Monday, July 6, 2020

Be A Real Fan

My Dad likes to tell the story about how I turned out to be a left-handed baseball player.  Apparently, he would toss a ball towards me with his right hand and I would pick it up and throw it back with my left.  When he decided to test this out by tossing one my way with his left hand, I returned it with my right. 

Yes, I was an observant child - even if my observations were very much colored by my own personal perspective.  That explains why I throw left-handed.  It may explain some other things, I'm just not sure what.

Growing up, I would certainly participate in football and basketball, but baseball was the sport that attracted me the most.  I played all the way through high-school and considered college, but found time to be too limited and had to make choices.  Once I graduated, I found fast-pitch softball and then rediscovered baseball when my brother invited me to play in a baseball league centered around the Newton/Des Moines area.  I was still playing in that league until about 2012 or so.  I didn't stop playing because I couldn't or didn't want to.  I stopped because the combination of the drive and conflicts with the farm and other duties became too much. 


Who is that "00" guy?
You're Garbage!

Our high school home games were called by the local radio station and we did have someone running the PA address and scoreboard.  There was even a concessions stand.  One of the things I recall is that our Newton Cardinals did not have terribly many 'fans' who attended our games at Woodland Park.  But, there was a core group consisting mostly of parents and family and a few good friends. 

Then, there was the group who came to the park and used the game as an excuse to gather.  In a very loose sense of the word, they were 'fans.'  They would cheer our team if we did something good - if they managed to notice.  What they were really there for was the 'sport' of jeering our opponents.

"Heyyy #12!!!  You SUCK!  You're GARBAGE!  Go back to your hole in the ground!"

Normally, it was not terribly creative because the only thing that changed was the uniform number.  The players could usually ignore it because it became background noise.  But, I will tell you this - very few of us, if any, found it to be of any real value when we were the home team.  When these people didn't show, we didn't miss them one bit.

This group would cross a line if, heaven help you, you were the away team and there was a player on your team who had a physical characteristic that made them stand out.

"Hey FATTY!  Get off the field and go eat more candy!"
"Go gnaw down a tree for a new bat Bucky!"
or
"Nigger!  I've got a rope right here for you!"

Yes.  I heard each of those at high school games.  The last was directed at one of our Junior Varsity players when I was a senior (and not on the JV squad).  You see, each school had an area where a group of people who were not really fans would come to hang out and use the game as an excuse to belittle others.  And yes, players were instructed to ignore them regardless of what was said.  But, it did not stop the entire varsity squad from sending a collective glare towards the source of that last comment.

It wasn't right then - and it isn't right now.  And I see that this still goes on with a sad example at a recent incident at a Waverly-Shell Rock game

What Real "Fans" Do

I have something to tell you - I AM left-handed - sort of.

Why would a person drive 2 to 2.5 hours, ONE WAY, to play one or two games of men's baseball every weekend during the Summer when we had a farm to take care of?  I was asked that question frequently when people learned how far away from the ballpark I lived.  It wasn't until I was also asking that question a bit too often that we stopped making the trip.  It certainly wasn't because of the spider on my cap.

Obviously, there is a love for the game and a joy that comes with participating.  But, I would not have continued if I didn't have Tammy's support.  She typically drove me down - as a passenger I could begin prepping by putting on the suntan lotion, stretching etc etc.  Then, she would drive me back, because someone who was functioning well should be driving!  But, I want to go back again to my high school playing days to memories of what the true fans did that encouraged me to continue to play this game well after most had tried slow pitch softball for a few seasons before ceasing to play altogether.

The things I remember hearing were words of encouragement and praise for effort.  Perhaps my Dad didn't think I was listening for him, but I heard his words and his tone that encouraged all of us to do well.  And, by that I mean the whole team.  He bothered to learn names.  He didn't have to say to much either, because even a little bit went a long way.

The great news?  He was not the only parent who was at many games and who dished out the praise and the support.  I remember Mr. Trease doing the same - but that was largely because I played on the same team as his son through little leagues and into high school.  No one blamed them if they reserved more support for their team - but they also applauded fine plays by the opposition.

And, if someone crossed the line, they would stand up and say so.  The problem of course, is that the group that was there to jeer were typically well away from the rest of the fans.

Even better news?  There were parents like that at most schools I remember playing at.  It was actually a bit uncomfortable when we played at a school where there wasn't a positive fan base for the home team.
 
We Need More Real Fans
Let me be perfectly clear here.  I loved playing baseball.  And I got to be quite good at the "Do or Die" play from Right Field.

But, looking back, I learned more while I was playing baseball than you might think.

- I learned that there are people who love getting attention and approval by attacking others.
- I learned that people like that are motivated by someone else's failure because it makes them feel better about their own shortcomings.
- I learned that there are some pretty ugly ideas out there and that it is good for me to think harder about my own assumptions regarding other people.
- I learned that heckling and jeering has no real value overall.  At best, it is ignored as background noise.  At worst it can permanently wound a person.
- And, I learned where some of those 'lines' are that should not be crossed.  When they are, it is time to push back, rather than ignore what is going on.

Even better - I learned some things from the real fans!

- I learned that I can achieve and I learned to adjust my goals based on what I had achieved thus far.
- I learned that it isn't just about me - it's about making all of us better.
- I learned to appreciate the success of others, while I also learned to celebrate my own accomplishments.
- I learned the value of encouragement and enduring support.
- I learned that role models have power, but it is up to those of us looking at the model to decide what sort of power we will give them.
- I learned how to give constructive criticism blended with praise for effort and encouragement to learn and improve.

And, I learned to appreciate the people who showed up and gave us real support and real encouragement.  As far as I know, none of the Newton Cardinal teams I played on had players that went on to professional baseball.  But, because there were some real fans, I suspect there were a number of young ball players who turned into pretty good people.

Today's challenge to us all - be real fans.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Weather Wythards 2020

So here we are on July 4 and it is pretty warm out there.  We can avoid the bugs if we're outside working during the warmest hours.  But, if we want to avoid the warm, we get the bugs.  Alas.

