Wednesday, April 1, 2020

It Has Been THAT Time Before

We've got a number of things for you, so we thought we'd just get right down to it!

Early Spring Issues

The garlic suppression campaign.
The early warm weather is something we haven't talked about in recent blog posts, but maybe we should.  It is even rarer that we spend blogging time giving specific examples of problems an early Spring can cause for us at the farm.  Well, here we are, doing just that!

If you will recall, we had a very early Spring in 2012 that resulted in some difficult losses with our garlic (see #4 on this post).   Garlic was weeks ahead and their early emergence made them fair game for Aster Yellows.  The end result was that the garlic would not store and we could not use any of our own seed for subsequent years.

Determined to avoid having the same problem, we decided to do something about it this year.  Tammy and I went out and pushed all of those anxious little garlic plants BACK into the ground.  We also made certain to give them a verbal admonition to wait "just a little bit longer - for your own good."  Unfortunately, garlic does not have ears, so they must not have heard us and they popped back up the next day.  It is also possible that a few of them will not be garlic plants anymore since they gave us the 'raspberry' when they popped back out of the ground.

High Tunnel Wrinkle Repair Underway

A good sunny day helps, but botox will not.
The past weekend provided us with much needed warmth on the farm.  One of our normal Spring activities is to do routine maintenance on the high tunnel.  Along with fixing breaks, tightening turnbuckles and preparing the soil is the annual job of ironing the plastic.  This is one task we didn't count on when we first purchased the building, but I suppose we should have realized that the plastic would expand and contract given the temperature extremes it is forced to go through every year.  Since this year was exceptionally cold, the plastic is ... well... exceptionally wrinkly.  We hope to get through to the Fall before we replace the plastic, so we spent a good deal of time with a special ironing tool working the plastic back into shape.  Failure to do so would result in inadequate light entering the tunnel, so this is a critical step.

We were so busy with the process that we neglected to get a picture showing you how we got the top of the tunnel completed.  We'll try to show you a picture in the future.

One Phobia Beats Another
The Bandsaw Man is not too fond of heights.  But...

All I said was, "Look! A snake!"
Anonymous Farmer Project Includes Genuine Faux Farm

We have NO idea who that is.
The Genuine Faux Farm has been selected to be a participant in a new project called the Anonymous Farmer Project.  Since many people do not seem to place much importance on learning about where their food comes from, this project was created to reflect this common approach to food acquisition and consumption.  Photos were selected from those provided by participating farms and were placed on a calendar that can be found in the produce, fruit and meats section of many grocery stores throughout the nation.  In every case, the farmer's identity is obscured - providing the consumer with an excellent excuse for not knowing who grew the food they have purchased or how it was raised.

Dyed Water to Get Colored Eggs
Our farm participates in many research projects.  Some of them are of our own making, and this year is no exception.  We have noticed that the composition of the eggs laid by our hens can change depending on what the birds ingest.  For example, you might notice that the eggs become a richer yellow as they spend more outdoor time on green pastures and they fade a bit during the Winter.  In fact, we've noticed a definite orange tinge to the yolks when we feed them squash.  If you need more evidence, let me point something out.  What happens when you eat red beets?  I rest my case.

After the recent egg sales for Easter, we realized we may have missed the boat on an opportunity here.  Therefore, this Summer, we will segregate a small batch of chickens and put colored dye into their water.  Can you imagine how convenient it would be for all of you to celebrate Easter with pre-dyed eggs?   Our next step will be to figure out how to pre-hardboil the eggs.  We're not sure the chickens are going to enjoy that experiment as much.

Egg Filming In Progress
Iowa Public Television was once again at the Genuine Faux Farm to record supplemental footage for an upcoming Iowa Ingredient show.  GFF will already appear on a show that features the use of duck for this season and next season they will use footage for a show focusing on the use of eggs.
Awaiting the hatch with baited breath
IPTV staff contacted us in hopes that we might have some fertilized eggs that could eventually hatch.  Of course, we do have roosters in our flock, so we responded in the positive.  After all, the operative word in their request was "could."  Or, maybe they could have if they hadn't already been put in the refrigerator - but they don't need to know that - so don't tell them.

The filming crew has been at the farm for the past four weeks, taking turns keeping the camera running just in case the eggs should begin to show signs of hatching.  We suppose we should tell them at some point that these eggs needed to be in a warm environment for them to hatch, but when they aren't filming they've been pretty useful around the farm and we hate to lose the extra help.

Pre-Wilting Technique for Greens
Your farmers spend some time reading up on the newest techniques for production and harvest during the cold months of the year.  One of the hot topics recently has been finding the best ways to deal with post-harvest handling of greens.  Our farm has used hydro-cooling since 2007 in an effort to make it possible for lettuce and other similar veggies to last longer in your refrigerator and we feel we've been very successful with this process.

