Tuesday, March 30, 2021

If You Asked Me, I Would Say...

March 30th officially marks the one year anniversary of when the current blog blitz got its first post.  There is a lot of writing that has shown up on these pages over the past year.  I'd like to think that most of it was passable and worked well enough for whatever purposes they might have had.

I was asked by a couple of people - if I had to choose only a few of the 330 or so posts I put out over the past year, what would they have been and why would I have selected them?

I tried to answer each question I have received with one, and sometimes two, posts.  For those who asked - here are your answers!  For those who didn't - here are their answers!

First a Warm Up

I found it a bit harder over the past year to write materials entirely dedicated to humor.  I am sure it was partly a function of the year and the circumstances we have all been dealing with.  But, that's not the only thing - it is really hard to write something that is funny - especially when you think you HAVE to!

Fairly early in the blog blitz, I wrote something in response to the increased use of the word "unprecedented."  It's still worth a chuckle or two and should warm up the audience: I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means.

But, if you prefer something with more animals in it, you can read Henlet, A Sililoquoy

 Something Written by One of the GFF Denizens

I was asked if I would chose ONE blog post featuring the thoughts of one of our various Genuine Faux Farm residents.  Maybe a Farm Supervisor (cat), or one of the turkeys?  I thought this one by Crazy Maurice, the willow tree, was an excellent choice!

But it Wasn't Funny

What Kind of Farm is the Genuine Faux Farm?

Another person asked, if they were to share a blog post that might give someone an idea as to what the Genuine Faux Farm was like, what would it be?  They wanted to be able to point someone to a blog post that highlighted some of what we do so it was clear what our priorities were and how we grow produce or raise poultry.

The obvious choice is probably Pollinator Support in the Nooks and Crannies.  It's a list of ideas people can implement, it has nice photos and it is very accessible to most people.

But, I might prefer to point a person who knows a little bit about growing to Interplanting in Tomatoes because it gives a taste of more of the detail showing how we work at the Genuine Faux Farm.  

Best Postal History Sunday?

I think it might have been one of the people who asked one of the questions above.  They wanted to know which Postal History Sunday post they should share if a person expressed a little interest.  

I admit, I felt a little lost on that one because I am not always sure what appeals to everyone - especially with Postal History Sunday.  I finally decided on That Doesn't Seem Fair - a post that showed what happened when people did not pay all of the postage on letters to England in the 1860s.  It's actually a fairly easy read while still imparting information.  Responses from both those who enjoy the hobby and those who were merely curious were very positive for that one in particular.

One of Rob's Pesticide Action Network Posts?

The thing about the posts I write for PAN is that they are often some of the most refined pieces I put out because they receive editing and proofing passes by people other than myself.  Once in a while, something sneaks through - but not often!

Let me suggest one of the more recent posts even if it is not strongly 'pesticide related': We Need to Consider the Real Value of our Food

Something that Gives Insight as to Who Rob is

A surprising question I received was, "what post would you share if you wanted people to understand a little more about who you are and what makes you do what you do?"

Oh dear.   Um... almost all of them?

I will give you two.  The first is titled Quiet.  Those who are introverts apparently related well to it and those who are not can learn a little more about what makes an introvert tick.  

The second is Ever the Observer, it's a reminder to me and everyone else that what we do can leave an impression with others.  

 Your Favorite?

When I was asked this one my initial thought was - are you crazy?  How in the world could I select a favorite?  And yet, I keep coming back to this one:  Gifts Left on the Table

Every so often, I actually write something that I find myself going back to read when I need to build myself back up.  This has become one of those posts. 

The One You Wish Everyone Would Read?

This is also a very difficult question because it puts an awful lot of pressure on just one writing to represent everything I hope I can offer.  Until I realize that's not the question.  The question wasn't, "what is one blog that will outline all of the things you care about in a way that is written perfectly, is entertaining, and doesn't miss a trick?"  

I started with a group of five or six that might fit the bill, but when push comes to shove - I want you to read this one: Changing Minds

If you have been counting, you might realize that this list of posts I have referenced totals eleven.  Once again, this list goes to eleven - as so many of my listing posts have done over the years.  It must be instinctual, because I wasn't counting.  

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Year-Long Blog Blitz

On March 29, 2020, I sat down to write a blog outlining where we were at for our poultry plan for the 2020 growing season.  As I was writing that post, I realized I had our annual, April 1st post coming up and I had a request from someone who wanted to see some current pictures of the farm - which often makes for an easy-to-write blog post.

