Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Oooo Aaaaa! Bird

Every so often something remarkable happens at the farm.

Ok, ok.  Many remarkable things happen at the farm.  Some of them we take for granted.  Others, we don't recognize immediately as remarkable.  And, since I write this blog about all kinds of things, you could say my remarks make a lot of thing remarkable.

Have you ever looked at the word "remarkable?"  The "k" just makes it stand out.  It also is easy to type.  So, I like it.


Much easier to type than xylophone.  But, then, I am not sure we'd be remarking about xylophones on this blog.

[ed note - we are sending the writer to the store.  Maybe he'll get to the point when he gets back...]

It is actually possible the word I am looking for is "absurd."  But, first some background.  There are standards for sizing eggs and we have a simple scale, aptly shaped like a chicken, to measure these weights should we want to size the eggs for whatever reason.  Most of the eggs we harvest would rate from large to extra large (and beyond).

One of our smaller eggs

This is a little bigger than average

As is this - it should still fit in a carton well enough to deliver to a customer
At this point, we should mention that it is not uncommon to have eggs that top out this scale.  And, we have had a few eggs that we thought were ridiculously large.  It doesn't happen very often, but we will get an egg that will get our attention because it is a good bit bigger than the rest.

I should also mention a joke I heard on an older British TV show (Good Neighbors).

"The Ooo Aaaa Bird is so called because it lays square eggs."

I think this one liner is funny.  Tammy is not as fond of it.  Alas, we can't have it all.

The Ooo Aaa Bird has taken up residence in our laying flock.  She has apparently rounded off the corners, but the size of this egg still had to make the whole laying process a bit of an adventure.

The scale is useless in this case.
 I thought I might take the eggs and put them in order of size so you could get a good feel for the enormity of this one.  The first egg on the left is the 'large' egg.  The second from the right is another very large egg we just picked up.  It would normally get our attention, but is not nearly as remarkable... as the egg in question.

From large, to extra large, to huge.... to OoooooAaaaaaaaaaaa!
 Of course, we had to try and put it into an egg carton.
Ok, that egg isn't getting packed in a carton for delivery...
 And, so, this egg was relegated to the carton in the door of our own refrigerator.  This is where the big eggs and misfit eggs go to become our breakfast, or bread....etc. 
Bets on how many yolks are in that egg?
There you have it.  The Oooo Aaaa! Bird is at the Genuine Faux Farm.  What will it do next?  We don't know, but we're considering trying to figure out which bird it is and offer it an icepack to sit on for a while.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Welcome to the Genuine Faux Farm Blog

The 2014 CSA season is approaching.  This often means we will have a new group of people who will need to be oriented to some of the resources we offer.  Among those resources is this blog.  Of course, some of you might feel that this isn't so much a resource as a place to get into your farmers' heads a bit.  It's up to each of you to decide if that is a good or bad thing.

First, we'd like you to note the "Follow by Email" entry area just under the Sunflower on the right.  We highly recommend that you do this if you like what you see here.  You will receive an email ONLY when a new post is made on this blog and it will provide a direct link to the story so you can view it.  We have tried other ways to get the word out, but this have proven to be the most reliable.

So - without further ado, we'll give you a quick tour of the blog:

News of the Farm
First and foremost, we try to use this blog to keep you up to date with things going on at the farm - or things that have some relationship to the farm.  Sometimes, this takes the form of an actual 'newsletter.'  Other times, we simply throw a few things out there as we think of them.  We try to take digital pictures of what is going on and will do a "Picture This" type blog post about once a month.  Once in a while, we get pretty creative with how we tell you what's up.

Our April Newsletter post is pretty typical of one of our 'full out' attempts at a newsletter. And, our March Picture This posting gives you an idea of what that sort of post is like.  And, if you want to see what a typical farm report that happens because we know something needs to be on the blog looks like - here's one for April.

A Bit of Entertainment?
We suppose that you may have a different definition of entertainment.  But, we do try to tell a few stories, show a few more pictures and lighten the mood once in a while.  In all of these cases, we're hoping it gives you insight as to who your farmers are.  But, sometimes, these posts are just as important to us to remind us of good things and to help improve our own attitudes when things are difficult.

Some examples that you may find enjoyable are linked below, but if you want to see how silly it might get, I recommend looking at the post that highlights our Best Humorous posts and lines for 2013.  If this doesn't get you wondering about how much you want to be connected with us, we don't know what will!

