Monday, December 31, 2018

Is A Thousand Words Enough?

A good friend put the not fully formed thought into words - allowing me to contemplate something I knew, but hadn't really articulated before.  A farmer will rarely experience beauty as thoroughly as they do when a crop is at its peak in health and vigor.  And that same farmer will experience a form of grief as they harvest that crop, converting that beauty to something else.  Sometimes, the process continues over a number of days and other times, the change occurs in moments.

The Bronze Arrowhead lettuce is one of those crops that often experiences a longer period of change.  Typically, we grow our lettuce in two rows per bed.  When the plants approach early harvest size, the rows are vibrant with green, tinged with a hint of magenta.  Each plant forms a part of the whole, a mound of leaves that covers the ground and crowds out any other plants that may want to compete for space and resources.  It is at this point that the farmer should get out his camera (mental or real) to take a snapshot of success.

We often will harvest every other plant in these rows, giving more space to the remaining plants so that they can continue to develop and add bulk.  But, now there are stumps that were once healthy plants marring that row.  A few leaves lie between rows where the farmer removed them from the head, deciding they were going to reduce the rest of the head's desirability by their presence.  If all goes well, the row will look nearly as good when the remaining plants expand to cover the voids left by the absence of their former companions.  But, the time will come when these heads will also be removed, hopefully to be parts of delicious (and attractive) meals.

The farmer might be caught humming pleasantly to himself as he harvests a crop that has done well.  But, you might catch that same farmer looking back over the row with a look that hints at melancholy. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

More Than A Thousand Words

It was morning and the door to the hen building had just been opened so the chickens could explore their pasture, visit with Crazy Maurice the weeping willow, eat their grains and exercise their wings, legs and lungs.  The clouds overhead held the memory of continuous rainfall and the much of the ground in the pasture was only visible through the ripples of standing water.

The hens rushed to the doorway.  And stopped.

The desire of their hearts, if I can be so bold as to pretend to know what a hen actually desires, was to eat that grain, chase a few moths and rest in the shade of the willow.  The building is, I suppose, nice enough for night-time sleep.  There are perches for those who want them and straw for those who do not.  But, it is the daylight hours and it is time to be out of this building.  There are dustbaths to take and clover to sample.  The turkeys in the nearby pasture often provide entertainment and the rooster sounds ever so much less obnoxious when he is OUTSIDE!

But the clover was under water and there was no dust to be seen anywhere in the pasture.  And thus, the debate.  Do I jump down and explore?  Do I dare hope that I will find tasty food and interesting things to do?  Or do I just stay up here?

In the end, the answer was simple.

There are many more hens behind these hens and they still have unaltered dreams of what may be outside.  Their dreams will force these chickens to visit reality.  A new group will stand on the precipice that is the doorway until they too will be forced to alter their dreams to face the reality of another wet day on the farm.

Not too worry.  They'll come back to the building again tonight.  They will find their perches and their straw.  And they will sleep so they can again dream of grain, dust baths, clover and the shade of the great willow in their pasture.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Thousand More Words

In an effort to highlight what we feel were our best photos for the 2018 calendar year, we have taken to presenting each candidate in its own post.  We hope you enjoy the photos and the thoughts that accompany them.

Every year, we identify areas on the farm where we will plant hedges of annual flowers in hopes that we will be graced by the presence of blooms that lift our spirits and provide habitat for critters we hope will find our farm to be a good home.  Every year, there are hedges of zinnias and marigolds and most years there is at least one hedge of sunflowers.
Zinnias and marigolds tend to have a longer period of time when they are able to dazzle you with their presence, but this is not the case for the sunflowers.  They tend to have a peak bloom period that lasts about ten days until the elements begin taking their toll.  There are certainly blooms after that peak and we certainly do not feel that they have no value on the farm at that point.  But, it is clear that there is a big difference between that special moment when the sunflowers grab your full attention and every other point in their life cycle.

As farmers, we take it upon ourselves to plant, cultivate and care for these plants throughout the process that leads to this brief moment of perfection.  We take pleasure in the stages that lead to peak bloom and we look at this same stand of sunflowers with fondness after that peak because we can still see the shadows of magnificence in what remains.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Thousand Words

At the end of the year, we have a tendency to do a "Best of the Year" post featuring our best "phauxtos" for the past year.  This year, we thought we would do something different.  We will still hold a vote on Facebook for the best pictures from the season.  But, on the blog, we're going to select from the candidates and include some of the 'words' they might bring to mind when we see them.