The pandemic was forcing us all to make changes in our lives.  Many things we had taken for granted were going to be removed from our list of options for some time - especially if we wanted to do our best to care for others.  I was realizing that I had the ability to, perhaps, help people (and myself) a little bit.  So, I had taken to making a daily post in a couple of postal history groups and I was putting out a daily "Gentle Reminder" on social media (there is another grouping of these Gentle Reminders here).  

It dawned on me that I had been able to put out a daily blog in a January 2019 blog blitz that several people indicated that they enjoyed.  So, I entered a personal project that has, apparently, not reached its conclusion.  Over 330 blog posts and one year later - the current blog blitz continues.

Why Bother?

It would be incorrect for me to say that that many blog posts did not take some effort to write.  There were, in fact, several times that I wondered if I had it in me to continue at this pace.  Then, suddenly, I would have five more ideas and they would somehow get done.  Not bad considering my initial goal was to make it through thirty days without missing a day.  I started March 30, 2020 and did not miss a day until July 1 - goal reached and exceeded.

At that point, I figured I would go back to an average of six to twelve posts a month as typically has happened since 2009 on this blog.  But, a strange thing happened and it kept going.

A cynical person might suggest that people, such as myself, who suddenly found themselves producing art, music and writing and sharing them online were doing so for the attention it would bring.  If that were the case for me, I should have stopped quite some time ago - this blog does not receive heavy traffic even after a year of posts.  And, you know what? That's fine because that wasn't my goal in the first place.

My main motivation was to do what I could to be one of the "helpers," rather than just a bystander - or worse, part of the problem.  So, what could I do?

Well, I'm not an award-winning author, and I won't be mistaken for a professional photographer - but I can do ok.  Most people don't live on a small, diversified farm, so that might drive a little interest and help people get out of a negative loop.  I have knowledge about a few subjects, so I can share some of those things and I have shown ability to help people learn in the past.  So, why not?  Maybe.  Just maybe.  It will help?

Did it Help?

Well, in many ways, this blog blitz turned out to be something that has helped me - even though I intended it to be a helper to others.  It was a relatively safe way for a normally introverted individual to express himself and consider how he felt about some pretty big things happening in the world.  It also gave me a chance to hone writing skills that I would need for my new job with Pesticide Action Network.  I could work out some ideas here before they would get refined for publication there.

As far as helping others?  Well, I get an encouraging word that indicates I have reached at least one person now and again in a positive way.  I am aware that I have family and good friends who will read these blogs semi-regularly and find something that reminds them that I care about them.  Sometimes, I get a response from someone I don't know as well, telling me they got something good out of whatever was shared.  Every once in a while, a post actually reaches 100 views, for whatever reason.

These are all indications to me that there is something of value here.  So, I have continued.  In a way, these are my letters to you to let you know that I am thinking about you and that I wish you well.  In another way, these are letters to myself, to remind me that I care and I want to always do better.  If you happen to make your own lessons from what is here, then fine.  We can ALL do better.

What's Next?

I must admit that I have been very hesitant to start feeling positive that we can move forward from the isolation that the pandemic required from us.  The natural world owes us nothing and it doesn't care whether or not we are tired of being cautious and careful in an effort to keep people healthy and not overwhelm our health professionals.  Viruses will do what they do and they do not necessarily follow guidelines, even if the CDC publishes them.

But, even if we remove some of the limitations on social interactions, I am not certain what it will mean for the Genuine Faux Farm blog.  At this point, I intend for the "blitz" itself to run a natural course.  When it gets to be too much of a chore - or I just don't have ideas to share - or it feels like it isn't serving a purpose anymore - I'll let it go and return to a post or two a week.

It won't mean that I care about everyone any less.  It just means I might be seeking a new way to show that I care.  Or - perhaps the introvert needs to recharge so he can get back at it again.

But for now, I am still enjoying offering up Postal History Sundays and Throwback Thursdays and Veg Variety Saturdays and whatever else I come up with.  If you happen to learn something new or if you just feel a little bit better about something because there is a picture of an iris in the blog post, I'll take it as a win and as something that is worthwhile.

Be well everyone.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Business, Madness & Social Betterment - Postal History Sunday

It's the last Sunday of March and we have another edition of Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog!  Let's see if we can learn something new.

I do feel it is important for me to remind all of you that if your Sunday is busy, you can still enjoy Postal History Sunday on any day of the week.  Whenever it is that you find time to join us, make sure you take those troubles and worries and pretend they are a sheet of paper.  Fold that paper in half as many times as you can until it's really, really small!  Then, flick it to the floor so the cat can play with it.  It won't take long before you can't find those troubles anymore (until you decide to clean under the fridge).


