Sunday, July 1, 2018

July Newsletter

 June - Month of Big Changes and Big Challenges

I recently joked with someone who asked me if I was happy doing what I was doing that, as a farmer, I was not ALLOWED to be happy in the month of June.  I also like to use my Dad's line that I am 'even-tempered, always mad.'  But, after thinking about it a bit, I realized that June IS a difficult month to be "happy" on the farm because it is just darned difficult!  I actually find this a bit funny because if you READ most of my monthly newsletters, I mention something about the difficulty of the month in question.  However, those that do read these will also recognize that the writing gets more positive as you go.   So, you can come to one of a few conclusions:

  1. Rob REALLY is even-tempered
  2. Rob is REALLY UNeven-tempered
  3. Rob has no clue what difficult means

or, you can choose the less-fun, but likely more accurate
4. The level of difficulty increases on the farm until you get to the Summer Solstice - then you just plod along until you realize you've survived the growing season (some time in October).

 We've shared this picture of Emma and Sophie a couple of times and NO, it was not "Dress Like a Bandit Day" on the farm.  This is the clothing these two have been forced to use for most of the days they have worked here during the month of June.  This has been true even for very hot days.  For those who can't see, they are wearing long sleeved shirts, three bandanas and protective goggles to keep the blackflies/buffalo gnats off of them.  Only some good wind will keep those things down.  Thus far, no repellent has done anything to provide relief.  Don't even bother sending us other recipes.  If you want to prove something, come out to the farm wearing short sleeves, shorts and no head gear and then SHOW us your formula works.  We guarantee you'll run away screaming in a fairly short period of time.

We have had some sunny, windy and warm days as well, so we have had some respite from the buggies.  We were actually (foolishly) becoming optimistic that the blackflies were winding down when the picture at the right was taken (June 15).  Rob should have looked at his farm history because mid-June is the normal appearance time slot for these little beasties.  Oh well.

With wet fields, we were able to get the big 'thoroughly clean the harvest containers day' out of the way.  Well done to Emma, Sophie and Caleb!

We were able to get some fairly major accomplishments done in recent weeks.  Among them was moving Valhalla, the larger of our two high tunnels, from its East position to the West position.  Per the norm, it moved later than we wanted.  But, you have to have little to no wind.  While we have had plenty of that, it always came at times when we couldn't do it.  Figures.  Happily, Caleb was able to adjust his schedule and the three of us managed to move the building in a little over three hours.  Everything that is supposed to be planted in Valhalla is now planted, which is a major accomplishment.

 We continue to plant in the fields when we are able, weed when we are able and harvest when there is something to be harvested.  The hard part is that the weather has been very good at timing rains so that we get very small windows of opportunity to work the soil.  As a result, there has been a weed explosion.  We were pretty excited to use some of our cultivation equipment this year to stay ahead of the weeds.  But, when it is too wet to use said equipment, you can get a bit grumpy about the situation. 

The picture at right is in very early June, just after we planted the melons.  We managed a very early cultivation of this field, but have been able to do very little of that until the last couple days of June.  Of course, that means we've had to fight weeds that are MUCH bigger than we want them to be.  But, the hardest part has been trying to make the choices as to HOW we will use the small windows of workable field time.  If you don't opt to cultivate, then you have weed issues with crops already in the fields.  But, if you don't plant, you won't have crops in the fields to get weedy.   And, oh, yes - you do have to harvest and deliver that which is ripe and ready.

Speaking of ripe and ready - we've had berries on the farm this year.  With other crops not doing what they normally do, we have had the ability to  look to our berry producing canes, bushes and trees.  It just so happens this has been a great year for those fruits and our crew likes to pick them.  The advantage for us is that with the clothing they have to wear to keep the bugs off, we lose fewer berries to "hand-to-mouth disease."  As a result, our CSA members got a rare pint of berries/cherries in their shares at the end of the month.

It is hard to believe that we have already taken our first batch of broilers "to the park" and the second batch is already "in-residence."  The turkeys are starting to look a bit like pterodactyls already and the hens and henlets provide us with rest of our poultry entertainment.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunting moved away from the clothesline area (apparently they don't like stinky shirts that we hung on the line to dry)  to the northwest section of the farm.  It is possible they have made friends with Crazy 'Ol Maurice, our Weeping Willow, or maybe Minnie the Mighty Oak?  We'll keep you posted as we observe what they do this summer.

And, for those who are curious, we think we set a farm record on June 30 when both Rob and Tammy had an EIGHT!?! T-shirt day.  The really scary part?  We both had to change jeans... more than once.  We call that our PRE-Soak cycle for our laundry.

Picture of the Month
It wasn't the best iris bloom we've ever had.  In fact, it was pretty disappointing by our standards.  But, we still had some nice blooms - and here is one.

Weather Wythards

Believe it or not, May's high temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit was NOT exceeded during the month of June, despite many ridiculously warm days.  In fact, the high temp on the farm was "only 93," though it got there many times and for long periods of time (including the last two days).  On the other hand, the heat index high for the year was broken, broken again... and again as the humidity came into play.

There is a very interesting set of graphical representations on this site that can give you an idea as to what weather is like in June for the Waterloo, Iowa area.  If you look at the temperature graphs, you'll find that our warmer temps have been fairly abnormal - remembering that Tripoli IS a 45 minute drive North of Waterloo, so we are normally cooler.  If you are interested in such things you'll also find that our rainfall for this 30 day period is a good bit more than the average.

June's Report
High Temp: 93
Low Temp: 49
Heat Index: 116
Highest wind gust: 35 mph out of the NW
Rain: 8.51" (and counting as of 9:43 PM June 30)
Humidity Range: 27% to 99%

edit - we received another 3/4 inch overnight after our last observation.  About 4 tenths belongs to the month of June.

Year Through June
High Temp: 97
Low Temp: -20
Lowest Windchill: -34
Highest Heat Index: 116
Highest Wind gust: 46 mph
Rainfall: 18.28"
Barometer Range: 29.39 to 30.89

It's hard to believe that we were talking about things getting pretty dry on the farm that we featured our irrigation cart on a Facebook post.  That post showed up (of course) on a day where it was raining pretty seriously.  Mother Nature was watching us and seems to enjoy making us look a bit foolish.

Song of the Month
A beautiful rendition of this song by Evanescence.  

Ask the Farmers a Question
 Have you got a question you want to ask the farmers?  Send us a note or make a comment in our blog and ask away!

This months question: "How do you keep rabbits and other varmints from eating your crops?"

First, please note that the person asking this didn't use the word "varmints."  Second, we want to make it clear that we do NOT always succeed in this and we are afraid to say too much for fear that some of said varmints can read!

One of our tricks is this shorter type of electrical netting.  We use a taller variety to protect our poultry.  The fence is powered by solar chargers and usually discourages the varmints until the plants get a bit bigger and we decide they don't need as much protection.  Obviously, deer will step right over this if they wish, but they do find it to be odd and will often go around if there are easy routes around it.  At least that's what they do now.  Deer are notorious at figuring ways to get in when they really want to.

We have also noticed that rabbits jump pretty high when they get shocked.  But, they sometimes LAND IN the fenced in area.  And, that's really NOT what we were going for there.

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