Monday, January 6, 2014

Top Events at GFF for 2013

Every year we do a "Year in Review" Top 10 list with respect to our farm.  Once again, we have no real 'rules' and, as far as that is concerned, we would probably break them if we had them.  

Previous Year in Review Posts can be found in the links provided next:
2012, 2011, 2010, 2008
We are not certain how we missed 2009 - but if forced to, we could come up with a list.  No, not now.  You'll just have to deal with this one.  I'm sure it will be enough for the time being.

Not farm events, but worthy of mention:

* Wait!  It's your 50th too?
We had the distinct pleasure to help both Tammy's and Rob's parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries this year.   Hurray Moms and Dads!

* Life beyond the farm (Kauai) 
 We also had the opportunity to visit the island of Kauai over Thanksgiving.  It was a tremendous opportunity to renew energy and purpose.  Plus - we got to see nature in her best clothing.  We hope we did her justice with some of the photos we took. 

The "Official GFF Top 10"

10. A year where pun was had by all.

When the year started out with some difficulties, we decided we would do our best to stay positive - no matter what.  One way we managed to accomplish this feat was by inflicting puns on our poor CSA farm share members.  Since some of our readers have not received this gift from us:

I've been wondering how ravens and crows differ.  It turns out, the long feathers at the tip of a bird's wings, the pinion feathers, provide us with a way to tell them apart. A raven has four pinion feathers and a crow has five pinion feathers.
The difference between ravens and crows is a matter of a pinion!

No, we are not sorry.

9.  Pick a weather extreme, any weather extreme.
It really seemed like 2013 was intent on trying to find a way to provide for us an example of every weather extreme it could find.  After 2012's early, early, EARLY Spring, we just couldn't seem to get one started this year. 

After snow, here's our temp reading midday on May 3
And, after our nice little snow storm, someone turned on the faucet and left it on.  Not only was it hard for us to get into our fields, the corn/soybean farmers also had their difficulties.  Many fields not too many miles to our North were left empty for the entire season. 
We had no idea this was lakefront property.
Once things dried out, it got warm and forgot how to rain for some time.  Happily, it did not get nearly as warm as it did in 2012 - but much of Iowa headed back toward drought conditions.  The amazing thing is this - despite below average rainfall through Summer into the Fall, we still had enough rain in the Spring to have total rainfall for the year up to that point that was ABOVE average. 

The extreme weather forced our hands on several fronts.  We spent energy and time we couldn't spend in the fields working on raised beds, converting a building to protect seedlings and numerous other things that simply needed doing.  We admit that weather is likely to land in the top 10 every season since it is the nature of the beast, so to speak.  But, it drove so many of the other things you see in the top 10 that we had to include it.

8. What was the woid on the boid hoid (flock)?

Speaking of weather, how about the gnat attack we had this year?  We found out the hard way that these insects carry a parasite that attacks ducks (and turkeys) so most of our ducks were lost.  Usually one a day died over an extended period of time.  Luckily, chickens were not affected and we kept the turkeys inside a little longer until the gnats were done.  As an added bonus, Rob landed a nice ear infection courtesy of gnats.

Ducks and gnats do not mix
But, there were many positives as well.  We managed to expend energy and time on some poultry projects.  The permanent hen fence was (finally) completed, a few "mobile" poultry buildings were created and we were in a position to make adjustments with our flocks to handle most of the adverse weather conditions.  We even got to save a batch of young broilers by climbing into their building during a rainstorm and shoving straw under them to prevent hypothermia.

Now that's mobile
New perch!

7. Williams Tool Bar et al to the rescue

We allocated capital to an equipment purchase this season that looks like it will do good things for us in years to come.  The Williams Tool Bar attaches to the back of our tractor and allows us to cultivate difficult to weed crops, such as onions. 
We climbed the learning curve quickly
And, while we were at it, we purchased a couple of used flair box trailers at auction.  Neither cost us too much, though they both needed a little rehab to be useful.   Durnik the tractor was pleased to pull them around and the farmers found them to be far more efficient than a wheelbarrow for large loads.  No - that wasn't a surprise.


On the amusing side - it ended up that Rob bought one of the flair boxes and Tammy bought the other one.  We will both claim that ours is the best flair box on the farm.  Actually, both were very useful (don't tell Tammy I said that).