GFF Faux Real Stories give you some of our real life stories that we enjoy telling and hope you will enjoy reading.
Some of the animals on our farm will also contribute to the blog.  Harold, the rooster, recently shared his thoughts on Barnyard Management.   The Chicken Decoding Special Forces may make an appearance once in a while when they make a discovery.  And, our friendly feline friends will deign to regale us periodically.

We don't resort to this very often, but once in a while we get the feeling that we could all use some humor and we'll share a few cartoons that made us laugh.  And, every April 1st (or 2nd) we simply can't help ourselves.

Sharing Farm Data
We believe that it is important to provide food that is traceable (to the grower) and we also believe that the consumer should be given the opportunity to learn HOW the grower raises the food.  So, we will use our website and our blog to share information.  Sometimes, we admit, we share the information as much for ourselves as for you.  Why?  Well, reading our blog gives us that sense of history that is sometimes needed when we are faced with a new (or seemingly new) challenge.  In a way, it becomes a little bit of a farm diary at times.

We shared a final crop report for 2013 in hopes that new members (and returning members) might get an idea of what we are capable of growing and what we intend on growing.  For example, you might not see fennel on the list, so you can probably conclude that we don't grow it.  On the other hand, you might see something that happened to be a crop failure in 2013, but is on our grow list.  So, at least you know we INTEND to grow that thing.

Commentary on Agriculture, etc
Sometimes we get on our soapbox.  We do take education seriously and it is a part of our farm's mission.  Sometimes, we try to educate, other times we want to share an opinion.

We shared our own definition of Sustainable Agriculture recently and felt it was important enough that we gave it a page on our website as well.  Other times, it isn't quite so carefully planned out and refined.  But, most of the time, they fall somewhere between them with this piece on egg pricing and local poultry production. 

Pictures Are Worth 1000 Words
Digital cameras were a wonderful invention.  It encourages us to go out and record things.  Sometimes we get some really nice pictures (in fact, if you visit that post, we will still take votes for best picture).  Other times, they are decent reference.  And, sometimes we just get the feeling everyone needs something to take their minds off of Winter.

It's About Good Food
Hey, we're a farm that grows food.  So, some of it has to be about that, right?  Recently, we talked a bit about being a 'picky' eater and how we've addressed that issue in our own lives.  We're guessing there are many others out there who had a similar short list of vegetables as Rob did.  And, we aren't above telling you about vegetables that are in our future to get you to drool a little.  We'll even periodically give recipes or other advice.  There are a few posts dedicated to that here, but often they get embedded in emails, in other posts or are placed on our website.

It's About Farm Events
We try to keep you up to date on special events.  Many of these events could entice you to participate!  This year is our Ten Year Tenure Farm Anniversary, so there might be more of this sort of thing than usual.  We try to give a quick promotion or description of each event before it happens and sometimes after it occurs.

It's About the Variety
We are motivated to grow lots of different vegetable varieties and many different vegetable crops.  We share our results and opinions about what we grow.  We are happy to solicit feedback and respond.  In fact, we include as much data as we have time to provide on our website.  But, as you'll note, the website links back to certain blog posts that highlight our vegetables varieties of the year.

It's About More...
It's about telling our story.
It's about sharing resources we build.
It's about looking back.
It's about looking forward.
It's about trying to make positive changes.
It's about adjusting to difficulties.
...and having a little fun once in a while.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is a Farm Share Worth It?

We are heading towards the end of April and we are still looking for people to join our CSA program.  So, if you know of someone - or if you ARE that someone - let us try to convince you to join us.

We've had a few people tell us they cannot afford a share.  And, we fully recognize that each family's finances are their own and every situation is different.  Things happen, not everyone has alot of money to throw around and we don't want to tell anyone what they can and cannot afford.

However, please be patient and read this.  There is a myth out there about what is expensive and what is not.  

Well - let's try CHEAP first.

You can go to a certain fast food chain and get one of their inexpensive "Smiley Meals" for something between 4 and 5 dollars a piece.  So, let's split the difference and say it costs $4.50.  A family of four eats for $18.

Once you've eaten the meal, it is done.  You don't need me to preach about healthy eating right now, this is only about cost.  One meal in a week where one expects to eat 14 to 21 meals (depending on whether you are a 2 or 3 a day meal family, I suppose).

A CSA Share is Too Expensive?