This week's entry starts with a simple business letter that was sent from Paris, France to Geneve, Switzerland in 1879.  Like many of the business letters of the time, the content was simply folded over on itself for mailing, no envelope was used.  Postal historians refer to these as folded letters or folded lettersheets (we can be so clever sometimes!).

This item is actually newer than many of the things I collect.  Yes, it seems odd to say it is newer and then point out that it is from 1879, but it is nonetheless true.  Most of the things that interest me are mailed prior to the mid 1870s.  The General Postal Union (GPU) was formed in 1875 and it set standards and postage rates between many of the nations of the world.  By the time we get to 1879, the GPU was now the Universal Postal Union (UPU).  Most postal entities were a part of this agreement by the time this letter was mailed between France and Switzerland.

This letter was mailed at a rate of 25 centimes for every 15 grams.  It was sent from the Gare du Nord post office in Paris on July 18, 1879 and it was on a train in Switzerland the next day.  There is no specific marking telling me when the Geneve post office accepted the item for delivery.

Gare du Nord was (and is) a train station in Paris that served as the terminus for the Paris-Lille railway run by the Chemin de Fer du Nord (essentially Northern Railway).  The train station building being used at the time would have been the second such building with this name.  The first being replaced by this one in 1865.  This train station is still in service as of this writing and can be seen below.

This recent photo of the Gare du Nord was taken from the Paris by Train site on March 18, 2021.

Traveling Post Offices

As international mail became more standardized with the GPU and then the UPU and as the number of mail train routes increased in France and Switzerland, the postal services also simplified the markings they put on each item of letter mail.  

For this particular piece of mail, we have a postmark on the front for when the item was brought to the Gare du Nord on July 18.  Well, actually, we have that same marking twice.  One is used to deface the postage stamp so it can't be used again and the other is on the envelope.  I suppose the second strike is so the recipient can see when the French postal service got the letter for mailing.

The only other postal marking is the "ambulant" marking on the back.  An ambulant marking is also known as a marking for a Traveling Post Office (TPO).  Most trains that carried the mail had a mail car with a clerk who had the duty of processing mail and making sure it off-loaded at the proper train stations.  And, yes, they were also responsible to taking on additional mail at each stop.

 This photo was taken from the Postal Museum site referenced below on March 18, 2021.

If this interests you, the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum has an excellent online article that shows how a mail clerk in the United States was able to snag mailbags without the train stopping!  I suspect their European counterparts may well have done the same for some locations.   The photo above shows a clerk snagging a mail bag (look closely for the hook and the mailbag by the doorway). 

The marking on the back of the letter reads: Ambulant 19 VII 79 243 No 2.

The first three parts are the date (July 19, 1879) and it is likely the rest identifies the train and/or the postal clerk.  The only clues we have for the routing of this mail are that it was mailed at the Gare du Nord post office in Paris and that it was on this train in Switzerland.  

This is, perhaps, one of the reasons I take a little less joy in mail after 1875 - there is so much less for me to read on each piece of mail!  There were numerous possible routes for it to get from here to there and we have fewer clues to help us take that journey.

But there is still plenty to explore!  If there weren't we wouldn't feature this item on Postal History Sunday, would we?

Lebaudy Freres

The folded letter contains an invoice for product (refined sugar) sold to Cottier & Matthey in Geneve.

Lebaudy Freres (Gustave and Jules) were a very large and successful Sugar Refinery that was located north of Paris.  The two brothers made a significant fortune and some tidbits I picked up as I read about this business suggested that there may have been a number of dubious practices with respect to their workers.  Another odd little fact that came to light was that their company used a significant amount of gas for their refinery operations.

Gustave was apparently the head of the company and also an elected member of the National Assembly from 1876 to 1885.  He was linked to the death of Leon Gambetta in 1882 - though I do not know if this was deserved or not - and he lost re-election in 1885.  However, he was again elected in 1889.

The photo below of Gustave Lebaudy is from Wikimedia commons.

Without knowing the details of the situation, it is tempting to point to this as an historical example of the short attention span the public often has when it comes to political figures.  One could claim that it was possible that he was never linked to Gambetta's death and the public was now informed of that truth - but it is more likely that the public had simply moved on from the prior scandal. 