But, I didn't bring you all here to talk about bugs.  We're here to talk about weather!  Why?  Because weather is a Big Deal.  Yay! 

the nearly permanent lake for the months of May and June
Many of you have taken note that we have had wet weather (again).  We know this partly because our 'how wet are the fields' barometer is this puddle that resides near our granary and truck barn.  When it is dry, the fields are normally in pretty good shape to be worked.  Today, the area is dry, though there is a bit of mud still in it.  Believe it or not, we are not used to walking between the two buildings because we spend so much time walking AROUND this puddle.

Not to worry, by the time we allow ourselves to start using that path again, it will fill up.  It is destined to be at the Genuine Faux Farm (or so it seems to us sometimes).

from KWWL blog
So, we get another "top 5" finish in the category of "Wettest June on Record."  We're just so happy.

Take a look at this KWWL blog post that outlines how the month of June was in Waterloo (the graphic form above comes from this blog).  We are not surprised to see 2020 sitting right next to 2018 because we were just noting to each other than this season has mirrored 2018 for weather at the farm thus far....  that doesn't exactly bode well.  

Ok.  We're not happy.  What is astounding is that we have five of the top ten wet Junes falling in years AFTER the Genuine Faux Farm was formed.  Four of those five are the even numbered years since 2014.  If you wanted evidence as to WHY we have been changing our farm so much over the past several years, you need go no further than this particular graphic.


Once again, we fully realize we didn't get as much as some and we got more than others.  It is really more the fact that our soils, water table levels and grade make life harder on us during wetter years than might be the case for other farms. 
from KWWL blog
The graphic above really shows me something interesting.  In particular you should note that Southwest Iowa has areas that received significantly less rain than normal, just as we received significantly more rain than normal.  We are also familiar with this pattern as we do have friends who are farming in other parts of the state.  They have been surprised more than once over the years when we talk about how wet we are - especially when they have been praying for rain for weeks.

A little black rain cloud.
Then, there is insult to injury.  You know how this one goes.  It looks like the lake by the granary is mostly gone and you are putting things together to cultivate or maybe prep some beds for planting.  You look to the NNW and you see a little black rain cloud.   You know pretty well how things have been moving over the past couple of hours and you can easily see that this little cloud is going to "center" the farm.

Ah.  That solved the drying puddle problem.

And, stopped the cultivation right quick it did!



Typically, rain from the 'little black rain clouds will not cause this sort of problem on our farm.  This comes from the all-day/all-night variety.  Or, in this case it was an all-day/all-night/all-day/all-night/all-day rainfall.  You know the kind of rainfall we talk about.

The "it rained twice this week - once for three days and another time for four days."

And now, we have heat and sun.  This tends to bake a nice hard surface to the soil that has been tilled - making weeding and cultivating pretty difficult.

The good news?  We have much less area to work than we have in previous years.  The bad news?  We have fewer hands to do it.   The difference this year?  If we can't save it soon, we're tilling it in.  This is part of the reason we went with no CSA and Rob picked up another job.  We can cut losses and continue to adapt the farm in hopes that maybe we can get back on the horse with a new saddle. Here's hoping!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Meanwhile, Back at the Farm

There are sounds we experience in the country that automatically put me on alert and cause my attitude to change for the worse no matter how I was feeling just prior to hearing them.  One of those is the self-important whine of a "highboy" spray application rig.  Ok... pretty much any spray application rig gets my attention and makes me less happy than I was.  But, those highboys have a very distinctive sound that just grates on me.

As I was doing some office work, I heard a piece of big equipment slow down in front of our house and enter the field just South of us.  It wasn't a highboy, but it was a spray rig.  We've had enough bad situations that my first thought is some mix of "oh no, not again" and "stupid, nasty, irritating, etc etc." 

THEN, I usually calm myself and check the conditions.  And they were about as good as they were going to get.  Very light wind, moving away from us.  Possible conditions for temperature inversions, so if it is a volatile herbicide, we could have a problem.  I also noted that the rig looked a little different, as did the service vehicle that came with it.

I prepared myself to to make myself known  and I was intent on being polite, but I was ready to be forceful if I needed to be. 


The sad thing is, it does not normally occur to applicators that they could cause us a problem.  Some are sold on the idea that this stuff 'never drifts' because that's what they have 'been told.'  Others are 'just doing their job' and can't be bothered to do things that aren't 'in their pay scale.'    And then, there are those that feel we are a nuisance and that our farm is far less important than their farm.

So, what happened on this day?

We had a pleasant surprise.  The application team was very willing to talk to me.  I made note immediately that they had waited for the wind to shift AWAY from our farm and that I was grateful for the consideration.  They also pointed out to me that they were using a heavier carrying agent AND they were using new spray nozzles that encouraged a heavier droplet size. 

These people were equally unhappy with the number of sprayers (and the companies they work for) that apply and leave what looks like a cloud of mist behind their rig.  In his words - "you know you are not doing it right when you see that cloud.  That's just an indicator."  He heartily agreed that sloppy application methods promote herbicide resistant weeds and that they just cause conflict that isn't necessary between farmers like me and professionals like him.  He also pointed out that "this $#%@ is dangerous.  You've got to be careful with it."

And suddenly, I had a bit more hope for this world after one short conversation with people I thought would naturally be an adversary.


1. This was about being a responsible professional.

In my mind, a true professional IS responsible, but that's another matter entirely.  My point is that a responsible professional is going to be aware of the surroundings and the risk for injury or damage that surrounds the act of doing the job in question.  A true professional is always looking for possible problems and working to remove or mitigate them.  These people are the ones that will accept some inconvenience if that is part of the cost of doing the task safely and well.

I expect this of myself as a grower of food for people to consume and I have a difficult time understanding people who will not do what it takes to be a responsible professional in whatever it is they do.  This is especially true when you deal with "dangerous $%#^."  I won't accept having an irresponsible and unprofessional doctor performing surgery on my lovely bride.  I don't believe software developers should design and code as if any error will 'cause little harm to others.'  And, I certainly don't want anyone who is applying dangerous $%*^ to do it in a way that illustrates just how dangerous it can be.

2. This was about having integrity so you feel no need to bluster, bully or avoid discussion.

The person I talked to did mention that he has had people angrily confront him and he was ready for that possibility with me.  But, he understood why.  If your experience with pesticide applicators has been pretty awful, you'll just assume all applicators are pretty awful.  That, in itself, made him upset at other applicators that do a poor job - causing problems for those who are true professionals to carry the same stigma.