A regular sized CSA share costs you $340 for 20 weeks of produce.  $17 per week.

While we grant you that this does not account for ALL of the food you will need to get through the week, we can also tell you that you'll have product that can be a part of more than one meal.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, you get a bunch of carrots, a head of leaf lettuce, 2 summer squash, 2 zucchini, 4 cucumbers, a bag of green beans, a bundle of kale, a couple of onions and a head of broccoli for one week's share.  And, please remember, some weeks will garner you much more than this.  Some others, early in the season, may have less.  But, in general, this is a conservative estimate on a weekly delivery.

Your family could use the summer squash, zucchini and an onion in one meal, the green beans could be the vegetable in another meal and broccoli in a third meal.  You could sautee the kale with another onion for a fourth meal.  The carrots and cucumbers could be snacks for lunches.  So. let's say the cukes cover one lunch and the carrots get another.  You now have parts of six meals for the week at a cost that is LESS than a single meal at the "un-named" establishment.
Belstar broccoli, ready to pick.

Or, let's put it another way.  If you have $18 to spend per meal, then it is seems fair to say that you just applied $17 to SIX meals by doing a CSA share.  Split that evenly...well, $17 doesn't split evenly.  But,

$2.83 cents has been applied to each of your 6 meals using CSA produce.  Isn't that great?  You still have $15.17 cents left to spend on other things for your meal.  If you MUST, go get three of the "Smiley Meals" and split the fries evenly. But, you should eat the carrots first.

St Valery carrots.  Lunch time is munch time.
Other Considerations

Life is always more complicated than the scenario I've painted, of course. 

What if your family hates kale?  Ok, do the numbers over FIVE meals.  It still comes out favorably.  Consider also that a program such as ours often pairs something like kale with another vegetable in an effort to respond to things like that.

Curly Blue Scotch kale - some love it, some don't

What if your family loves beans and a single bag that weighs 3/4 pound isn't enough to make all of you happy?  Well, if we have excess, we often sell excess.  If we don't, often someone at the farmers' market has plenty they'd like you to buy.  Remember, you have an extra $15.17 to spend on EACH meal.  An extra $2 or $3 could get you those extra green beans.

Is it a time thing?  You don't have time to make the meals?  We understand.  We admit that we also eat out too often because time and energy are in low supply.  Nonetheless, you have to admit that munching on a cucumber or a carrot takes little to no time to prepare.  Broccoli tastes fine raw - and if you need it, it isn't hard to find a ranch dressing or other dipping sauce to go with it.  It takes the time to open a bottle and pour a little onto a plate or into a bowl.  Tear up some leaf lettuce and put a little dressing on it.  Not much time there.  Or make a sandwich and put some lettuce on that.  Heck, take your lettuce to the fast food place and put it on your sandwich!  It'll taste better than the iceberg stuff they have anyway.
Mmmm. Grandpa Admires lettuce
  Beans take a few minutes to steam.  If you're really pressed for time, slap a pat of butter on it in the pot and give everyone a fork and stand around the stove to eat.  Family time!

So, it sounds like you might need to do a little preparation to use the summer squash, zucchini and onions.  But, the rest is pretty easy if you need it to be.

Black Beauty zucchini.  Sautee with some sweet onions on the grill!

Will a CSA Farm Share Work for Everyone?
Of course it doesn't. 

Some families just don't fit this model.  And, that's fine.  It is important for a CSA customer to understand exactly what it is that they are getting into so they can make the most of what they receive.  It is best for them AND for the farmer if they are on board with how the program works.  Add a little bit of patience to learn how to take the best advantage of a CSA and you have a winner.  Many second year members tell us how much more they enjoy the program after they've gotten one year of experience to look back on.  In fact, some of our third year members have told us that they feel much more adventuresome than they did before and really feel like they take full advantage of their membership.

But, this is a completely different issue.  It isn't so much a matter of expense - it is a matter of how a family works.

So, if you're pinching the pennies and thought a CSA program costs too much.  Look at your budget and ask if $17 worth of produce per week fits.  If it doesn't and you're being honest with yourself about where your food money goes, then that is fine.  If it does, then we have a place for you this season.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's April and We're Already Behind?

Here we are - April 21.  It's very early.  So, how is it we feel like we're already behind? 

We've got lots of trays on the heat mats with seeds/seedlings getting going.   Onions are in cold frames.  Hen chicks are in a brooder.  There are plants in the raised beds, there are plants in the high tunnel. 