(information from Henry Coston, "Dictionary of the bourgeois dynasties and the business world" - Editions Alain Moreau, 1975, p.343)

The Generations that Follow

Gustave had two sons who apparently took over the business.  These two decided that they would expand into the building of semi-rigid airships (zeppelins or blimps).  The sugar refinery business continued until 1960 when it was purchased by rival Sommier, but it seems that the two sons of Gustave had plenty of energy for the airships and probably left the running of the refinery to subordinates.

In any event, Paul and Pierre Lebaudy worked with engineer Henri Julliot to build a dirigible that ended up being purchased by the French military in 1904, only a couple of years after they proved its abilities with a first flight.

The publication "Flight" of July 24, 1909 reported that the British government was looking to add dirigibles, including the possibility of ordering some from the Lebaudy brothers.  This article reports that the French and others were already in possession of airships developed by them.

It might be tempting to presume that most of the rigid airship development in the early 1900s focused around the German Zeppelins (like the Hindenburg) that were so prominent in the 1930s.  However, there was concurrent development in France, the United Kingdom and the United States during this period as well.  The Lebaudy airships are often overlooked in summaries of airship development, but they were, apparently, able to make some sales.

Mad Jacques

Gustave might have been proud of his sons' accomplishments in air technology, but I wonder if Jules would be as pleased with his son, Jacques.  Jacques took his sizable inheritance and became the subject of no small amount of mockery.  In 1903, he recruited 400 mercenaries and claimed a piece of Morocco (near Cape Juby) as his new "Empire of the Sahara."

The photo below was taken from this blog article by Darren D'Addario, featuring an old print article on Jacques Lebaudy.

Jacques made a "royal visit" to London later in 1903 and was lampooned by PG Wodehouse. This Emperor's Song was published in the Daily Chronicle on October 2, 1903.

The following is the content in the Chronicle:
M. Jacques Lebaudy, “Emperor of the Sahara,” arrived in London on Monday for the purpose of purchasing agricultural implements for his colonists, and is staying at the Savoy Hotel, inaccessible to interviewers and tradesmen. “His Majesty” has been out on several occasions, but always contrives to escape observation.]

The lot of an emperor is one
Your comfort-loving man should shun;
It’s wholly free from skittles, beer,
And other things designed to cheer.
There are worries small, and worries great,
Private worries and worries of state,
But the one that most distresses me
Is the terrible lack of privacy.
It rather tries my temper, for
I’m such a retiring Emperor.

In the Savoy I sit all day
Wishing people would go away;
Cross, disgusted, wrapped in gloom,
I daren’t go out of my sitting-room.
Every minute fresh callers call.
There are men on the stairs and men in the hall,
And I go to the door, and I turn the key,
For everyone of them’s after me.
Which is exasperating for
A rather retiring Emperor.

There are strenuous journalistic crews,
Begging daily for interviews;
There arc camera fiends in tens and scores,
Philanthropists and other bores,
Men who are anxious to sell me hats,
Waistcoats, boots, umbrellas, and spats,
Men who simply yearn to do
Just whatever I want them to.
Which causes me annoyance, for
I’m such a retiring Emperor.

Of course “the compliment implied
Inflates me with legitimate pride,”
But often I feel, as my door I bar,
That they carry their compliments much too far.
That sort of thing becomes a bore
To a really retiring Emperor.

Lebaudy and his family moved to the United States in 1908 and he became increasingly erratic, threatening the life of his wife and daughter on multiple occasions.  In the end, it was his wife who ended his life and the authorities decided not to press charges against her.  According to some sources, the tipping point was Jacques' insistence that he needed a male heir by his own daughter.
The story of Jacques Lebaudy and the Empire of the Sahara is actually a fairly easy one to track down as there have been multiple retellings that reside on the internet.  A couple of the blogs listed in the final section also provide more detail regarding Jacques and his brother, Max (who died of tuberculosis in 1895), and the plight of workers in the sugar refineries.

Like Father Like Son?
Perhaps, the apple did not fall so far from the tree?   Jules (Jacques' father) owned many properties in Paris and was known for stock trading manipulations that may well have contributed to a 'stock crash' in 1882 that led to a significant depression lasting to the end of the decade.  In both the case of Jules (the father) and Jacques (the son), there was no lack of money and clearly plenty of desire to manipulate things to suit their own whims.
(see White, Eugene, The Crash of 1882 and the Bailout of the Paris Bourse, Springer-Verlag, 2006.)