And, you know what.  If his experience with organic growers has been pretty awful, it would make sense that he might not initially want to talk to me either.  I'd like to think I was ALSO being a responsible professional with integrity.

I can still hold the position that I think we over use chemicals for pest control and he can still tell me that they are a valid tool if used correctly.  In fact, I'd love to sit down and have an hour long conversation about it with him some day.  Who knows what each of us would learn?

3. This was about being brave and motivated enough to point out something that was done RIGHT.

It is very difficult to walk up to a pesticide applicator you do not know to have a discussion about a topic that is loaded for you AND a topic that can feel like a personal attack to them.  Add to it my general dislike of the pesticides and it is tempting to just grumble about it to each other and just get unhappy all over again.

But, I told people in my computer science classes and I tell people who get farm products from us that it is just as important to tell those who do a job that you liked how they are doing something as it is to tell them you would like them to change.  In fact it might be more important to highlight when things go well!

Does it mean things will be ok the next time someone sprays near us?  Of course not.  But I believe we just raised the chances a little bit.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

What is Rob's Job Part II

There continues to be some curiosity surrounding Rob's new job with the Pesticide Action Network, so I thought it might be a useful post to give a bit more context now that I am about to conclude my third month in their employ!  As you might expect, I know a good bit better how I can answer the natural questions people might have.  It also makes sense that I would encourage you to support PAN if you find that the work they do matches with your intentions for giving.  If it does not, well, that's fine too.  Just give me a chance to change your mind some day!

Iowa Communications Associate

In short - Rob has to do some writing for PAN.  A subset of the writing has an Iowa slant or focus.  Most of that content comes out in the Iowa Updates posted every four weeks.  Additional material is posted by me on Facebook and Twitter by PAN and we do send out emails to a special Iowa list of interested persons.  They receive the Iowa Updates that get posted online, but they may also receive additional alerts or information that will not necessarily appear on the PAN web pages.  So, if there are things that are related to Iowa legislative sessions and our priorities, then I will typically be the author.

I am also charged with writing about national topics from a farmer's perspective.   PAN sees some real value in having someone who works the land comment about the policies they support as well as those they oppose.  Therefore, this is most of my energies will be placed. The most recent example of my farmer voice writing can be found here: I'd Want More Tools than a Hammer.

More desk time for the farmer....but not at locations like this anymore!
Over time, I will also write pieces in the 'organizational voice.'  In those cases, I will not be listed as an author, but they will appear as resources that PAN produces and houses on their websites.  And, in addition to these duties, I am part of a team that reads and edits each other's work, checking facts and working to find the best ways we can say things in a limited number of words (because, unlike most of those who read this blog - people have very short attention spans!). 

PAN also has several 'larger' projects that may also pull me in for various tasks.  For example, there is an agroecology project that I have stepped into as a part of my job.  At the very least, this job promises to be interesting.

He Even Gets Interviewed with His PAN Hat On

Ok.  He is still wearing that lovely Cincinnati Reds hat when he does these things.  The "PAN hat" is a metaphorical hat.  And I'm only saying that because I wanted to use the word "metaphorical" in the blog today.  Now I am happy and I can continue with the regularly scheduled content!


Apparently, I have shown some propensity to do reasonably well in interviews, both live and for articles, so they are already trotting me out there on a semi-regular basis.  There is some pressure that comes with this because I need to be very careful to speak to what I know rather than speculate.  That also means that I have to keep working on expanding my knowledge so I can answer questions that are not directly specific to the kinds of farming I do.  Granted, most requests for interviews come from 'friendly sources' who are unlikely to be trying to trap me with something.  However, I suspect everyone who reads the blog knows how important I think it is to maintain accuracy and integrity when you want to advocate for any given position.

And, please note.  I wanted to use the word 'propensity' in this blog post.  I succeeded there as well!  Wow! This is a great blog post so far!  

****Cue lots of people rolling their eyes heavenward after this statement ****

The funny thing about it is this - when you interview, you can never be certain what they will decide to use.  For example, I had a suspicion that the little tidbit they took for this Marketplace interview might be something they would select.  But, it wasn't really the thing I felt was the most important part of the interview.   I even hesitated bringing it up in hopes that they wouldn't seize on it.  Yes, it is a valid point and it is dramatic.  But...

In contrast, the piece of the interview they selected for this Civil Eats piece was probably more consistent with my overall message I was hoping to deliver.

Either way, I get it.  They need to collect information, understand it, and then compile into something people will read that is (hopefully) accurate and compelling.

Taking it From There
I expect that I will have involvement in the next Iowa Legislative Session. I also anticipate that I will be encouraged to give presentations among other things.  We'll see where it goes and I'll try to take you all along for the ride!  If you have suggestions for topics I should address with my PAN hat, send them on to me.  If you want to know how you can help make good changes in this world with respect to pesticides, ask!

Let's see what we can manage together.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Missing Hollyhocks

 I've heard them called 'Outhouse Flowers' because there was apparently a tradition at some Iowa farmsteads to plant them next to the outhouse to shield that necessary building a bit more from the rest of the farm.  Hollyhocks are pretty tough flowers that can reseed if you let them.  But, what happens when the hollyhocks disappear from the farm?

We always want more flowers on the farm, but the reality is that we do not have the space to start everything we want.  And this year, we don't have the space to plant everything we want as we work to re-format our fields and add swales. 

You see, it had been a tradition to have some hollyhocks down in the southwest corner each year and we let them reseed themselves.  The problem is that after a while, the area gets overrun by less desirable plants and you have to start over.  We just haven't given ourselves the opportunity to start over with the hollyhocks.


That is the difficult thing about 2020 at the Genuine Faux Farm.  We're trying to "start over" on so many levels.  We certainly have enough experience at the farm to know what we like about it.  And, we actually have pretty good knowledge about how to get to where we want to be. 

So, what's the problem? 

Two key resources - time and energy
and
Two key issues - too much rain and too many buffalo gnats and now.. mosquitoes.  The wet limits our time and the flying flesh eaters gnaw away at the energy.

It's the same old themes all over again.  If we had cows, it would be deja moo.