I suppose you know farming season has begun as soon as you feel like you are either behind schedule or about to be behind schedule. 

We'll turn this blog post into a 'as I think of it' kind of post.. so, here we go!

Raised beds help us adjust yet again!

If you'll recall, we put in three raised beds last Spring/Summer in order to address the wet field problem we were encountering.  Well, they answered the call again this Spring.  Our overwintered kale and lettuce did not make it through the Winter.  This has not happened to us before, so that tells you how cold it got.  We also know that kale and chard are not good companions for tomatoes, peppers and beans.  We confirmed that last year when we left a few of those plants in the high tunnel in an area near tomatoes and peppers.  The results for those ended up fine in the end, but the intermediate period before the kale and chard were removed was not pretty.

Raised beds prepped to plant.

I tell you that to explain why it was so nice to plant kale, chard and pok choi into our raised beds.  They can still get covered, they have an adequate microclimate to encourage growth - but they are not taking a spot in the high tunnel.  That means we can sneak in our tomatoes and peppers early this year by putting them right next to the lettuce (which is a good companion).  There is an excellent chance this could result in early tomatoes for everyone this season - wouldn't that be a nice treat?

But, that reminds me...

Cool Soil

We tried the 4 inch soil temperature in the high tunnel on Saturday.  It is up to 50 degrees F, so we should be able to plant some green beans relatively soon.  But, this is still a bit chilly.  We'll check the 4 inch soil temp outside soon.  But, we can tell be observing that it is a bit cold.  The garlic is just now coming up in the mulch.  The asparagus has shown no sign of popping up.  The spinach we planted does not want to germinate at all quickly.  We'll get there eventually, but I suppose we shouldn't get too much ahead of ourselves.  Putting seed in soil that is too cold doesn't gain you much of anything.

Local Harvest

It seems to us that the best place to go if you are looking for a CSA is now Local Harvest.  And, you can see our entry for Local Harvest if you take this link.  We bring this up for two reasons.

1.  If you move from the area and you are looking for a CSA, this is a good place to look for what is available in the area.  It may not catch every option, but it is the most popular for farms such as ours to maintain a presence.  Of course, feel free to ask us if we have friends in the area to which you are moving, we can point you towards the farm or farms we'd be happy to patronize if we lived in that area.

2. There is a review option for farms that list themselves there.  We have two positive reviews for which we are grateful.  In fact, reading positive comments about our farm please and humble us (at the same time, if that is possible).  However, since we are still pushing for more CSA members this year, it would help us if a few of you would follow the link and leave positive reviews for our farm.  Of course, we don't want you to leave a positive review if you really don't mean it.  But, if you do...  here is a way you can further support what we do.

Overspray Issue Status

For those who are curious.  We are entering the filing stage for the lawsuit with respect to the chemical misapplication that occurred Summer, 2012.  We finally feel that we have enough evidence of what was lost (and continues to be lost) after this event.  We realize that Rob might have a tendency to over think things at times.  But, this is probably one of those cases where having a preponderance of data is not a bad thing. 

In any event, we are still in process and we'll be very happy when the process ends.  It is not enjoyable to spend hours analyzing what had (and still has) to be altered on the farm as a result of this incident.

Signs of Spring

One way to tell farming season has truly started
Finally - yes - finally!  It smells like Spring.  No, I'm not referring to Anhydrous Ammonia being applied to the corn fields.  I'm referring to Spring rain smell.  But, another way we can tell it must be finally changing is the appearance of the two items you see in the photo above. 

The green thermos follows Rob around the farm most of the year.  Ok... he carries it.  It's the cats that tend to follow him.  And, the lovely feel of sun tan lotion as it catches dust on the back of your neck has returned.  We've also noticed the per capita use of lotion for dry,rough hands has gone WAY up.  Rob found two bruises he can't remember earning this morning.  The chirpa chirpa bird has started singing (brown thrasher) in the morning and the robins now sing their "It's been a good day" song in the evenings.  Dandelions are up in the high tunnel, so we're looking for the great dandelion bloom on the farm about May 10.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Farm News for April

It is mid-April and you know what that means?

No?  Neither do I.  So, instead of pondering that, we'll just do a GFF Newsletter!

