bonfire going if the weather permits) – salad, dessert, etc.  If you bring a food to share, please consider also bringing a recipe or ingredient list taped to your dish so those with food sensitivities can easily see if they can eat the dish.

Rob & Tammy
Genuine Faux Farm

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A few things on my mind

The following things are in no particular order and by no means comprise everything that is on my mind.  For example, I hope those impacted by flooding or tornadoes are provided the help and comfort that is needed.  On a more personal level, I hope our fields dry out in time to get more in the fields before the next rain event.  Given that caveat - we forge onward.

The picture below shows two of the things we have added to our farm over time that have helped us immensely with the work we do here.  It may not seem like much, but it isn't always the big things. 
The green blue cart is one of five we have on the farm.  They have their moments (like when a wheel breaks).  But, they are an integral part of every day efforts.  Then, there is the discovery and purchase of "nest and stack" boxes of various types.  How did we do work without those?  Well, I remember how we did the work and I seem to recall a whole host of problems with it!

My how things have changed.  The picture above is from last June.  Note the crispy grass that is normally reserved for a dry period in August.  Now, I'm "crying" about getting into my fields to plant things.  And, in other, less fortunate areas, they are talking about bridges and roads being washed out.  I may comment about the weather more than some since I am out in it so much.  But, I still think these wild swings are worth noting.

We welcome back Bunte Forellenschus this year.  We have not had it in production for a few years because the seed stock was not readily available to us.  Yes, the speckles on the leaves are supposed to be there.  Yes, it is a buttercrunch style of lettuce.  And, yes, it is tasty.

The bluebells in front of our house provided us with a mini-show this Spring.  It's always very good to see them, and sad to see them go.  We keep hoping that patch we planted gets a little bigger and stronger each year.  But, we weren't sure how it would respond to last year's drought.  I guess it made it through okay.

Barty, Sr has been one of the best purchases we've made for this farm.  Rob was able to spend several hours of quality time with Barty before the last batch of rain.
A note to anyone who might see promotional materials for BCS - they show a petite woman, who has nary a hair out of place, walking beside the tiller to illustrate how easy this machine is to use.  And, in fact, it is an excellent machine that I feel fairly comfortable with training most of our workers to use.  However, the promotional picture shows this person tilling an already tilled, perfectly level patch of ground that is not likely all that long.  If you are doing some real work with this tool you will feel it afterward.  Yes, it does most of the work.  Yes, a smaller person can handle it.  But, yes, some energy must be expended by the operator as well.  I think I'd have been less willing to pick on the promo picture if the person shown were wearing clothing that looked more like they actually *did* work in the garden.

And, to close things out - a few things that we're liking right now:
  • Peach/lemon slushies after a long day working outside.  
  • Asparagus and baby portabellas sauteed together.
  • People who have skills and desire to fix equipment efficiently so we can get our work done.
  • Henlets running around their pen in the morning.
  • An excellent selection of heirloom tomatoes in pots and ready to go to sales on Friday and Saturday.
  • Cucumbers sprouted in trays and hopefully ready to go in the ground this weekend (if weather permits).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

If I may...since it is May

We've fallen behind a bit with our blog posts - chalk that up to finally being able to get into the fields.  Consider the following a farm report (among other things) if you are curious how things are going at the farm.

The picture above has been part of our theme for Spring this year.  The ground is too wet to do much with it.  We managed to get this strip tilled and threw in some radish seed that you can see (3 rows) coming up in this picture.  This photo comes from our best drained plot on the farm (it dries up the fastest).  The picture is from May 6.

We have spent a great deal of time in the field lately.  Especially today (Saturday).  We were able to get alot of seed in the ground.

But, this is one of the reasons we have the high tunnel.

Sorry to remind you of this - but the top picture was taken May 2.  Let's just say that little hiccup in the weather didn't entirely meet the approval of the farmers.  But, the picture below was taken in the tunnel on May 6.  At this point, we still felt things were a bit behind, but they were healthy.  A current picture would be very different.  It's amazing what a couple of weeks can do.

One of the plants inside the tunnel is Red Russian kale.  These are great plants to grow, and they seem to adapt well to the early season high tunnel environment.

Also quite capable of adapting to the high tunnel environment is Mrranda the catten (not quite a kitten, not yet a cat).  She loves to help out when I'm working out there.  And, please note, if you see me walking around with an untied shoelace, it's because I work around a shoe lace untying critter.