A New Hero - Saving the Best for Last
Perhaps bad can bring about good?  My favorite story that comes from exploring this business letter happens to be that of Amicie Lebaudy, Jules' spouse (born Marguerite Amicie Piou, 1847).
Amicie wrote books under the pseudonym Guillaume Dall and engaged in some philanthropic activities while her husband lived.  After the crash of 1882 and Jules' death in 1892, Amicie created (anonymously) the Groupe de Maisons Overieres (Workers Housing Group Foundation).  Not only were affordable houses created, it was her goal to create a healthy 'habitat' for those who lived in them.  The foundation is still in operation today.

Of particular interest is the statement on the foundation's site that Amicie wanted to avoid placing the name "Lebaudy" on the foundation because "Lebaudy was synonymous with money ill-gotten."

In the process of digging, I found this interesting blog post by Laurence Picot (in French) that also explores this family history, starting with Amicie.   

From his post, we have this paragraph (translated to English):

"Today, in 2017, we stroll through the streets of Paris and we can identify on the facades of magnificent real estate groups the sculpted and anonymous woman who holds out a handkerchief or an olive branch to women, children, and the poor. Her foundation still exists and continues to build low-rent housing. There are 2400 units now, in Paris and the suburbs, and 86 workshops. About 6,500 people live inexpensively in spacious, sunny apartments with a style that one might consider classy."

Another useful online article by A Boutillon provides even more insight (also translated from French):

"In her retirement from Saint-Cloud, Amicie had begun to write.  In 1893 she published, under the pseudonym of Guillaume Dall, a first work entitled "La Mère Angélique, abbesse de Port-Royal, her correspondence .”  In the years that followed, she wrote seven or eight others, mostly essays and some children's' books. At the same time, having decided not to keep her husband's legacy, she became one of the greatest philanthropists of her time. She financed anonymously, her name not to be revealed until after her death, the purchase of land and the construction, between 1900 and 1905, of a new hospital for the Pasteur Institute, and provided grants for students without resources."

It is said that part of the motivation for funding the hospital was in response to her son Max's demise from tuberculosis.  The photo of the statue comes from Boutillon's article which indicates that the bust is actually located at the Pasteur Institute.

I may have just acquired a new hero to add to my list of amazing people who have graced this good earth.  Well done, Amicie.  Well done.


Sugar refineries, business letters, airships, politics, scandal and good works.  This Postal History Sunday may have outdone itself!  I hope you enjoyed your time reading this entry and perhaps you learned something new.

There are numerous resources throughout the text this week and I'm just going to ask you to take them if you wish to learn more.  I'm going to be 'lazy' and not repeat them in a resources section this week.  Have a fine remainder of the day and I hope your week goes well!

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Little Things

I remember being assigned a short story to read in 9th grade that comes back to visit my brain every so often.  I have no recollection of the title or the author, but I remember the premise.

We follow an individual through a day where they are feeling good and take pleasures in small things, like the feel of feet on the sidewalk on a sunny, pleasant day.  They take advantage of various opportunities to do something nice for others.  Of course, it was nice enough to read, but I was wondering what the point of it was until we arrive at this person's home and they compare notes with their partner.

The partner had taken the opposite approach, taking pleasure in the fact that they probably got someone fired (among other things).  And, the story ends where they agree to switch tomorrow....

Let's just say I had some problems with that whole premise.  But, I suspect that was the whole point.

Permission to Enjoy the Simple or Mundane

Aside from the shock value of two people deciding to take turns as to which gets to do nice or not so nice, I actually think more about the story before the 'big reveal.'   The main character takes notice of and appreciates a series of things that may not seem like that much of a big deal - and it seems to improve their happiness.

How often do you (and I) tell ourselves that it is absurd to be pleased with something because it is too simple, too easy, or just not really all that important?  

We probably do this at least as often as we let something small irritate us and make us unhappy.

I tell you what - I hereby grant myself AND you permission to truly enjoy the little things too so we can offset all of the molehills we turn into mountains when we're not happy with what is going on.

Some Little Things

I was tempted to title this section "stupid little things," but thought better of it.  Why?  Because, if I do that, I am still not giving myself permission to actually enjoy them without apology.  There is no reason to apologize here!  We can just let ourselves be happy with some little things.  

Don't make it more complicated.  Don't worry about what anyone else thinks.

I found a mechanical pencil that feels REALLY good when I write with it.  The lead doesn't break and it feels sturdy enough that it will last for a long time (as long as I keep track of it).  I like it.  That makes me happy.

I walked out to the East fields the day before it started raining.  I walked on an area where we planted some annual ryegrass as a cover crop last Fall/early Winter.  The ground felt springy and wasn't muddy.  It felt really nice to walk on and I could imagine the health of the soil beneath my feet.  I liked it.  It made me happy.