Spring CSA

Well, it has been a cold start to the year and you may have guessed by now that this weather has made it impossible for us to grow for a Spring CSA that delivers in April this year.  If you are signed up for Spring, we are not asking you to pay us anything in advance.  If you have already done so, we have applied the payment to the regular season.  So - as we have produce in May (maybe late April) we will contact people on our Spring CSA list and give details on what we have and how you can acquire it.  Essentially you will be able to opt in (or out) each week during this period until the regular season starts in June.

Obviously, we're not happy about this, but it is the best solution in response to the weather.  It will reduce some stress on us to simply sell on a week by week basis this Spring and work to have a strong regular season CSA.

Our soil was ready in the SouthWest plot this weekend.

Regular Season CSA Slots Available

We currently have 97 slots reserved in our CSA.  We need to get to 120 and were willing to go higher than that to support adding Tyler Albers to our growing program.  So, if you have been considering joining us, now is the time to let us know you want to be a part of the program.  If you have already joined us, many thanks.  Now, tell some friends they should also take the leap!

At present, we should be able to accommodate twelve more members at our Cedar Falls pickup and nineteen in Waverly.

Billing on its Way!

Finally!  They are in the mail and heading your way.  You will find a SASE in the mailing so you can easily remit payment.  If you see anything amiss with contact information or billing, please let us know.  Rob is a decent accountant - for a farmer - but that doesn't mean mistakes don't occur.

For those who wonder why the billing has been slower than usual, it has, in part been because sign ups have been slower than usual  We try to do the billing in one session.  So, we were waiting to hit the 90 subscriber mark to make the effort of setting up and doing make it all worthwhile.

Events Coming Up!
  • April 15 - Rob presents at St Paul's Senior Lunch
  • April 17 - Rob presents at Ai Wen's UNI class
  • April 26 - Tammy presents at the Health Fair (the W)
  • April 26 - UNI class tours farm
  • May 4 - Tom Sawyer Day - Move'em or Lose'em Perennial Dig
  • May 15 - State Dream Big Grow Here contest in Iowa City
  • May 31 - Iris Festival at the farm
The High Tunnel build is on hold due to the weather.  We'll let everyone know when we are going to do this.  Technically, we had been hoping to put it up next week.  But, we haven't been able to get the excavation work done and have no building on hand.  so....

Listen for Us on KUNI

Once again, we have connected with Iowa Public Radio to show our support for what they do and promote our farm at the same time.  So, it won't really be US talking on the radio, but it will be a radio spot we're sponsoring.  I know, you were hoping to hear our dulcet tones.  Well, sign up for a CSA share and you'll get that every week!

No, we are not adding horses to the farm.
GFF Adds a Horse Trailer to the Arsenal of Tools

This headline seems like it should have appeared on our April Fools post.  But, it is true.  The picture above gives you the 'proof.'  It is a small trailer and it has alot of holes in it.  But, you can't have everything.  The intent for this building is to provide us with a mobile poultry building.  In particular, we're hoping it will serve as a brooder (for chicks) for our first meat chicken batch this Spring.

I hope it works out.  (How's that for a vote of confidence?)

In any event, this was Rob's gift to Tammy at a recent auction.  She said she wanted it.  So, he got it for her.  Romantic, isn't it?

Soil Workable for a Moment in Time

This past weekend when the temperatures were VERY nice and warm, we went out and checked the SouthWest field.  This area is the best drained and quickest to reach a workable state.  Sure enough, it had just reached that status, so we trotted out there and tried to prep a few beds to plant spinach, arugula, mustard and radish.  We got it prepped and got the seeder out.  And, it started to rain (and hail - more on that later).  The precision seeder we have does not tolerate wet - so we had to stop.

We *might* have gotten some spinach in.  We'll see.

Rob needs to lose some weight, the whole world tilted for this picture!
 Oh Hail!

So, we got some pea sized hail on the farm along with rain.  So, since our day outside was being terminated, we decided we should run an errand or two to prepare for some upcoming events.  We hopped in the truck and headed towards Cedar Falls at about 7pm and ran straight into a nasty cell of hail.  We estimate the hailstones were around 2.5 inches in diameter (maybe more).  The result - a cracked windshield and some sizable dents.  Our timing couldn't have been much better.  However, we are very grateful that hail stayed away from the farm.

On the other hand, we haven't appreciated another dip into cooler temperatures.  We hit 21 degrees F on the farm last night.  Booooooo!