Before and after.  We felt bad for the daffodils and other flowers that were covered in early May snow.  While it is true the daffodils didn't entirely like it, they still had some nice blooms for us to enjoy after the snow melted.  Also below are pictures of the Pasque flower.  It has since sent up another dozen or so blooms.  The 90+ degree weather may have just encouraged it to quit blooming.

Durnik the tractor has a new tool.  It is called a flair box and it has already been extremely useful as we clean up fields and move things to the compost piles.  Since this picture, there are been two modifications to the situation.  First, the flair box has 3 new (new to it) tires.  That is good since one tire had tread peeling off of it and two tires were the wrong size.  Second, Durnik decided to stop running on Thursday.  He is currently on sick leave and we hope to have him back very early next week. 
These little four tier mini-greenhouses just keep getting used every year.  this year, we put them both on carts to make it easier to move them in and out of buildings.  Up to this point, two people have had to lift them up to move them - but not too high, because you have to get under the garage door.  Now, one person can move the plants in.  This is especially good if there is an incoming storm.

Pok choi/bok choi - an under appreciated vegetable.  They have done well in the high tunnel this Spring.  Sadly, the plants we put in the field appear to be mostly gone, so we have to start over on those.  A combination of rabbits, deer, flea beetles and weather have conspired against that planting.  I found maybe a half dozen of the 150 we planted still living this afternoon.  We had worse luck with the chard and only slightly better with kohlrabi and kale.  The lettuce was the only transplants we put in that did well.  Win some, lose some.

And just a reminder that those who work in the large corn and soybean fields don't really think when they are applying chemicals.  The picture you see below shows how strong the wind was on Thursday from the South.  The dust in the center of the picture is blowing rapidly away from the gravel road and into the field to its North.  Now, look just to the left of the gravel road and what do you see?  A person spraying the field.

You may now ask the obvious question - "How much of that spray is going to where it belongs and how much is going to some point 200 feet (or more) to the north of the application point?"

Why does this sort of thing happen?  Well, one reason would be the fact that the guy applying this spray does not own the land.  He is contracted to spray for farmers by a coop and the coop is payed by the farmer to hire the applicator.  With no real stake in the game, what motivation does this person have to pay any attention to where the spray is actually going?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Weather Patterns of Doom!

The weather patterns this Spring have been challenging, we will readily admit it.  Perhaps we have been spoiled by the early Springs we've had the past several years?  Either way, don't let the title scare you too much.  Things do tend to even out over the season (do you hear me Mother Nature?). 

However, we feel it is important to let everyone know how the weather is changing how we can do things on the farm this Spring.

1.  All of the early season crops are going to be late.
The ground was too wet and cold, then we had one day where small areas of the farm were dry enough and the soil was warm enough.  We slapped a few things in.  Then, we got 4 inches of rain (and snow).  Now we have another 1+ inch of rain.  Simply put, we can't get into the fields to plant the seeds for things like arugula, spinach, mustard, radish, etc.  We'll plant them when it is dry enough.  Or, in some cases, we may skip them and go right to the next succession.

2. Wet ground should NOT be worked.
We try not to be tempted to work ground when it is too wet.  If we do, the result are rock hard clumps of soil that REALLY hurt if you crawl on them.  They make it hard to plant seed or transplants.  Simply put - rock hard clumps = bad.

3. Once the ground dries out, it will be non-stop craziness at the farm.
It is hard to list what has NOT been planted.  Instead, we can tell you that some lettuce, kohlrabi, pok choi, kale and swiss chard transplants made it into the ground.  Short rows of seeded radish, arugula and mustard also went in.  Nothing else has gone into the ground at this time.  It's going to be nuts.  Let's hope it's a good kind of nuts.

4. We've got trays and trays and trays....
The seedling trays are stacking up and the space for them is getting very crowded.  And, the trick is keeping them healthy, getting all of the tomatoes, etc potted and being ready for the big planting push.

5. Late planting = late CSA start.
Here's the upshot of all of this.  If we can't get the crops in, then we can't get crops to harvest for you.  Again, don't worry, we'll get there.  Nature has decided our plans had a flaw and we need to adjust, that is all. 
The things our CSA members need to know are these - you will get 20 weeks of produce AND we'll keep you informed as to when week 1 will be.  We'll delay an official announcement until it is abundantly clear a delay cannot be avoided.