Note the successful wilting in the row to the right.
Apparently, one of the newer techniques is to stop watering the target plants long enough for the leaves to wilt.  Once wilt is achieved, they are re-hydrated with a heavy irrigation pass prior to harvest. 
The logic here is that those leaves that return to their prior picture of health were the ones most likely to last longer after cutting.  In short, this removes any of the weaker leaves from harvest, resulting in the customer getting the best quality leaves from the plant.

This process may be akin to the recent trends towards removing irrigation from tomato plants for a period of time prior to harvest to encourage more sugar set in the fruit. However, the articles we have read thus far do not discuss the taste quality of the produce in question.

Given the picture above, we can manage the wilting part.  We're not sure if we've got the timing down for the rest.

Rhetorical Farm Cart

If a 'rhetorical question' does not require an answer, then it makes sense that a rhetorical farm cart does not need to carry any payload.  Sometimes, it is all about the existence of the item and the point it is trying to make - at least that's what we've been told.   We purchased this new cart at an auction recently for $15.  Why did we buy it?  Well, we were running short on cash and needed an influx of money somehow...

Now, hear us out on this.  Usually, a little cart like this, in good shape, with good tires, would cost a minimum of $100.  Heck, we've seen a pile of tires go for $15.  In fact, we've seen another running gear without a deck with similar characteristics go for a couple hundred dollars.  At the very least, we figure we saved $50 on this rhetorical farm cart.  So, technically, we are in the positive by $50 or more.  We're still working out why the balance in the checking account went DOWN however.

Litter Harvest Reaches New Record Levels

Apparently word has gotten out that our farm actually resides on one of the richest deposits of scoopable cat litter in the state.  As a result, the demand has gone through the roof since its discovery.

In an effort to keep costs low, we've been re-using old litter buckets to harvest the pure, unrefined scoopable litter from the deposits deep in the earth.

Thus far, we have been only selling the litter 'ore' to larger refining companies, but we are considering working on setting up our own refinery so we can sell local scoopable cat litter direct to the consumer.  The hardest part has been coming up with a name for the new product.  We were sort of thinking about "True Grit" but are a little nervous that there might be some legal fall-out from John Wayne's estate.

Sadly, we had to move to a new vein last week after our outdoor cat farm managers discovered the initial lode. 

Tiny House For Felines

You probably have noticed the 'tiny house' concept for humans - well, here is the next new thing for pets - the litter bucket tiny home!  We read about cat lovers in a Chicago suburb placing litter buckets in the alleys and other locations where feral cats tend to be found.  After all, those poor critters suffer in the elements too!

There have apparently been a few issues with this approach that have yet to be addressed.  We have addressed one of them with Soup's personal 'tiny home' on the farm.  You see, most of the buckets in Chicago were put out with the lids on.  People were forgetting that cats do NOT have opposable thumbs and opening a lid is not likely to be easy for them.  When asked about this, one person said they were worried that the open side would result in the cat getting wet in a driving rainstorm, so they wanted to leave the lid there as a 'door' that the cat could shut.

Our solution allows the cat to get in and out just fine.  We figure if there is a driving rain coming in the opening, the cat can jump out quick and spin the bucket around in another direction.

There were several other problems noted with these tiny homes, but we'll let you figure out that bucket list on your own.

Weed Maze
GFF enters agritourism with first annual weed maze.   Anticipated opening of the maze is sometime in August when the foxtail, pigweed and giant ragweed have had a chance to reach their growth potential.  Tammy was quoted as saying that this would work as long as those pesky tomatoes weren't always in the way.  An attempt to have a weed maze was thwarted when the worker who was sent to mow the maze path was lost.  Recent field clean up revealed that the worker had survived the mild winter, eating frozen tomatoes and field mice.    

Moving Away from Free-Range

If you've paid any attention to our farm, you will know that we are dedicated to practices that work with nature.  We grow certified organic produce and day-range poultry.  However, our days of free-range workers on the farm are coming to an end.

Apparently, the good people that work on our farm are quality individuals who are in high demand in so many other places.  Some of them graduate and then go on to further schooling or to a 'real job,'  leaving us behind with ne'er a backward glance.  Others, for some reason, find themselves taking things called 'internships' in their field of study.  Still others do things like 'get married' or take 'full-time employment' or whatever sad little reasons they come up with.

Well, we've had enough of this.  We are planning on moving to the confinement model for farm workers this year.  As long as we keep them fed and watered, they should be happy.  We may even throw them some excess produce now and again so they can chase it around the pasture like the turkeys do.

We still need to work out how we can keep them under control when we let them out of the pasture to do actual work on the farm.  We have considered the ankle bracelet monitoring systems used for some law enforcement purposes, but that seems cost-prohibitive.  Instead, it seems more likely that we'll just tie a bright red balloon onto a string and tie that string to the worker.  Then, we just need to look for the balloon so we can locate the worker.  I suspect there are some problems with that plan as well, but we have to start somewhere.