Nonetheless, there has been some progress.  We spent some significant time in two plots with the wheel hoe and the soil behaved beautifully - just as we picture it behaving in our farm 'handbook.'  We got some trellising and caging up and the plants look pretty good.  We've been harvesting zucchini and summer squash ALREADY!  Usually, that's a just after July 4 treat.  Meanwhile, the peas we planted on time are just getting going - so they are a little late.  But, still we had a nice big pot of peas tonight as the highlight for dinner.

Keep giving me fresh peas, green beans and a good bit less of the nasty biting bugs - and we'll have hollyhocks before you know it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Heat Index Wear and Tear

We are thankful that we have not had to deal with many days with heat indices in the upper 90s and 100s at the farm so far this season.  It is not so much that we cannot stand working in the warmer temperatures.  It's the fact that, when you do, it makes it difficult to do other things - like write a blog post.  Pushing a wheel hoe for an hour or two in the heat doesn't always leave you with much energy for a mental exercise.


The other issue is some fall-out from our house siding project.  The ancient A/C unit was taken out, with the intent that we would work to replace it with a more efficient cooling unit.  Well, we haven't been able to get the replacement as of this moment.  So, while we don't really want to cool our house much, it is helpful to take some of the edge off at night so we can sleep better.

I knew when I started that the streak of daily posts was going to come to an end at some point and I was pretty certain it would be at the point that these sorts of days started popping up.  Perhaps I will surprise myself and adapt so that I still have the energy to do my jobs and write daily blogs.  Perhaps not.  But, it is more likely that we'll try to move to a realistic (and still ambitious) three post a week schedule.



This blitz has been a good thing for me as it has encouraged me to hone writing skills that I now employ for PAN and it also has served as a proving ground for some ideas and concepts I can use with that new job.  I also think there are some people who have appreciated seeing these posts as well. 

The silly thing about all of this is - here's a post for today.  The streak is actually unbroken (even if it is later in the day).  Maybe we're not done yet?  Let's see how this all shakes out now, shall we?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trending (at the Farm)

And for today's post we're just going to see what sorts of things are trending with the farmers right now!  Without further ado and whole lotta todo - here we go!

Some Music We Are Currently Enjoying

Not Our First Goat Rodeo featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Stewart Duncan and Aoife O'Donovon

The song we're linking here is call "The Trappings"



Something We Are Getting Tired Of

Broilers that want us to "walk them around the building just one more time" before they go in at 9:30 at night while the mosquitos are biting and the farmers are tired.


A Book I Hope to Re-Read Soon

Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane.  I just completed another Hambly book that reminded me how much I liked her writing and Dragonsbane would be my favorite of hers.  This comes on the heals of reading Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey.  So, it's a "bane' thing, I guess.


A Game We Are Currently Enjoying Playing

No.  Nothing new here.  We're still playing Wingspan. And enjoying having the European expansion now.

A Recent Meal That Was REALLY Good

Chicken, snow peas, garlic scapes, summer squash, zucchini (all from the farm) and a piece of Tammy bread with real butter (from Hansen's) and rice (uh.. despite rumors that we have had enough rain to grow rice, we still have not tried to do that).



A Picture We Both Enjoy
From the base of the Latourell Falls in Oregon.  After a warm day, this looks very nice to us right now.


An Accomplishment We Are Really Hoping to Achieve Soon
We want to get it ALL done. 

Ok.  Being realistic now.  We'd both be pretty pleased if we could get all of the tomatoes trellised - for example.

Because we want to harvest some of THESE!
Something We Think Will Begin Very Soon and We'll Be Happy When It Does

The beginning of Lilypalooza on the farm.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Cultivating Thoughts

The seeds are gathered from my experiences and the knowledge I have acquired by reading, listening and experimenting over time.  I am not the source of most of these seeds.  Many of them come from other people.  A significant group of them came from observing the natural world.  But, in most cases I no longer remember where I got them.

But, I plant this diverse set of seeds into the soil of my mind and wonder what the harvest will bring.


I cultivate the seeds I have planted, selecting which young ideas and thoughts will be given time to grow into something that has more meaning.  I honor those I keep by assigning them names and words that identify them and I add to the richness of the soil by arranging and re-arranging these words so they are just right.  Over time, I find many ways I can express what I see in these living things - these ideas - that are beginning to gain strength.

Sometimes, they develop into a weed and I find that I am no longer interested in where they will lead me.  Rarely, I discover one that needs to be aggressively removed.  But, usually, I remain curious about how they will turn out.

So, I cultivate the soil and supplement it with what I discover and how I feel as I work around them.  I select more words that represent these feelings and I begin considering descriptive words that might express how I want things to turn out.

Or maybe how I think things will turn out.

Or how I fear what will be revealed at the harvest.



I harvest the new understandings I raised from seed.  This harvest includes connections to other people, places and things in my world.  I recognize the idea that came from the Meadowlark sitting on the line and the philosophy presented to me as I witnessed a rainstorm.  The fruit over there came from that moment when I saw an angry person stop and apologize rather than continue to place blame.  The flower by my feet came into being when someone else gave a little extra effort to do something well.  The carrots?  Well, we usually don't talk about those.

Some of these are new to me and some are well known.  Sometimes, I enjoy the fruits of this harvest and I consider new words that express my gratitude as well as a longing to do even better.  Occasionally, what I have learned leaves me wondering what there is to be grateful for and I fight to express that disappointment and how I still long to do better.

I look around and I find that there are seeds that come with this harvest.  And I realize there are plants that I do not remember putting into the gardens of my thoughts and they provide seeds as well.

I view the gardens others near me have created and I see other ideas of beauty, kindness and wonder.  Sometimes, they offer me some of their own seeds.   And they surprise me when they ask for some of mine.

Now I have a new batch of seeds.  Some I know well.  Others are entirely new to me.  And still others have an origin story that I have since forgotten.



So, I plant this diverse set of seeds into the soil of my mind and wonder what the harvest will bring.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mellow Turklets

We've figured it out.  The turkeys are plotting to take over the farm ... and then the world.