There are tiny little crocus flowers blooming amidst some grassy weeds by our front entrance to the house.  The bright yellow color offset all of the browns (and the weeds that are turning green).  They looked... happy.  I liked them.

There's this piece of music that features piano and cello.  The cello plays a beautiful turn in a musical phrase that makes me think about good things.  I like it and it makes me happy. 

I challenge you to make a list of three little things that have made you happy recently.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Brown Bagging It

Here at the farm, we encourage self-sufficiency. Cubbie, one of our Farm Supervisor Emeriti (she's now at the Grand Hunting Grounds in the afterlife), understood this quite well.

Yes, we do feed the outdoor cats every day - but just once in the morning, and not too much. We do need them to help with rodent control.  But, we also need them to maintain some level of self-sufficiency because life outside requires a certain amount of toughness.  Yes, we are kinder with the food in the colder months and have been known to bring the outdoor contingent into the basement in extreme cold.  So, before you think us heartless, even our Farm Supervisors will tell you otherwise.

Or maybe they won't.  They're cats.

If Cubbie caught a rodent and we were around, she would meow to get our attention and our praise. Normally, she would wait until we skritched her and told her how wonderful she was. Then we would inform her we did not want to eat her prize - at which point, she typically ate it in our presence. Nice.

Things were a bit different on this particular day in 2009. She'd just had her breakfast that we had provided her and Doughboy (another Farm Supervisor Emeritus). She managed to catch a mouse. She yodeled for attention. She got it. I went to do something somewhere else. Some time later, she appeared there - with the mouse - and asked for more praise. She got it.

I went somewhere else and the same thing happened. I left for town to run an errand or three. I came back. She was in a new location, with the same mouse nearby.

She'd been carrying that mouse around like a brown bag lunch all morning. Never know when she might be hungry.

While I was never certain as to her motivation for carrying the mouse around I did know one thing.

If she offered to share again, I was still going to decline.  


The original blog post of this Throwback entry was in March of 2009.  I took the time to add some photos and additional material to what was a very short and sweet blog post. I hope you found it to be enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Goals Week - Reconnecting

The whole idea of a "Goals Week" on the blog comes from my own belief that there is a certain strength in the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I tell myself, and others, that I expect to succeed in crossing the fine line and regaining enjoyment in farming at the Genuine Faux Farm, then I tend to believe I will be more likely to succeed in doing just that.

It's not magic.  It's not naive.  It's simply a calculated effort to figure out what might make us feel like we are successful and then remind ourselves of those goals as we work and make adjustments this year.  Also, if we remind ourselves that we are capable of succeeding, it will build our confidence and improve our stamina for a season that is going to have struggles.

Hey, they all do.

Connecting Production to Need

Ever since the Genuine Faux Farm was started (2004/5) we worked to serve a community of local customers by being their personal farmers.  We did what so many other small, diversified farms have done for years (and will continue to do - hopefully).  We worked hard and did our best to provide good, healthy food at a reasonable price in hopes that people would benefit from the food and the connection they got with the growers and the land.

Part of our motivation to do this came from our prior interest in gardening and growing good food for ourselves.  But, the bigger part of our motivation was the feeling that this area was under-served when it came to local foods.  With the excellent soil at the small farm we had moved to and our interest in growing, we felt we had the resources to try to be part of the solution.  There was a need and we felt we could fill some of that need.

In fact, we did our best to fill that role for more than fifteen years.

We still believe that need exists, even if the demand appeared to be faltering until the pandemic gave it a boost (and we hope that continues - the boost, not the pandemic).  However, our resources have been changing, which means we aren't in the position to fill that particular need anymore.

But, we still are called to fill needs in ways that we are able given our new realities.

New Connections from Old

From the very start, we decided that we would favor open-pollinated varieties of produce whenever it was feasible to do so.  We often favored heirloom varieties and usually sourced the seed for those varieties from Seed Savers.

The practical reason for favoring Seed Savers was that much of their seed was raised in our region, which means there is some regional adaptation that would favor our growing.  This is not to say we haven't had success from other quality seed houses such as High Mowing, Johnny's, Fedco and Territorial.  But, the first three are located in Maine and the fourth is in the Pacific Northwest.  I think it is fair to state that their growing needs do not match ours in Northeast Iowa.

The philosophical reason?  We believe that by growing heritage and open-pollinated varieties, we support seed diversity and we protect the ability of farmers to raise their own seed should they decide to do so.  Proprietary hybrid seeds limit farmer options and often put them at the mercy of larger seed producers.  And, of course, there is also the tendency of growers to all flock to the 'hottest' varieties.  When everyone grows the same thing, then everyone tends to lose it all when things go bad and there is too much of a good thing all at the same time when the season goes well.