But, that must mean....

We Have Hen Chicks!

Yes, the hen chicks have arrived.  Yes, they are cute.  Yes, we have them in the garage to keep them warm again this season.  We don't know how the weather knows when we're getting chicks.  Maybe Mother Nature reads our website and checked out our schedule?

 Move 'em Or Lose 'em Perennial Dig

We are planning on trying to salvage the last of the perennials that are in the field south of the high tunnel.  That area used to be our beautiful perennial flower beds.  Sadly, our work on the farm precluded weeding these.  As a result, there are still iris, day lillies and other perennials out there that we'd like to salvage.  If you are interested in joining us, we'd like to identify what we can and move them to other locations on the farm.  Also, we will gladly let you take divisions of some of these plants as a reward for your help.

If you are interested in joining us, please contact us so we can plan for your participation!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looking Forward to Eating

With a couple of nice days outside (finally) we are beginning to think about things actually growing and producing vegetables and fruits for us to eat.  This, of course, got me to thinking about some of the things we're missing about now that we're looking forward to eating later this season!

The great thing about this is - we're growing each of these varieties and if you are a member of the CSA (hey!  shameless plug, we still have spots open!) you'll get a chance to eat them too!

A fresh tomato off the vine....  I prefer mine on sandwiches, but I know someone else in this house who doesn't need the excuse of a sandwich to eat a tomato.  Right now, I'm aiming for the Black Krim.  Although, I'm not sure I would say no to a German Pink.  Or a Tasty Evergreen.  Or an Italian Heirloom.  Well, pretty much any of the 30 or so varieties we grow will do.  I guess we'll just have to keep cheering the little plants on!

Black Krim tomato - YUM!
This one is a lot closer to coming to fruition!  Lettuce.  We've got some in trays that need to go into the ground soon.  All of our earliest spring crops will be late, but we can still get lettuce in May.  When I think about lettuce, I think Grandpa Admires.  I like the softer lettuces with a milder flavor.  Others will be looking forward to the Crispmint and its distinct romaine texture and taste.  I'm thinking about this just after eating our first spinach of the year!
Grandpa Admires Lettuce
But, I have to admit that the one vegetable that really makes me happiest is still the green bean.  Seriously, we can eat a whole pot of these for a meal just between the two of us.  The only thing that might get old is snapping the ends off before cooking.  But, eating them steamed.... Yep, I think we could manage that most nights when it is peak season and not grow tired of them.

Steamed with a little bit of real butter.....
The next one actually surprised me a little.  I don't usually think of zucchini right away when I think of vegetables that I am missing.  But, they represent the grilled vegetable 'medley' that includes summer squash, sweet onion and various other delicious things.  With the right balance of veg and spices, this is a slice of summer that should not be missed.  Probably the best tasting zucchini we grow is Costata Romanesco, but we've been refining our choices and feel pretty good about the taste all of them exhibit.

Costataaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Romanescoooooooo!
I don't mind dirt.  On the other hand, I don't like getting sticky.  So, the idea of eating a melon in the field without a good place to wipe off my hands isn't on the top of my list.  Except.... when I find a Ha'Ogen melon that is a bit over ripe and won't make it back to the house.  A complex melon taste that is outstanding.  I am very much hoping for a bumper crop of these this season.
Ha'Ogen melon
And, of course, I was just thinking how nice having some fresh broccoli, cauliflower or romanesco would be right about now.  Of these, I find that I will eat more cauliflower than broccoli.  And, I just learned last year that I'll eat more romanesco than cauliflower.  I'll try to save some for the rest of you.

It may look strange, but it tastes good.
So, what are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If You've Had a Rough Day (or two)

The evidence is mounting that the difficult Winter has bruised us more than we care to admit.  And, by us, I am referring to the collective (the farm, me, Tammy, the animals and - of course - all of you).  It is also nearing the end of the semester for Tammy and that adds stress to both of our lives as well. 

I needed to do something to change my mood.  And, since my mood changes when I do things that help others, I thought I'd share some of the things that made me laugh in hopes that it will also help you.  Yes you!  And you too.  Yes, you as well. 

....  Ok, if I have to confirm that is for each of you individually, we're never going to get anywhere.  So... now for some fun!

Cucumbers to the Rescue!

One of my favorite cartoons is still Peanuts (Schultz).  I loved the humor even before I was ten years old!  And, if I just happen to run into a Peanuts cartoon that intersects with what we do on the farm - I've got to share it.