They may LOOK innocent....
I was asked several times over the past couple of days how our turklets are doing on the farm this year.  Our response has been that this is the most mellow bunch of baby turkeys we have EVER had.  Of course, they DID make a good deal of noise when they were still in the shipping boxes.  And some of them kept trying to hop back INTO the shipping boxes.  But, once we got them settled in the brooder room and put the lid on their brooder area to keep the heat in....

It doesn't seem to matter what time of day we visit.  Move the lid, the birds look up at you as if to say,
"Oh.  Hello.  It's you."  Then they just go about relaxing and chilling as if nothing has changed.

They are healthy and they appear to be happy.

I think it's a ruse...

I have noticed a few of the birds insist on making it look like they were napping when I go into the room.  With other flocks, those birds tend to at least be mildly startled when we move the lid.  These birds?   They almost remind me of kids who are trying to act like they are asleep when the adult comes in to check on them. 

I am beginning to wonder if they are pretending to be sleepy so they have an excuse not to get up and move.

Why?  Because they are hiding plans.  Secret plans in baby turklet code that would be revealed if they stood up!  And once we leave, they get right back to work...

Jake: "Is he gone now?"
Lookout Bird: "Yep, looks like he's heading out to the hens."
Tom: "Cool!  So, let's talk about the idea Jenny had earlier."
Jenny: "If we could only get access to a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak..."
Jake: "Where did I put that wheelbarrow?"

The rest of you should thank us for taking this crew on.  I now have a good idea why they were trying to get back into the shipping boxes.  The original plans they had for taking over the world were foiled when the postal service failed to recognize the change of address they attempted to scratch into the label as they traveled.   Our farm was not their intended destination.  It turns out that these birds must have had access to public television at some point in time because we have deciphered the scratches on the box and they wanted to be delivered to...

Sesame Street. 

We suspect they were trying to make contact with Big Bird.

Who knows what would have happened if they had accomplished this?

Stay tuned, I just might be able to find out.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Genuine Faux Farm Delivery June 25

The list of available items is fairly short this week, which is normal for the time of year and the reduction in capacity our farm has after dropping the CSA program from our repertoire.  On the horizon are peas, zucchini and beans.  Again, with no CSA program, we are giving ourselves the chance to adapt our farm to weather changes by spending more time doing things like digging swales (ditches to handle excessive rains).  If we are successful, we suspect we will have more product in future years on a consistent basis.

Oh, and don't discount the normal surge we have when we get to late July!

Available This Week:
  • eggs - $3.50/dozen (limit 1 doz per family)
  • garlic scapes - $1.00/bundle
  • lettuce - $4/bag (2 heads leaf lettuce)
  • oregano - $1/bunch
  • thyme - $1/bunch

Pick Up Locations Today
  1. 5:00-5:15PM  Cedar Falls - Jorgensen Plaza West parking lot
  2. 5:30-5:45PM  Hansen's Outlet - back parking lot
Drive by delivery.  Drive up/park, open your trunk or tailgate, stand aside and we'll put your order in your vehicle.  Do not approach us, even though we would love to see you. 
If you are biking/walking, we will place your order where you can get it after we step back.

We will NOT take payment at delivery, please see below for how payments will work.

Thank you so much for tolerating this process to help keep everyone safe and healthy.  We will modify the process as the season progresses and available product dictates the need to do so.

How Do I Order?
For the time being, we are taking orders via email.  We are asking those who wish to place orders to participate in our Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program.  The program is simple and easy to join.  You get better prices and you will help us to limit transactions (and remove the process of passing money back and forth during deliveries).

How Can I Participate?
2020 Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program
We will run the system in $50 increments.  In other words, you can purchase a minimum of $50 of farm credit at a time.  We will cap the maximum amount of credit at $200 and you can refill your farm credits at any point.

Like the CSA program, this gives you the advantage of not having to pull out money at each delivery.  Instead, we will have a ledger with tracking for your current credit balance. Farm credits can be used for ANY farm product the Genuine Faux Farm offers.  If you buy farm credits, you can apply them to purchasing meat chickens, vegetables, eggs or any other thing we offer this year.

If you want to send us a check via mail - email us for our farm address. Want to use Paypal? You may send cash to gff@genuinefauxfarm.com We are accepting purchases of credits now and throughout the season.

Upcoming Schedule
  • The following week will have no deliveries - the farmers are taking a 'week off'
  • We will announce our future schedule next week.
  • Please note that we are considering our options for Cedar Falls delivery.  With Hansen's Outlet construction, that location may not serve well for deliveries.  If you have opinions on the matter, please let us know.


Crop and Poultry Report
Oh look!  We crossed over the eight inch mark for rainfall in June.  When have we heard this before?  In 2018, we had about nine inches of rain for the month and we're on pace for that this year as well.  The swales (shallow ditches) we have put in thus far are helping us out a bit, but we do wish we could have done more.  It's the old litany that if the ground is too wet to work, you don't work the ground.  The Buffalo Gnats haven't seemed quite as bad as they have some years, but we've got plenty of sores to prove they are out there.

We don't want to dwell on the challenges, we'd like to share some successes as well!  Tammy and I did get over 1000 lettuce plants transplanted prior to the rains.  We also have 500 or so brassica in the ground (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, romanesco, cabbage).  For those who are wondering, we HAVE scaled back.  Normally, we would have 400 broccoli plants in the ground and another going in about now.  the peas are starting to bloom as are the youngest green beans.  The scapes look great!  The first batch of zucchini may give us enough fruit to offer after the July 4th week.  Some of the potatoes look good and others not so good.  It has a lot to do with how much water is in the area - not a surprise there.

The broilers are looking good and healthy.  They will be available after their trip to "the Park" on July 7.  The turklets arrived and are in the brooder room.  This is one of the most mellow batches of turkeys we have ever had.  We're not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because there are no broiler chicks on the other side of the room?  Regardless, we like how this flock is acting.  And, as a friend of ours likes to say - they are stinkin' cute!

Personal Updates from the Farmers
We realize we don't always highlight how the two of us (Rob and Tammy) are doing - kind of hiding behind the farm, the weather, the plants and the poultry.  So, here is a quick update.

We're struggling a bit with the farm's new normals - no seasonal workers, no volunteer days thus far, two people working a LOT in the offices for other jobs and fields in transition as we hope to adjust to weather normals and other challenges.  We also have family worries with both of our Dads having some serious health events in recent weeks.