Today's picture features purple coneflowers and oregano in full bloom on our farm.  If you look closer, you might see a hint of other flowers (such as a rudebekia) in the background.  This picture has not been filtered in any way, so you are seeing the color just as I saw it.

The sky was slightly overcast, so the sun did not bleach out the color with its light.  There was only a light, sporadic breeze - just enough to keep a person comfortable.  In fact, this was one of those rare times on the farm that I saw something I liked and I stopped what I was doing to go GET the camera.  Often, the moment is lost because light and conditions can change before you return to record it.  I was fortunate that this was not the case this time around.

This picture tells us two stories.  The first is what you might expect - there is beauty in nature.  There is healing for the soul if you can just transport yourself to that field that is covered in flowers.  Most places in nature have a specific time when they really dress up to show off, but you need to give them the rest of the year to build up to that moment.

The second story is one of absence.  The flowers are clearly in full bloom.  The weather was beautiful.  But, there are no pollinators in this picture.  Coneflowers and oregano (and the other flowers in the area) are plants that often attract a whole host of pollinators, yet I observed none while I stood there to take pictures.  There was very little wind, there was plenty of light, temperatures were moderate and it was a typical point in the day when there is often significant insect activity.  This area should literally have been humming with activity at this moment.

But, it wasn't.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best Medicine 2018

A "year in review" of humor in the blog was started back in 2009.  We're not sure how many people enjoy it, but the farmer has fun with it - so that will be enough.  There are two categories.  Line of the Year may appear in any type of post.   Post of the year was selected for the perceived entertainment value.  Of course, entertainment value is subjective.  And, since the farmer and his lovely bride were the only two judges, you can feel free to comment and correct our flawed insight!  

If you wish to read any of the posts that have been highlighted here, feel free to take the links provided.

Previous Best Medicine posts are linked here: 2017 2016, 2015201420132012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Line of the Year Category

The following is from the, "let's sneak a good line into the middle of a serious post" subcategory.

Rob: "It's time for plan D."
Crew Member: "What's plan D?"
Rob: "There is no plan D.  So, let's do this..." 

From Man with the Plan, June 23

Occasionally, we'll put something worthwhile in a post as a caption.  In short, our captions can be captivating.  Especially if there are cats.
This is what it looks like when you've had enough and you're just daring someone to cross that line one more time.
From What It Looks Like When, August 20

Proof once again that if you don't read ALL of our posts, you might miss a gem or two.  Ok, I think these are gems.  I have an inflated sense of... of... something.  Maybe it's the beans I had for dinner?

Neither of us has ever said, "Boy howdy!  I'd really like to do some routine maintenance on our small engines.  And, while I am at it, I would really ENJOY making a few repairs as well!"  Of course, that's because neither of us is prone to saying "Boy howdy!" 
From Mekanikle Ineptitude, April 26

And, I still think I should put the word "Poo" in the title of all of our blog posts to increase traffic.

Since I am supposed to be a professional farmer, I should use the word "manure."  If you want to sound professional and evasive at the same time, you can refer to it as "soil amendments" or "added fertility."  But, since I am ALSO a person who is amused by wordplay and general silliness, we're still going to use the word "poo" just because... it's our blog and I CAN.
From, The Blessings of Poo, August 12
We realize the category is "Line of the Year," but sometimes the line needs set-up.
We tuck the little plants in each evening and let them out to play once the temperature in the building reaches levels they might enjoy.  It does the heart good to see six inch tall tomatoes and three inch tall pepper plants running around having a good time. Ok.  They really just sit there.  Sometimes, we put them in a cart and pull them around just so they can see some different things.  They are young and they should see the world before they put down roots.
What? We want them to be happy.

From There's No Snow? , April 27
Things that make you say, "Hmmmmmmmm."
I say "hmmmmm" fairly often on the farm, actually.  The humming birds have threatened to sue me because I keep using their catch-phrase, but they failed to copyright it, so I think I'm still in the clear.
From Perspectives, August 26
And then, there are times when we get a little bit of help.
When it was revealed that one such chinjury was caused by the trim on some object I started humming a familiar tune to myself.
Trim chinjury, trim chinjury, trim chin cheroooooo!
From Meal-time Humor, August 24
And our 2018 LINE OF THE YEAR
"Look, that's the second scale operator your tiger has eaten this week.  If you can't control your pet, we just can't weigh it for you anymore."
From Sayings That Might Be Better Unsaid, September 3

Post of the Year Category

Mom ALWAYS makes the list!

We didn't need "take the deck off the lawn tractor, clean it off, get a new belt, take the old one off and put the new one on and while you are at it lube the spindles, sharpen the blades and tell your Mother you love her!"