6. You look familiar, where have we seen you before?

Despite the early difficulties, we actually had some successes on the farm.  Some of these were a mild surprise since recent history would seem to indicate that these would not be most likely to do well on our farm.  For example, we've implemented the use of cover crops on the farm, but have had only limited success.  We have to admit that part of the problem was an equipment issue.  The addition of a tractor, spreader and the William Tool Bar and the use of a roller resulted in fantastic germination of our cover crops this Summer.
Buckwheat - bees love it!
Another example would be our carrot crop this season.  There is a reason Jeff Sage is our carrot guru.  The window for getting a good carrot crop on our farm is small, and it is hard to hit.  And, of all things, we hit it this year.  We ask you - how did we hit that window with all of the rain we had?   We also wonder how they managed to survive all of the excessive rain.  CSA members were treated to Jeff's carrots AND our carrots.  Gotta like that!
We still love seeing weeded carrots
Finally, yes finally.  We got our first apple crop of a decent size from our trees.  What a treat for us.  We were able to eat apples from our trees (about 1 each a day) through November this year. 
Special award to our fruit trees in 2013!
5. Great people helping
We've spent blog posts singing the praises of the people who help us succeed every year.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep singing their praises.  If you helped us and are not mentioned here, please don't think we don't value you.  But, each of these mentions were critical changes/additions/events that were key to the season.

Tyler Albers joined us as our Labor 4 Learning participant, working on our farm 2 days a week for several months.  Tyler brought with him mechanical and building skills that we could employ on the farm.  Since we were unable to do much in the field early, we could focus on many things that made use of these skills.  And, when he needed to move some of his own crops that started in sandy soil, they matched up pretty well with things we were short on.

Shannon and Graham agreed to a work share this year and we were all pleased with the results.  Cedar Falls CSA farm share members received the royal treatment in part because these two fine people helped us to get things out on the table quickly and efficiently.  And, it never hurts to have another person there to discuss what to do with the veg you are picking up.

Hurrah for Blue Gate Farm!
Last, but not least, Blue Gate Farm came to GFF and helped us catch up on some planting that had been delayed greatly by the weather.  Some of the lettuce, cabbage, kale, melons, winter squash, cauliflower and other crops got in the ground because they came and helped.  It was a critical juncture for us this season.  While things on the farm improved rapidly after that visit, it might have been our attitudes that were improved the most.

4. The garlic turnaround

Garlic in Iowa has suffered greatly from 2012's "aster yellows" infection that spread through most of the state.  The theory is that our super early spring caused garlic to come up extremely early.  So, early that they were one of the few green things for a period of a couple of weeks.  The early spring also caused an early leaf hopper hatching.  The leaf hoppers went for the only green things they could find and spread the aster yellows disease.

Garlic drying in the truck barn
The result was some pretty ugly garlic in 2012.  Most of our garlic last year was poor quality and had no storing capability.  As a result, we went looking for some new seed and found it at (oh, them again!) Blue Gate Farm.  We planted about 2000 heads of BGF seed and approximately 500 of our own.  We harvested about 2000 heads from the BGF garlic and about 5 of the GFF garlic.  Good thing we didn't rely on our own seed.

The result, we have a nice seed crop for 2014 in the ground and we've had high quality garlic for our customers.

3. Oh... Well.

We wrote about the farm well saga and received positive reviews from those that read all three posts.  The blog posts were entertaining, but the process of getting the new well drilled (and paying for it - still) was/is a bit less enjoyable.

On the plus side, we went with a pump that maintains more consistent pressures that help with our irrigation.  With the dry Summer, this turned out to be more important than we thought it would be at the time.
2.  High Tunnel to the Rescue!

The difference between 2010 and 2013?  We had an operational high tunnel.  Oh... and we had some experience dealing with excessive rains in the Spring.  And.. um.. we had better equipment.  Ok ok.  It wasn't all the high tunnel.

Snack tomatoes - yum!
But, we can say without reservation that the high tunnel gave us that bit of insurance that helped us provide our Farm Share CSA members with an excellent distribution every week of the season despite weather problems.  We were able to give our members green beans because of this building.  The volume of snack tomatoes was sufficient to give everyone a treat for several weeks.  And, peppers - we would have had no Jimmy Nardello's, no Tolli Sweets, no papricka peppers....without that high tunnel.

As Tammy said - the high tunnel was our 'happy place' this year.

1.  Dream Big and Grow

The previous item leads nicely to the last entry.

We took the challenge and entered the Cedar Valley Dream Big Grow Here grant contest.   We were overwhelmed with all kinds of support from many good people.  As a result, Rob was allowed the chance to make a pitch for this grant to be applied to a second high tunnel on the farm.  The net result seen in the picture. This grant will cover about 25% of the total cost of this project.  Absolutely nothing to sneeze at!

We've gotten an estimate to prepare the field and are progressing towards ordering the building.  We hope to put it up in April.  Stay tuned as we keep you informed on our blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.