Monday, December 21, 2015

2012 Look in the Mirror

We officially celebrated our 10th Anniversary as the Genuine Faux Farm this Spring.  We started GFF in May of 2005 (we have lived on the farm since 2004).  So, this was actually the 11th year of offering a CSA program.  But, we figure we can continue to celebrate 10 years for a little bit yet.

As a part of this celebration, we're doing a series of "retrospective" pieces.  For those that have been with us for some time, you might enjoy seeing some of this to remind us all how far we've come.  If you have not been with us all that long, you get the benefit of seeing where we've been without having to go through the growing pains with us!

For those who have interest, you may notice links in this post to other blog posts from 2012, so feel free to take them and explore. In particular, you can see what we thought of the year with our 2012 in Review post that we put out there in January, 2013.  If you missed our prior installments for this retrospective series, here is 2011 and 2010.

The great thing about looking back is that I can work to re-frame events.  For example, we have come to equate 2012 with the "spray incident" year because it was something that took up alot of time and energy until just this February.  Of course it was a big part of our year and we won't ignore that.  But, we are finding it useful to concentrate on the other parts of that year, because there was alot going on - just as there always is.

prior to clean up
after clean up

cold frame area in use
One of our early season accomplishments was to clean up the area by the old slab and prepare it for use as our cold frame/plant starting area.  When I took note that this happened in 2012, I was actually stunned.  We've gotten so used to that area and its purpose that we were both certain it had to have been set up earlier than that!  The area provides shelter from the North, it is near a water source and it faces South so it can collect more sun during the earlier months.  What's not to like?
The granary sporting new doors.
While 2011 featured some significant changes in our infrastructure, I'm beginning to realize that 2012 had its fair share of building work and equipment changes.  In addition to new doors on the granary and truck barn we continued to paint and fix up the truck barn.  And, if you recall, we had a project in the Poultry Pavilion to create a new room for the hens.  We managed to finish that project in the Spring and we started putting up permanent fencing for their pasture area.  Our Gang of Four farm friends helped us finish the room and start putting up the permanent fence.  Sadly, some of the fence had to come back down so we could move birds off of the sprayed pasture.  But, that's just the way things were.
Poultry Pavilion
Truck Barn

The very early warm weather was big news.  While it allowed us to get early work done around the farm, it had some negative results as well.  Garlic crops throughout the state were infected with Asters Yellow disease due to their very early start.  As a result, our garlic crop was very poor and our seed garlic was not viable.  Looking back at it, it was a good reminder that we should not get complacent with respect to crops that we feel we had a good handle on.

A meager garlic harvest in 2012.
Not only did we have a very early Spring, we had a very dry late Spring and Summer.  The picture below shows a grass area in June.  Normally, this area would be very green and in need of mowing at this point in time.  Instead, it looked alot like many people's lawns do in August - which is the traditional time for reduced rain and excess heat.  On the plus side, we were ready with our drip irrigation to keep our veggies growing.  And, if it doesn't rain, you don't have to stay out of the fields due to mud.  So, other than the heat and a number of three to six t-shirt days, it was a good time to get work done on the farm.  On the other hand, we felt that we had to cancel our Fall batch of broilers because we were afraid we wouldn't have any workable pasture to put them on.

Dry, dry and more dry.
While the weather was a challenge and we were disappointed about the second broiler batch, we were showing some pretty good staying power in 2012.  Our tool set was much improved and we were responding to crop needs better than we ever had.  Our ability to make an executive decision with respect to the broilers showed that we had some agility to respond to circumstances in whatever way seemed best.

We were in our second year of a SARE research grant that netted some decent results for potato and bean spacing and we were looking to do additional research with paper mulch in subsequent years.  Part of the mission of our farm is to advance and disseminate knowledge with respect to growing techniques.  So, it was nice to be actively involved in some grant-funded projects.

Beans and potatoes, together again!
This was the first time we had used rolls of mulch and the experience was generally a positive one for us.  While we aren't entirely convinced that this is the way for us to go, even in 2015, we were exposed to this option in a way that gave us a chance to explore the possibilities.  In many ways, if 2011 was the year of infrastructure, then 2012 was the year of exploring alternative growing techniques.
paper mulch in the field

the mulch layer

Unfortunately, the spraying incident took the wind out of our sails in late July.  It turned out that we were heading towards a record pepper crop that year, and all but a tiny fraction of it had to go into the compost piles.  The high tunnel was in the spray zone, so it was no longer our 'happy place' that it had been.  There is just no getting around it.  This was a big event and it still hurts to think about it. 
Compost bound
But, the list of positive things that came about after this is fairly long.  We opted to purchase a small incubator and tried our hand at hatching some hen eggs, with some success.  Many of our crops did quite well, despite the weather.  The green beans broke the half-ton mark,  the tomatoes were very tasty and plentiful and we set records for kale, chard and watermelon production in 2012.

Chicks in the incubator
We even had more sweet corn than Tammy and I could use, which is a rarity for us.  Usually, sweet corn is so low on the priority list that it often does not get in the ground in time.  This year, the early and dry Spring made it fairly easy to get everything into the ground.  As a result, we had some tasty sweet corn.  Enough to give some to our CSA members and sell more at the farmers' market.


Grover, the blue truck was celebrating his 20th year (10th with us) and it was, unfortunately, his last.  But, we welcomed Chumley the Big Red Truck to the farm in the Fall and he has served us well.

Clyde and Chumley
Another Fall addition to the farm were the Sandman and Mrranda.  Don't let the picture fool you.  They are actually pretty cute.
And, we had a good pumpkin harvest, which was thoroughly inspected and approved by the Sandman.

Yep, this one's ok.
The year closed with a Winter Market in Waverly where we had a pretty nice spread of produce (note the spinach!).  And, we started work adding bushes to our buffer strip in an effort to make that buffer zone a vertical barrier as well as a horizontal break.  We got through the year.  And, while we were a little beat up, it was clear that we were already fighting back and preparing for another growing season.

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