Ok, "tell your Mother you love her" should always be on the list.  Hi Mom!
From, Big Deal, July 3

And cats usually make the list!

This is what it looks like when the cat population wants to stage a protest.  They execute what is known as a "sit on."
From What It Looks Like When III, November 10

Our April Fools Post ALWAYS makes this list

It looked neat until I realized I was still relying on wheels.  In disgust, I cut off the power to the shop vacs.  So.... about those shop vacs I borrowed.
From When Your Calendar's A Day Late, April 2

Turkeys only make lists as we approach Thanksgiving (or so it seems)

After the third time that it managed to go in entirely the WRONG direction I found myself forcefully saying, "YOU TURKEY!!!!"

I stopped moving.  The turkey stopped moving.  We looked at each other.  I could swear I could see it thinking, "Yes.  That's me.  What do you want?"
From Captain Obvious, October 28

We have to give this post Runner Up Status for 2018, just eeking out over the April Fools post.
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From Remembering Half of It, July 7
But, Crazy Maurice wins with this year's POST OF THE YEAR for 2018

I don't mind Hansel and Gretel (the Austrian Pines), but I have a harder time communicating with the conifers.  They just don't get the whole dropping leaves thing that we deciduous trees do.
From Crazy Maurice - His Two Cents Worth, September 16

Give Crazy Maurice (our willow tree) some love and visit his full blog post!  For that matter, give us some love and visit and share some of the other blog posts linked here!  You'll get a laugh or three and maybe learn something in the process.  Even if that thing you learn is that our sense of humor is a bit out of whack!

Friday, December 21, 2018

I Would Walk in the Woods

Tammy and I took a longer drive over Thanksgiving to see family.  This is a departure from the norm since we normally stay home or drive a shorter distance for this holiday.  The trip might explain why there wasn't our normal Thanksgiving post.  But, if you wanted one, we were featuring last year's post, which is still quite good.

I mentioned to Tammy that I thought we might still see some Fall color as we went South and it turned out I was right.  We started to see evidence of very LATE fall color in Southern Indiana.  The weather was nice enough and we had done a good job of keeping moving on our travels thus far.  So, we decided to stop at the Clark State Forest to do a little walking around (and eat some lunch). 

We weren't entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into as we pulled off the highway.  There was some mention of a waterfall in the area, so we thought we might find it (we didn't).  Really, all we wanted was to see a little bit of nature and walk around for a bit.

The entrance to the park had a public area that catered more to human entertainment.  Things like picnic shelters, basketball courts, etc.  So, we drove deeper into the park and found ourselves climbing quite a bit.  Eventually, we found a place to park and identified an interesting thing to do.

We usually take our camera with us on trips like this, so I took a picture of the thing that caught our attention.   I found that I might be a little bit close to take a picture of it.  But, I tried anyway.  The results is what you see to the left.

You've probably already guessed this was a fire watch tower.  But, if you haven't...

It's a fire watch tower.

It was fairly clear that it was no longer used for that purpose and it was maintained so people like us could climb up and take a look around.  I am not particularly fond of heights, but Tammy doesn't mind them.  So, not to be outdone by my lovely bride, I climbed up the tower with her.  After all, I had the camera.  Someone had to take pictures.

See!  I did get to the top!
The day was a bit overcast and the Fall colors were pretty muted.  But, we didn't need all that to see the beauty of the land around us. 

Of course, some time after we returned home, I was curious to learn a little more about this forest, so I did a little looking around.  After all, unless you live in southern Indiana, you don't think of that area for its forests.  An Iowan can be just as guilty of making assumptions about Indiana as an Indianan might be regarding Iowa.  Seems fair.  Or at least, it seems honest.

It turns out that part of the reason for some of the area's initial designation had to do with a realization that the state of the lumber industry in southern Indiana in the last 1800's to early 1900's was in danger due to over harvest of the trees in the forests.  So, some of this area was actually established as a nursery to start trees that would be moved elsewhere.  While I am glad that this was done, I am also disappointed that, once again, we humans won't do anything to support nature unless we see something in it for us.

Maybe we need to force people to climb the fire tower and take a look.  But, then again, taking a look doesn't mean they're going to see.

As for Tammy and I, we would walk in the woods if we could.  We know others might like to as well.  But, even if we couldn't walk in the woods, we still want them to be there, because it doesn't all have to be about us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December Newsletter

Different Worlds

We realize we have used the picture at left before, but it's a good picture.  We haven't had much motivation to go out and about on the farm to take photos, so this one will have to do so I can make the point I was hoping to make. 