This year, we are making a new connection for our farm based on the old connections that encouraged us to pursue open-pollinated and heritage seed.  We will be growing out Napoleon Sweet bell peppers, A&C Pickling cucumbers and Black Valentine green beans for Seed Savers in 2021.  These are all varieties we are familiar with and we know we can grow well at the Genuine Faux Farm.  

This is an exciting and energizing new option for us at our farm.  We are looking forward to the challenges that come with it and we see ourselves as filling a need with the resources we now have.  It really is a good thing when your values and your work align.

Connecting to a Specific Need

Even prior to the pandemic, Tammy and I were increasingly aware and concerned by the levels of food insecurity in our state and throughout the world.  In the past, we would donate left-over produce to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank after farmers' markets or CSA deliveries when a connection could be made.  While that's nice, we could see that there were a number of logistical issues that come from unplanned and haphazard fresh produce donations.

And, let's be honest.  While the produce was good quality, it was still the left-overs after people had selected what they wanted.  In fact, I've been thinking about this issue for many years, especially after I overheard a person at a farmers' market say, "Oh, they're those 'organic people,' their vegetables aren't for the likes of us..."

Say what?  Quality produce should be for everyone.  In fact, if we want to help people who are struggling, they may be the very people who need top quality, certified organic produce the most.

Then, I read a well-written blog (which I cannot find again - oops) by a single mother who qualifies for various helping programs.  She points out that there is a very good reason why many of these programs fail to encourage people who must eat on a shoestring to eat healthy foods.  The reason?  Many of these programs fail to put tasty, quality vegetables and fruits into the hands of their clients.  Over-ripe and bruised fruits or spinach that wouldn't sell if it were in a store because it is past prime are not good ways to make fans out of children or people who are already skeptical.

Here, eat this spinach, it's good for you.  Sorry it tastes like crap, but if you just find a way to earn a little more money you could buy the good stuff.  Honest, the premium stuff tastes good AND is good for you.  For now, just pick out the brown and slimy leaves and then go get a better job....

So, we have an opportunity.  That opportunity?  Grow out our broccoli crops, something else our farm is particularly good at, and contract with the food bank to bring fresh, organic vegetables to them when it is ripe and ready.  I apologize in advance to those who use the food bank's services that do not like broccoli.  But, maybe it's because they haven't gotten the good stuff?  Well, folks, you deserve the good stuff as much as anyone else and now we have an opportunity to bring some of it to you.

Still Connected to Community

The beauty of our CSA model was that we were able to serve as personal farmers for all sorts of wonderful people.  Many of them still buy eggs and poultry and veggies from us today.  They have given us support when we need it and have shown us grace when it was necessary.

The current trend is that many of our customers are less interested in receiving a subscription of produce on a weekly basis than they seemed to be in the past.  Feedback tells us that most people would prefer having some access to a few key items when they wanted it.  In particular, many pointed out that they relied the most on the eggs and poultry from our farm.

Rather than struggle mightily trying to continue to be what we once were, we are taking the steps to be excellent at what we can be in the future.  We proved to ourselves that we can continue with the poultry operation using the current model and we know that we can offer excess produce to people when we do have it and it will be appreciated.  It won't be ten to twelve different things every week.  It will be one and rarely two items at any given time - and sometimes none.

You know when tomato season comes, we'll have more than we can eat and we can offer heirloom tomatoes to our customers and to the food bank.  We'll grow Wapsi Peach and Jaune Flamme snack tomatoes and Tammy really won't be able to eat every one of them!  And we know the green beans will come in batches that far outstrip our own need.  

It's going to be a good year with an exciting new approach for the Genuine Faux Farm.  We're looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Goals Week - Recrossing the Fine Line

Yesterday, I wrote about the fine line between enjoying something you do and losing that enjoyment.  One of our goals for 2021 is to regain our enjoyment of growing.   

I believe we have good reason to be optimistic because we have some things working in our favor.  First, we have experience as growers, so it is not like we are endeavoring in an entirely new activity.  We have some idea of what we like and don't like.  We are aware of some things that might work and others that probably won't.  This is not just Farmer Delusional Syndrome at work here.  We have some real ideas as to how we might recross the fine line and find more pleasure in our work for the coming growing season.