Peanuts Cartoon for Mar/28/2014
And to add to the confusion - a cucumber is a CUCURBIT!   ha!

More Cartoon Goodness

We try not to overdo cartoons on the blog, despite enjoying them immensely.  But, we are very much aware that there are artists who work to produce these things.  None the less, we succumbed to sharing some pictures in 2011 on this short blog post.  And, sadly, Spring was slow in coming last year.  So, we resorted to some cartoons then as well.

Non Sequitur Cartoon for Apr/08/2014
We are thinking of adding this sign to our chicken pasture.

Plenty O' Pun for All

We even had a post about chickens that was full of puns.  This is why we will often enjoy Pearls Before Swine.  Maybe he's stretching a bit for this one.  But, it still made us both laugh.

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Apr/06/2014
Ron Cey was known as "The Penguin"

Speaking of Baseball

We like baseball and we're both glad baseball season has started.  The sad thing is, there really isn't good radio baseball coverage in the area any more.  So, we don't get too see as much of it as we would like.  Nonetheless, our inability to hear Bob Eucker will not stop us from indulging in baseball related humor!

One time when "assault" would be the same as murder?
When in doubt, remind yourself - "It could be worse."

It's not always the best way to change your mood.  After all, why would spending time trying to figure out how your day could be more difficult help change your mood?  Although, simply recounting one of those days back in October helped my mood at that time.  In fact, I still am amused by it to some degree.  And speaking of amusing, this cartoon (Hagar the Horrible) was one I clipped out of the paper several years ago and found on my desk recently.

Oh!  So that's why the lady's favor before a joust was a kerchief!
But, It's Good For You

Difficulties build character.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  Etc etc.  Whatever.  When you've had a difficult day or two, you just want things to improve.  Whether that means completing tasks that are hanging over your head or escaping them, it doesn't matter which sometimes.  Perhaps we are suffering from the letdown after reality destroyed our Farmer Delusional Syndrome?

Garlic is especially good for introverts!

Really, We All Needed a Laugh or Three

Don't know how I knew this... but I did.  Happily, BC had a cartoon that ties into this as well!

Monday, April 7, 2014

the Mulberry Hedge

Rob grew up in town. His family had a small yard. And, yet, there appear to be a fair number of stories about him and that yard. Why is that? We shall allow you to ponder that whilst we tell our tale.

The back yard was bordered by a series of mulberry trees/bushes that were trimmed into a hedge (of sorts). If you know mulberries, you realize that they can grow VERY quickly and an established group could rapidly grow from 10 feet tall to 20 feet tall in a season. It did a fine job of providing privacy for our neighbors (hey, there were four kids at our house and none at theirs - so I suspect it went this direction more than the other).  But, I liked the mulberries in part because they attracted wildlife to our yard.

Brown Thrasher aka Chirpa Chirpa Bird

Birds loved that hedge.  We learned to appreciate brown thrashers, robins, goldfinches, wrens, cardinals, waxwings and all sorts of birds because of the habitat this single hedge provided.  Tiger swallowtails liked to run the line and switch sides as they flew their route and we were periodically graced with the appearance of a mourning cloak (butterfly).  One of the downsides would have to be the bird droppings that contained mulberry.  I am guessing a few neighbors were less fond of our natural habitat when they were scrubbing their cars.

The job of taming this hedge fell to me - the boy with the pruner and the box. In this instance, an 8-foot step ladder was also pressed into service. Typically, I was trying to cut the hedge down from 16 feet to 10 feet in late July/early August. And, since I wanted to do the job well, it was important that I not leave any stragglers and that the top be as level as possible.  Now, don't ask me WHY the top had to be level.  It just did.  That's how you trimmed hedges - right?

I had some additional motivation since one of our neighbors was extremely particular about everything on his property.  This person would scrape and repaint the eave on his garage every year.  He would crawl his entire lawn looking for weeds.  While I thought he was obsessive about such things, he was a great neighbor and I didn't want him thinking I couldn't do a good job.  So, I did my best to bring this wild thing into some sort of shape for the rest of the year.

Mulberry tree on the farm at left
The hedge was also probably 10 feet wide in places. Do you see a problem with that? Consider my height of approximately 5 and half feet at that time. How does a person reach the middle of that hedge at the ten foot level in order to trim those branches? There were many hours of leaning into the hedge with one foot on the ladder. Arms and legs fully extended. Eventually leading to the successful trimming of some of the middle branches.  I distinctly remember the sore shins I would get because I would hook my leg (or legs) between the rungs so I could lean in further.