We have snow on the ground at the farm right now.  We drove into Waverly this morning and there isn't much for snow anywhere other than the small piles that remain from shoveling.  This isn't the only time we have observed the snow on the farm versus no snow in town phenomenon.  It's just a good reminder that the weather can differ a fair amount over a short distance.  In this case, it has more to do with the latent heat held by the town's structures than different snowfall amounts.

We see evidence of how little things can make a big difference on our farm as well.  The first frost of the the Fall is one instance where you can observe significant differences in results due to what seems like an insignificant alteration in the surroundings.  One year, we went outside to find that the row covers we had put on some peppers had blown off and we had somehow missed that the evening before.  On first glance, we thought we were pretty lucky.  But, as we worked our way towards the end of the row, we found we had lost the plants towards the far end.  All except for the one that had a decent sized weed growing next to it.  The button weed took the hit and was not looking happy.  The pepper plant, on the other hand, was doing pretty well.  A bit singed, but happy enough as compared to its neighbors.

With Thanksgiving still looming pretty large in the rear-view mirror and Christmas and New Year's growing larger as we look forward, it feels like a good time to consider the little things we might be doing that could make a big difference in the world - for good or for ill. 

Veg Variety of the Month

We were able to bring in a batch of carrots from Valhalla (our newer high tunnel) in October this season.  The varieties were Dragon (purple outside) and Napoli.  The variety shown in the picture is St Valery.  We were out of St Valery seed when it came time to put this batch in, so we went with Napoli and Dragon.  The results were pretty good, if we do say so ourselves. 

Germination for Napoli was lower than we wanted, but the numbers and size of the carrots were good enough for our needs.  The germination of Dragon was right on, just enough that we didn't have to thin, but not so thin that we were regretting wasted space.

The net result?  We were able to give our CSA members a couple of pounds of carrots each at the end of the season AND we had a few left over for supplemental sales.  After a season that had so many struggles, it was nice to end it with a positive note.

Weather Wythards
Do I dare say it?  Rainfall was above the average for November in Tripoli.  Average rainfall amount is 2.32" and average snowfall is about 3 inches. 

November's Report

High Temp: 58
Low Temp: -4
Rain: 3.43"
Snow: 2-3 inches

Year Through August
High Temp: 97
Low Temp: -20
Lowest Windchill: -34
Highest Heat Index: 119
Highest Wind gust: 46 mph
Rainfall: 52.36"
Barometer Range: 29.39 to 30.89

Song of the Month

For those who haven't noticed, music plays a significant role on the farm.  We do enjoy the music of nature, but there are times when a really good playlist of enjoyable tunes is just what is needed for a few hours behind the wheel hoe.  And, if it is paperwork in the Winter, there is almost always some music playing.  Here is our song of the month for December by the Vocal Few.

Picture of the Month

This is actually from the end of October.  But, we've not been big into picture taking this November.  Besides, this is a good photo.

Other Farm News
The process of 'packing up' the farm for the Winter continues at a decent pace, though we have to admit that we wish it were complete.  Why?  Well, there is still the matter of the Applecart Upset that has been our continuous state of being in our house since Spring this year.  The kitchen is still completely gutted and it would be really nice to make some progress on that project before the new year arrives.  Of course, since we live in Ye Ol' Farme House, every repair project has an issue with 'scope creep.'  If you're going to do "X" to the kitchen, it can't be done until you do "Y" to an adjacent room.  Etcetera.  Here's hoping we can target a week to concentrate on this project.  The current goal is to target the week after Christmas.  Here's hoping.

We will be taking a "Farm Sabbatical" during the month of January.  What does that mean?  Well, we need a bit of a break and January is the best candidate for that sort of a break.  But, that also means there are some things we need to finish in December that normally get done in January.  Seed orders, I'm looking at you.  Organic certification paperwork, you too.  It looks like we're setting ourselves up to fail with the long "to-do" list for the month, but I think we're also willing to accept where things land and pick them up again in February.  We know the break is important and if we don't enforce it, we are fully aware how the farm will simply creep until January is no different than any other month on the farm.

For those who are interested in eggs and poultry, that doesn't mean you are out of luck in January.  Well, if it is poultry, you should buy what you need in December or wait until February.  The hens, on the other hand, will continue to lay eggs.  We will be finding help to manage the flock and the distribution of eggs in January, so stay tuned as we figure that out.  Other than garlic and some carrots, we don't really have much left from our crops.  If you want garlic or carrots, you should contact us soon.  The lettuce in the high tunnels are in over-wintering mode and won't be ready until February or March.