I don't want to paint a picture that we are in horrible shape.  Overall, we are doing remarkably well.  But, it doesn't take much for us to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how we're going to get through everything.  This is the point where we tell you again how much we appreciate your support, your patience and your kindness.  We're pushing to get things done and we're working to find the things that are best to let go so we can get the best subset of everything done. 

Thank you.

Broiler Chickens
Our first flocks of broilers are scheduled to go to "the Park" on July 6, which means they are available beginning July 7. 

Egg Production
The egg production still resides mainly with our 75 bird flock of 'older' hens.  This batch has not been particularly reliable from the get go and they've let us know they do not appreciate that we moved them to the 'Summer Cottage.'  That means egg production took another hit, reduced by about 20% over the past two weeks.  We expect they will rebound once we get past gnat season (and maybe rain season?).  In August, we expect the new hens will begin to add to the production.  Patience will pay off here folks and we'll have plenty of quality eggs for all of your orders.

Be Well!
Rob and Tammy

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Good Works

Back in November of 2018, I was given the privilege of speaking to a Dr. Ai Wen's class at the University of Northern Iowa.  They gifted me with a host of fantastic questions and I tried to respond them as best as I could in the blog.  The first installment is here in the post titled Queue and A.  I took a quick look at them and realized there is lots of great stuff in those posts.  I took the following from Queue and A Again and I thought I would expand on it after I 'reprinted' the content from the older post.  If you want to see more of these, check out the November 2018 grouping from our blog.

From Nov 2018:
==============================
So, I ask you, are you optimistic about the future? My generation and generations that follow all speak about how we want to be progressive and how we want to keep our earth alive, but I constantly wonder if anyone is actually doing anything. We talk a big talk but I’m not sure we walk the walk. I have always been pessimistic when it comes to the environment and those who are in charge, and so I don’t see a bright light at the end of this tunnel. If you are optimistic about the future, what exactly is the change that you’re seeing that makes you optimistic?

I understand where this is coming from.  It can be horribly frustrating when it is so easy to tear something down and freakishly hard to build something up.  I will not lie, I have good days and bad days, probably just like the person who wrote this section in their reflection.  Here is where I land on this:

This is all a matter of choice.  Your choice.  If you want to read another post called A Choice of Litany, you will get a sense of some of the personal process I go through JUST for how I feel about our own farm and my own life as it interacts with the farm.  I am not being the eternal blind optimist who can't see when things are heading the wrong way - I question where things are going and I wonder if anything will make a difference.  In the end, I choose to emphasize those parts of the whole that show a path towards making a difference.

We have more monarchs on our farm than we did when me moved to it

Am I optimistic about the future?  I choose to be optimistic about the future, and I hope you will as well.  Because if both of us make that choice, then that's two of us who will be working to make things better.  Twice my effort.  I'm all for that!

How can we make things better?  We make things better by exercising the best parts of ourselves every single day.  Every meal, ask yourself if you are making choices that promote better food systems.  If the answer is "no," start finding small changes that make that a "maybe."  Then, find more changes that make it a "yes."  Every day, ask yourself if something you are doing or have done could have been done better.  Then - do it better the next time or take steps to remedy a shortcoming in what you have already done.  Put yourself in someone else's shoes every day, especially when you hear yourself criticizing that person.  Find ways to give feedback without tearing down.  See something that isn't right?  Speak out, but do it with integrity.  Check and double check facts, find out if sources are reliable.  Then, when you speak, do it in a way that shows knowledge without belittling others who might not agree or know what you know.

Is it hard?  You bet it is.  Do I always succeed?  Of course I don't.  But, that's part of what makes it worth the effort.  It's a challenge that is worthy of all of us.

===================================

So, I fast forward to June of 2020.  What I wrote in 2018 is still me.  And, I am tempted to leave it at what is written there.  But, I wanted to bring it all one step closer to the present day.


Here are some of the small things I am trying to do to make things better.  Perhaps they aren't enough - and maybe some are misguided.  But, I am still going to give it my best shot.  Let's do a matching fund here... match me effort for effort and see how far we can get!

1. I am going to keep trying to learn - I will not rest on what I think I know now because I do not believe I know enough to be the best I can be.

2. The next time one of my farmer peers says, "those damned Mexicans..."  I'm going to call them on it rather than pretend I didn't hear it.

3. I am going to send a letter or email to someone I am concerned about this week.. and the next...

4. I will slow down the lawn tractor or tiller and wait for that toad to get out of the way.

5. I am going to plant another batch of cover crops as soon as the rain stops and the soil lets me.

6. The next time a person asks me a question, I will honor them with a decent, honest and respectful answer.  The next time I ask a person a question, I'll be sure to listen fully to what they have to say.

7. I will not let that piece of trash that blew out of my truck get away from me.

8. Despite the trend towards 'throw-away' products, I will keep trying to find things that can be fixed when they break rather than being thrown and replaced.

9. I will seed many more zinnias and marigolds, even though it is a little late for them, in hopes that the pollinators and wildlife will benefit from them later this year.

10. I will work to give equal weight and power to something positive today instead of allowing a negative statement or event rule how I feel.

11.  I will continue to write as long as others see it as a worthy gift.

This list - it went to 11!  And, as always, I've got more on my personal list.  Be well everyone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Historically Imperfect

I had someone state a common lament to me recently.  "I just want to go back to the way things were."

We can all understand that sentiment at some level or the other.  There was a time when you knew less and were aware of less, so things were simpler - yes?  Perhaps you had less responsibility?  Or maybe you are having trouble navigating the uncertainties of today.  After all, since you've already lived yesterday, if you could go back and live it again, you might have a shot at doing better because you had some insight as to what would happen.

I have also heard people make claims that the current generation "doesn't know how to work" or that they "don't care about anything."  And, "things worked better then."

Yep, I'm sure they did and I am also sure that they didn't!

I thought I'd show you a few postal history items from my collection that I enjoy very much.  But, instead of boring you with all of the fine details I find interesting, I am going to point out imperfections.  All of the items below are from the 1860's and were mailed in the United States with the intent of going overseas to Europe.