6. No one in our area has planted corn or soybeans - it's not just us.
I suppose I might start wondering if I'm just not reading things right.  But, even the "anxious to plant as early as possible" corn/soybean growers in our area have yet to put any seed in the ground.  But, we have an advantage in this case because we grow crops with all sorts of weather requirements and many with shorter growth windows. 

7. Watching forecasts with mixed amusement and horror.
The upcoming NOAA forecast for Tripoli has a chance of morning FROST on Sunday.  That is NOT cool.  Our apple trees are finally beginning to bloom.  Then, Tuesday has a high of 85.  Go figure.  Wunderground shows a low of 32 Sunday AM and a high of 88 on Tuesday.  We're currently selecting the Intellicast predictions since they don't have frost listed and their high on Tuesday is 80.  Go Intellicast Goooooo!

8. The detriment of social media to farmers (or just these farmers)
 We see what some of the folk to our South are doing - and what some with lighter soil (that dries out faster) are doing and we get a bit more anxious.  We have to keep saying to ourselves, "if they lived here, it would be the same for them...."  There is a reason we fared better in drought than many other farms....and it is some of the same reasons this weather is harder for us.

9. Building some raised beds.
It looks like we're going to expend some energy and funds and build some raised beds in an effort to get some "drier" ground to work sooner.  It's all part of trying to be as resilient as we can be on behalf of those who eat our produce. We'll do as much of this as is feasible on short notice (it was not in the 2013 plan).

10. The irony of watering.
Plants in trays - they must get watered daily or every other day.  Plants in pots that reside in cold frames...must get watered.  Plants in the high tunnel, need watering.  We can't quite explain how it feels to be diligently spending quantities of time watering plants while it is pouring rain.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iowa and Local Foods

I had someone point me to this article.

In a nutshell, this is what they did (what shows below is directly taken from the web article linked to above):

Data Sources:

If that didn't make any sense - here is the quick idea.  They figured state populations using the census.  They counted the number of farmers' market listed by the USDA site.  They counted the number of CSAs listed on the Local Harvest site (YES, we ARE on it - go visit it and give a review of our CSA for all to see if you'd like).  And, they counted food hubs also listed by the USDA.  The ranking is purely a per capita ranking.  That's it.

So, what are my reactions?

Iowa is fifth?  (behind Vermont (first), Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota)
And, it was SECOND the last time they did this.  That's the wrong way, but still, here we are.  What this means is that there are more opportunities for you to acquire local food in Iowa than in most of the United States - assuming you believe the methods they used here captured everything accurately.  It does not mean that the state is particularly friendly to those who grow local foods, nor does it indicate the relative health of the farms, markets and CSAs that grow.  It just means more opportunities exist per person in Iowa than most other states... period.

More opportunities per capita doesn't mean we are doing extremely well.  Instead, it points to how poorly we are doing as a nation in this area and how low the bar is that we must hurdle to gain a top five ranking.  If we could no longer ship in food to our state, we would have a significant food shortage.  I'm sorry, but we can't eat most of the crops we grow here, that's just the way it is.  And those crops make it difficult to grow food crops in the state by virtue of the culture created by commodity crop businesses. 

But, even so, when you consider the historical strength Iowa has had as an agricultural state, we should be first.  In fact, we should be so far ahead, that the others might wonder how they could ever catch up.  Sure, California and Michigan might grow more produce, but that doesn't indicate local sales and sourcing, and it certainly doesn't take into consideration the per capita rating. 

I see this as an opportunity to appeal to the pride in Iowa for doing what is practical.  And, what could be more practical than using our excellent soils to grow more of our own food?   And, we have a number of good people who are working hard to raise/grow good food for Iowans - and many others who might like to get started.  The potential for something wonderful is here - let's go get it.