Compressed Air Aids Laying Hens
The process of laying eggs can cost a hen a great deal of energy.  And, as we have found, egg production decreases during temperature extremes due to the increase in energy required to maintain body temperature.  We are considering the purchase of a new air compressor with special tubes and attachments to aid the hens with their egg laying tasks.  This special equipment is not entirely unlike automated milking machines in set up, but rather than using suction, puffs of air will be sent through the hoses and into the birds' beaks.  Essentially, the intent is to reduce the effort of laying eggs by helping to push the eggs out with air pressure.  It appears the most difficult part of setting up this equipment will be determining the correct psi (pounds per square inch) setting on the compressor.  Clearly, if the setting is too low, the only thing that the birds will get out of it is an extra dose of oxygen.  On the other hand, we're not entirely sure we want to find out what happens if the setting is too high.  We really do not want to be dodging eggs flying around the room that got pushed out a bit too quickly.

Cucumber Frog Re-applies for Clemency
The Genuine Faux Farm Cucumber Frog applied for and apparently received approval from someone other than Farmer Rob to move indoors during the cold Winter months.  This latest comes on the heels of Mr. Frog's prior application for clemency with regard to prior 'wrongdoing' on his part.

Mr. Frog is known for his tendency to find ways to startle Farmer Rob during cucumber harvest times.  The timing of his 'surprise appearances' can be good enough to cause the farmer to drop freshly picked produce and/or jump backwards quickly while saying something that sounds like "Gaaaah!"  The farmer is quoted as saying "that frog is a menace and hazard in the field. I am just glad I don't have to deal with him at other times of the year." 

Apparently, the Cucumber Frog has been given access to warmer places on the farm this Winter.  And, what could be warmer than the farmhouse itself? Now, with Mr. Frog enjoying these warmer environs during some of those "other times of the year," the farmer has dropped the laundry basket, a pile of books, a stitch and a line or two.   

"Look," said the farmer, "I appreciate all Mr. Frog does to keep down some of the pests in our cucumber field and I don't want him to leave the farm.  I can tolerate his shenanigans during cucumber harvest.  But, I just don't feel I should have to worry about him jumping out from behind the shower curtain when I'm trying to use the loo."

In later news: Yes, the Farmer Did Say "Use the Loo." 

Star Wars has it Right
Wheels?  Who needs them?  We have decided that wheels are over-rated and we're looking at new ways to move things about the farm.  Rob is working on a 'hover-craft' of sorts and has already identified the payload - the old flair box shown in the picture below:
A thousand and one uses....
Thus far, efforts have met with mixed (at best) success.  The first effort with a series of shop-vacs pumping air out the bottom resulted in some lift, but there was no room left for anything else because it took too many vacuums to get it to go.  For all of you I borrowed shop vacs from - I'll get back to you (see below).

The second effort seemed to work better.  I put the shop vacs on another wheeled cart and then had the vacuums suspend this box over the cart.  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.

My next effort was an attempt to get electromagnetic suspension to work.  Using maglev suspension methods that are used for some trains as a model, it seemed like I could be in business.  The parts only cost a little bit.  Well, ok, let's just say I owe more than I'll ever earn in my lifetime.  The whole project hit a snag when I realized I needed to lay rails everywhere I wanted to go on the farm to make this thing work.  Since I didn't want it to be limited to only certain areas, I decided to lay track "on the fly."  As the thing moved forward, I picked up the rails that were behind it and moved them to the front.  It's not hard to move them with the loader on the tractor.  Did you spot the problem with this solution?

Yep, the chickens kept getting in the way.

Speaking of chickens, my latest idea is to strap a whole bunch of chickens to the bottom of this thing and get them to fly.  What could possibly go wrong?

Next Year's Project: Rear-Discharge Lawn Mower

We Assume You Have Figured It Out By Now
Why yes... today IS April 1.  And, yes, you might have seen some of these before.  Why?  Well, we went out grabbed some of the April Fool's mini-articles from the past several years and put it into one.  Will there be a new one in 2020?  Well, what is today?  And, when do WE usually post our April Fool's posts?  We shall see!


  1. Anonymous1:23 PM

    While I have only yet read the first part of your whole entry for today, 04.01.220, I did want to give you advice for slowing the emergence of garlic, to prevent yellow astering. Yes, poke the emerging shoots down, as you did, but THEN place a mothball in the hole, on top of the shoot. Cover with 1" of soil and it'll be a month before re-emergence! As a bonus, the garlic when harvested will have the subtle flavor - prized by midwestern chefs - of paradichlorobenzene!

  2. MmmmmmmmmMMMmmmm! Tasty!


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