A Piece Missing

The first item shows a piece of mail that was sent to France in 1862.  Three different stamps were used to add up the the 30 cents required to pay for a piece of letter mail that weighed over 1/4 ounce up to 1/2 ounce.  From a collector's standpoint, this is a very nice looking item.  The colors are bright and the envelope is pretty clean - especially considering it is almost 160 year old.  I like it - that is for certain.


But, look carefully at the bottom center of the brown 5 cent stamp.  There is a nice little chunk out of the stamp.  Many people living today barely understand the function of a postage stamp, with the advent of the internet, email and social media.  Even fewer will recall fully that stamps came in sheets with perforated holes that were intended to give you a guide so you could 'easily' separate them.  You also had to wet the back of the stamps (usually by licking them) to activate the gum so it would stick to the envelope.

Many of you might remember that - but remember, the US Postal Service has been issuing primarily self-adhesive stamps since the 1990s and the first self-adhesive was actually issued in the 1970s!  Most people under the age of 30 will not have the experience of separating these stamps unless they are or are related to a stamp collector!

Some collectors are nostalgic for the 'good old days' when these water activated gum stamps with perforations to separate them were the norm.  But, I am certain they are forgetting how often the stamp itself would tear in the wrong place (like the 5 cent stamp above) if you rushed the job.  They are conveniently omitting experiences where the gum on a sheet of unused stamps would get wet (for whatever reason) and they would stick to each other - or other things that you didn't want them stuck to.  I am also guessing they don't remember the time their cat found a sheet of stamps and licked them until they folded over and stuck to themselves.   Ok - that one is mine.  Thanks Strider.

Imperfect Solutions

We live in a world where things aren't perfect.  And, the solutions we create for problems rarely work out on the first try.  And, before you try to tell me that we were better at that sort of thing in the past, I'll remind you that we have always used the trial and error process with varying degrees of success.  This is true now.  It was true then.


The letter above was mailed in 1863 from Chicago to Liverpool England.  It was then forwarded to another address in England.  The 24 cent stamp paid for the mail from the US to England.  The red stamp paid the forwarding postage.  But, that's not what I want you to look at.

Look in the blue circular postmark that says "Chicago."  The letters inside the circle at the top are "RA."  These letters were part of a short-lived experiment that likely was an attempt to help the post office find the person(s) who sent this letter if it should be returned for any reason.

You see, they didn't use return address labels AND it was common for mail to be refused or for a recipient to have moved on with no where for the item to be forwarded (or bad addresses, etc).  Such items would go to the "Dead Letter Office" where clerks would attempt to ascertain who sent the letter in hopes that they could return the contents.  This was especially important if the sender was mailing anything of value.

Well, even in 1863, there were lots of people in Chicago.  How do you find the sender of a letter in "Chicago" if they leave no further clues in the content?

Well, what if you use some codes in the postmarks to indicate how things were routed OUT of Chicago?  That might limit where you need to look, right?  So, the "RA" has been deduced to likely mean "Randolph" train station.  It's actually a fairly clever idea, but it apparently wasn't deemed a success after a short trial.

Since that time, we have made return addresses at the top left common practice and we have implemented ZIP codes to help focus where things go in our postal system.  And, if you want to pay for tracking, you can see where your mail is going as it finds its way - assuming no one makes a mistake.  So, it wasn't perfect then - and it could likely be improved now.

Close Enough

I'll close with an item that has 30 cents of postage on it to cover the 28 cents of postage due to a destination in Germany in the 1860s.  I'd like to remind everyone that 2 cents in 1865 was a bigger deal to people than it is now.


There are two things going on here.  First, the postage rate had declined from 30 cents to 28 cents early in the decade.  In fact, there was still an option to send mail without postage.  So, if someone in Germany sent a letter to someone in the US unpaid, the recipient would need to pay 30 cents to receive the letter.  It was a simple matter of reading the postal tables incorrectly.

Or, maybe it had to do with convenience?  There were 2 cent stamps issued at the time and there were one cent stamps as well.  In other words, there were plenty of ways a person could select stamps to add up to 28 cents.  Is it worth it to over pay by 2 cents if you only had 24 cent and 3 cent stamps?

Human error won't leave us.  I misread things, you misread things.  We also make daily decisions about what is going to be 'good enough' and often accept less than perfection as an acceptable result.  It is not new and it is not likely to change. 

That may be true, but I'll make an exception.  Each of us can continue to apply ourselves to be our best in the present by learning from the past and thinking about how the things we do will affect the future.  That's also something we humans can do.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Balanced Scales

How do we balance the scales in our lives?


I've struggled with this question on and off, but I know recent events have encouraged me to bring it out so I can turn it around so it catches the light in different ways.  I am aware that these feelings and questions are not unique to me, nor am I any more special than any other person.  It just so happens I am willing to share some things I am thinking via a blog on a regular basis.  Others could certainly do the same if they wished.  If some of the things I share here help someone else, entertain another person and perhaps encourage yet another to learn something new - wonderful.  If they don't?  Well, at least I got to have that chance to view my thoughts and examine them for a while. 

Good enough.

How do we recognize problems that exist without allowing them to overwhelm us?  If we take a moment away are we guilty of ignoring something that we should be acting upon?

A couple of people I know shared this very interesting and moving 'short film' by Canadian Liv McNeil.  If you have the internet to do so, take a moment to view it.


Even an introvert, such as myself, recognizes that we are social creatures.  The physical distancing we should be following to reduce the spread of COVID-19 has, in fact, led to a certain level of social distancing as well.  The strain is showing and many are becoming overwhelmed.

Sometimes the reaction seems to be that we should rebel or completely turn off the switch when it comes to concern for the pandemic.  It isn't hard to understand where this is coming from.  But, ignoring the threat and pretending a problem doesn't exist won't make it go away and it will only hurt more people.

You're tired.  I'm tired.  We're feeling overwhelmed.  What can we do to help each other (and ourselves) without ignoring this virus?  I am seeking that balance in my own life and I hope you are as well.  For us, we will remain cautious and do the things in our power to not spread the virus.  We will wear masks and we will limit our physical contact with others.  But, we are also working to improve our social contact while still maintaining some physical distance.  We'll just keep learning - it's what we can do.