So what should you do?
  • Learn a little bit about methods of growing and raising food so you can...
  • Ask the right questions of local growers, then you will be able to...
  • Support growers that use methods that are agreeable to you - and hopefully support healthy communities and environment.
  • Buy local food consistently.  When you find local sources you trust that grow things in a way your approve, keep them in business by being a regular customer.  Do this even if...
  • The local producer cannot be as consistent as a grocery store.  In fact, it might be best if they are not able to give you tomatoes in January.  Perhaps you should adjust to seasonal eating and consider buying extra in August for processing and storing until January.
  • Be more than a buyer of food.  Ask questions and give feedback to your local producers.  If given the opportunity, find a way to be a participant rather than a spectator.
  • Try new vegetables and recipes once in a while.  We're not asking you to do something new every night.  But, there are some mighty tasty veg that grow well in Iowa that have very low demand.
  • Pay attention to the National Farm Bill.  I know, it's one more thing.  But, this bill has more to say about how we use land, what we grow, what chemicals are used, etc than any other bill.  Make some noise to your representatives.
Just remember, your consistent patronage and support of local food sources keeps these businesses going.  Your consistency feeds into our consistency.  This is one of the surest ways to increase your opportunities for sources of tasty, sustainably grown, local foods.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reversal of Fortune

Of course, everyone in the Upper Midwest is sharing pictures and thoughts regarding the May storm we've been enjoying (???).  So, why should we be any different?

Actually, it also goes towards sharing with everyone what we're up to.  So, here we go!

The nice warm weather earlier in the week was appreciated.  However, most of our fields are still too wet to plant in.  But, this area has an old drain tile system under it, so it was drier than the rest.  We had a bunch of plants that really NEEDED to go into the ground, so we put them on the fabulous yellow trailer, got out Barty the tiller and away we went!

 We both admit that we're out of practice for this amount of crawling, but we got it done nonetheless.  The trays remaining were either deemed to be too young to put in easily (especially when we are tired) or were plants to be held back for possible sale.  Please note that the fabulous yellow car is being used to bring back all sorts of things.  Isn't that ... um... well.... fabulous?
 Straight ahead you can see some Amish Deer Tongue lettuce seedlings.  Look well - because we didn't see a number of these the next morning.  It seems some REAL deer tongues tasted most of these that appear in the foreground.  When a deer tastes a seedling, the seedling is gone.  Ah well.

We spent time putting up barricades the next day and the deer have stayed out since.  I meant to get a picture of that.  Maybe later.

The thing about sweet corn.  Especially sweet corn where you leave the stalks for snow catching and wildlife... it doesn't break down fast enough to give you good seedbeds for some of the things we want to plant.  You would think the farmer might adjust his rotation a bit to deal with this.
Oh wait, he did, but then he had to modify it again because of last year's spraying.  Hm.
In any event, Rob spent quality time with a rake.  This is the same area you see with the tilled area and little plants in the pictures at the top.

 Some of the fields in the east have some cleaning as well.  We didn't pull up all of the drip tape from last season.  I have an excuse....some of it was frozen to the ground once I got to these fields.  So, there they have stayed, until now.  The dead plant matter you see are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romanesco, kale and cauliflower.  Some of these haven't broken down enough and the potatoes need to go in this field.  So, I pulled them and they'll go to the compost.
The second picture shows an angle shot where you can see the next two plots over.  The second plot was cucumber and peas.  We pulled another 2400 feet of drip tape out of there and mowed some of the residue to help it break down.
The pile of straw you see in the far edge is from the third field.  Our straw didn't break down enough either, so I'm pulling some of it out as well.  And...there's drip tape there as well.  I'm glad the next four plots were already cleaned up.
Then, we got up on May 3 and found windows on the north side that looked like this.  
 And, by playing with the camera on manual focus, I could change the picture above to this.  I'm not sure either one looks very inviting to go outside.  But, chores needed doing.  So, I took the camera with me on a quick investigative tour before I fed birds and cats, etc.

 The black raspberries are not entirely sure what hit them.  I suspect they'll be fine, but one never knows until you do.

There is some veg inside that there high tunnel.  I know it.  The irony of this is that we pulled in the remay cloth that we use to help insulate the plants in the high tunnel from colder weather.  They all should be fine in there since they are all cold hardy crops right now.  Still, they are moving slower than we think they should because we've had a good deal less sun than we usually get. And, that's recognizing that Spring is typically fairly cloudy.  I won't be rolling up the sides on the tunnel for a while, there be some weight on them that won't allow it.  Plus, the plants inside don't want me to!

One of our early signs of Spring on the farm are when the Pasque flower blooms.  I noted that it was blooming on Tuesday (during the warmer weather - the time from the pictures at the top of the post), but I failed to take a photo of it then.  Well, it is still there.  Hang in there little friend!  We still want to see you bloom more.