There were a few bruises, scratches and pulled muscles - but I usually succeeded. Until the day I fell into the hedge. Yes, you knew this was coming. I lost contact with the ladder and lost my grip on the bigger branch I was using to stay on top of the hedge. And, I fell. Well, no, I didn't fall. I just kind of slid through the bushes....slowly.  The Tiger Swallowtail floating by probably flew in a straight line for a second there as it suffered a fit of the giggles as it watched me fall in.

Tiger Swallowtail aka Tiger Swallowtail
Hey, if a human has a giggle fit while walking, they zigzag a bit.  If a butterfly, who flies in a zigzag pattern giggles, it probably results in flying a straight line.  This all makes sense as long as you allow yourself to believe that a butterfly can giggle  Once you accept that, the rest is easy.

Of course, I suffered more scratches and bruises from this unplanned tour of the hedge than I normally did during the entire process.   I suppose I could have quit for the day. But, the pruner was still up at the top of the hedge. Oh well.

Friday, April 4, 2014

GFF Website

We've spent some time updating our website over the last couple of months.  As always, there will be things that need attention and other things that are just going to be the way they are or a while.  It's an incremental process and it is one that tends to focus on the winter months (for obvious reasons).  Since we now try to maintain a presence in a blog, on our web page, on Facebook and on some other sites that feature CSA's and organic growers, we're trying to integrate what we do so that you can find what you are looking for more easily.

So, for the time being, we thought we'd provide an overview of the resources we have on our website.

1. More pictures
high tunnel
Yep, this picture is on the website!
One of the things people seem to enjoy the most are pictures of the farm.  Frankly, uploading pictures to the blog and to facebook are slightly easier than putting them on our website.  So, if you watch the blog or facebook, you will be treated to new pictures more often.  On the other hand, we feel that it adds interest to our informational pages on our website.  Happily, we've now had a year plus with our newer internet service, which means we have the ability to upload things in a reasonable amount of time.  The result is that we spent time adding new photos and new content to the website.  We were even able to add a bunch to our photo journal page.  Of course, that's not the only place you find pictures, but we'll point some of that out as we go.

2. Additions to Veg Variety information

Sweet Siberian Watermelon
Sweet Siberian watermelon

We enjoy all of the vegetable varieties we grow and we like to share what we've learned with others.  Over time, the descriptions on our Vegetable Variety pages has grown.  Look for the pull down box to select a sub-category and go!  The main page includes our top vegetable varieties for each year and the sub-categories include detailed observations and information about the varieties we grow (or have grown in the past).  We're probably most pleased with our work on the heirloom tomatoes, but the other pages are catching up.  If there is one place you will see benefit of the added photos, it is on these pages.  We have been working over the past three years to build up a photo library of many of the vegetables we grow.

3. Links to relevant blog posts
You may have noticed that there are links on the main vegetable variety page (as shown below):

We are trying to do this on our pages whenever we are able.  It does require a little effort to identify the best posts and then figure out where to link them.  However, it makes sense to do it.  Otherwise, some useful posts will get buried and lost.  Let's put it this way, these pages also serve as a reference for the Genuine Faux Farm.  So, the easier I can make it to find what I am looking for, the better.

4. Addition of pages that describe key beliefs
We have a mission statement that is found on our ABOUT US pages and we review this page every year.  The mission statement is our guide for farm decisions and the things that follow on that page help explain to you what is important to us as we do our work on the farm.  However, there are some things that could use further explanation, so we will slowly (but surely) add pages that may be refined versions of something once placed on the blog.  For example, we now have our position on what is Sustainable Agriculture that resides on its own page on our website.

5. Reserving our rights
Our pictures and writing on our website, our blog and elsewhere do require some effort.  Really, we do spend some time on it.  So, you may notice that we do place a notice on each page that we do claim this material as intellectual property.  If you wish to quote us, that is certainly fine.  We did put it out there to be read, discussed and thought about.  But, if you share, please give us appropriate credits.  Just as we do if we use photos taken by someone other than us.  And, by all means, if you see a photo or something we have not properly cited, please let us know.  It is easy to miss something with the amount of content we have placed out there.