What will it take for you and I to be able to be aware and empathetic to someone else's fear and pain while still realizing our own joy, peace and happiness?

I have long admired Yo-Yo Ma as a musician and I have come to admire him even more over time as a good person with a kind heart and generous soul.  I have also recognized Rhiannon Giddens' talent in the past, but her genre of music is not one I often listen to, so I am less familiar with her.  These two talented people put together a powerful piece that I enjoyed and I thought I would share it here.


It is very difficult to hear the lyrics of this tune and not hear the pain in them.  I am hopeful that I can find a way to acknowledge the pain, fear, anger and suffering of black people referenced here while still recognizing and feeling gratitude for the good things in my own life.  It is tempting to put on the "sackcloth and ashes" to show public remorse and there is also a fear that my own happiness would be a betrayal of their pain.

So again, I am looking for a balance in my life.  It is not right, and it has never been right, for people of color to be systematically mistreated and abused.  But, I actually think I might be capable of doing what I can to speak out for those who are struggling without disowning the good things in my own life.  This isn't supposed to be about making everyone miserable.  It's about getting rid of a weight that so many people carry around with them that is tied to the color of their skin.

Where is the balance between extending ourselves to achieve something great that could help others who need it and preserving enough of ourselves so that we can also live well?

Our farm has been a great training ground - if you can call it that - for working on the balance between pushing hard to achieve and keeping our own mental and physical well-being in mind while we work.


The answer - at least to us - is still unknown, because it seems to shift and morph with every new day.  If you have followed our blog for some time, you know we have been working hard to find the balance between dedication to excellence and preservation of our own physical and mental well-being.

But, let me say this.  I still believe we are ALL better than what we have shown thus far.  We let ourselves 'off the hook' too easily too often.  We even do a poor job of allowing ourselves to enjoy the things that are supposed to bring us that coveted balance.  And so, I do what I hope I will always do - I will keep trying to do better.


When will we acknowledge when things aren't right so we can try to find useful solutions that can move us forward to something better?

I recognize that I can get impatient when people spend lots time outlining a problem and trying to convince me that there is a problem.  Perhaps that is because I can often see that there is an issue that needs addressing and don't want to spend time on the 'convincing us there is a problem' stage.  I want to get to the 'fixing it' part.

But, then again, part of the fixing it just might be listening to those who are being affected by the issue.  And perhaps another part is actually taking the time to have a conversation.  Does that solve everything?  Of course not.  But it is part of the process.

This brings me to one more video.  Emmanuel Acho has been creating a series titled "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man."  I appreciate the gift he is giving by attempting to have conversations with/for white people that address questions and issues that we might not otherwise consider.


The video above was his first installment.  The two that follow include face to face discussions with white people, making it more of a dialog.  I am certain Mr. Acho does not speak for every black man or woman, just as I do not speak for every white man or woman.  But, he is right about one thing for sure - if we take the time to have an honest conversation with someone we are uncomfortable with, we just might find that the discomfort is misplaced and that we can locate common ground for understanding.

As I viewed these conversations, I did not find that I was uncomfortable with the content of the discussion at all.  If anything, most of it made perfect sense and was generally in alignment with my own beliefs.  On the other hand, these videos, the Rhiannon/Yo-Yo musical composition and all of the Black Lives Matter protests have made me uncomfortable for a different reason.

The Man Standing on the Corner
I can think of dozens of times that I found myself on a street corner or parking lot or outside a shop just standing around waiting for a ride or for a friend to meet me.   I have waited in a car parked on the street and put my head back to close my eyes multiple times.  I have placed myself in mall food courts in strange cities so I can do work while my lovely bride attended a conference for her profession.  I've spent hours in hotel lobbies doing the same thing.  Students, staff and faculty of Wartburg College know that I sometimes will work in the coffee shop, library or other locations on campus.

I admit that I have gotten odd, questioning looks.  I do tend to be a bit scruffy looking and my red baseball cap isn't always in pristine condition.  I have a tendency to wear hoodies, but usually with the hood down.  My clothing is typically clean, but sometimes a bit worn.  I have been known to talk to myself as I think something out and I will occasionally stop typing or writing and stare at nothing - though some who do not know me might not realize I am not seeing whatever it is that I appear to be looking at.

I have only been approached by police or security five or six times.  And in all but one of those instances, I was not terribly worried about the outcome.  In the lone exception, I was still in high school, so we'll include that as a 'strike' against me.  In several of those instances, I was struck by the mildly confrontational tone the police or security person took as they initiated contact.

What would have happened if I was black skinned?  Or perhaps a Latino?  Would someone call the police because I was pacing back and forth for ten minutes in front of a Seven Eleven as I waited for a ride?  Would that mildly confrontational tone the police officer had remain mild or would it push the boundaries of civility?

Better yet - how about the times I have stood outside, on a cold evening, after the sun has gone down, by myself, pacing back and forth, mumbling, humming or whistling - while I wait for the last person to come pick up their turkey?  I have had the police stop by to chat a couple of times because they are curious about what I am doing at our various drop-offs.  If my skin were black, would it be more than a 'chat?'

Sadly, the answer is this.

If I were black, I would probably work hard to NOT be left waiting on various street corners for rides.  I would consider hiring a white worker to stand with me by the truck during produce distributions.  There would be fewer choices for pick up locations and times because I would not want to be stuck waiting for customers under many of those conditions.   I would think twice about going and sitting to do work in various public spaces for fear that someone will think that I look threatening and then do something about it.

I have gotten away with being free to do these things this way for most of my life.

And I want people of color to be able to do the same.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Not An Iris

This is an iris.  The rest of the pictures are NOT iris.  And now you know.

Iris season started late for us and it was over way too soon, as far as we are concerned.  But, we are being reminded that there are so many other flowers that deserve our attention at the farm.  So, before the daylilies start, we thought we would take a moment this Sunday and recognize some of the other blooms that are gracing us with their presence right now.

We also thought our dads might enjoy seeing the flowers we have at the farms.  I know that the tradition is that moms like the flowers.  But, let's give our dads some credit for knowing what is beautiful in the world too.

Shasta Daisies
Clover

Petunias

Gazinias
Gerbera Daisies

Geranium

Climbing Rose

Weigala

Mock Orange
Happy Father's Day!