Concentrate on the High Tunnels

Our high tunnels, Valhalla and Eden, have been a bright spot for us more often than not since Eden went up in 2010 and Valhalla in 2015.  But, there is a limit to how much we can manage to do on this farm.  In the last few years we have failed to take full advantage of our high tunnels in part because we were trying to do too much EVERYWHERE on the farm.  

It is no secret to everyone that we are ambitious and we set high goals for ourselves.  It should also not be a surprise that with the absence of paid workers in 2020 (and in 2021) and our desire to not spend every living hour as a working hour, we have to change our priorities and our boundaries.

The best thing about the high tunnels is that we can work around inclement weather much more easily.  With both of us having off-farm jobs, we can't always say when we will have time to work in the fields.  However, we can go into Valhalla and plant things even when it is raining.  The exception, of course, is during the heat of the day when the sun is strongest.  But, we can deal with that.

This year, two of our favorite crops to grow, tomatoes and peppers, will be entirely within the high tunnels to avoid possible dicamba damage.  We won't be growing more of these plants in the high tunnels, but we won't be putting any outside of them either.

In the case of other crops, we will back off of full rows of some crops and run a diversity in row of things we want a little bit of.  For example, we have full rows of carrots and beets in the picture above.  We won't be needing that, so we won't plant that way in that bed.  We won't grow a full row of Minnesota Midget melons, but we will grow a wide variety of melons we enjoy in that same row.  Maybe we'll throw in a cucumber or three too.

The ultimate goal here is to make both of our high tunnels into "fields we like being in."  Those will be successful fields.

Reduce Harvest Windows

One of the difficult things about our CSA and fresh to consumer model was the fact that we were harvesting, cleaning, packing, distributing and then cleaning up 32 to 38 weeks of the year - usually more than one time per week.  One work evaluation I made in 2016 showed that we spent 47 labor hours preparing for, executing and cleaning up from our deliveries during a random week in June.

That does not include planting, cultivating, weeding, poultry chores, record keeping, marketing tasks, equipment maintenance and a myriad other things we must do in a typical June week.  If I (Rob) work full time and we hire in two to three people, that's one thing.  But, what happens when I have another job and we add no workers?

Now, before you think I am incredibly down on our previous model, let me assure you that it worked for us for a time.  It was the right thing to do up to a certain point and now it is no longer the right thing for us to be doing.

So, we are working to remove the stresses and demands that model put on us.  If we no longer feel a need to fill vegetable shares a couple of times every week, things suddenly feel a good bit more doable.  Instead of trying to plant green beans so we are harvesting them almost continuously, we can target a few 'high times' for harvest and maybe bring in helpers for each peak harvest.  

Limit the Critical and Identify Gravy

One of the issues with trying to fill diverse shares of produce on a weekly basis or filling a farmers market table two to three times a week is that you increase the number of crops that are "critical" for your success.  Think about it.  If I tell you that you will get a nice, diverse box of produce every week, you have to know that I'll do my level best to do that well - and that requires LOTS of crops to be successful enough to fill your box and everyone else's.  If my farmers' market table doesn't have an attractive set of produce, I won't get any sales.

Once we remove the pressure of continuous production, we can select a subset of crops as our 'critical' crops.  The rest of the crops?  Well, if they succeed, they are "gravy!"  If they fail, we can be quicker to terminate them and move on because we did not need them to define the success of our season and satisfy our customers.

As you know, we value diversity on our farm.  That will remain true even with our new model.  In fact, I wonder if we might actually have a healthier diversity on our farm when the pressure to continuously produce food is lifted.

This year, we will grow out three crops for seed (Seed Savers).  We will grow out two crops for the Food Bank specifically and we will have a couple more for an institutional account.  The rest?  Gravy!

Giving Our Likes More Weight

And finally, the icing on the cake.  We are allowing ourselves the opportunity to give more weight to growing some things the two of us really, really like.

I actually enjoy growing broccoli.  My mood noticeably lifts each season when the broccoli harvest starts coming in.  Yes, I like eating broccoli, but it is nowhere near my favorite veggie.  It's the process of successfully growing broccoli and sharing it that I thoroughly enjoy.  And, guess what?  We'll be growing a nice, big batch of broccoli for the Food Bank.  How cool is that?

We love eating fresh green beans.  In fact, beans ARE my favorite veggie!  So, we will grow a couple of healthy rows to be sure we have plenty for us and plenty to freeze.  In the process, there will be more than we need - and that is fine!  But, we don't have to worry about getting everyone in a 100 member CSA a pound of beans every other week.  We won't be trying to break our 1000 pounds of green beans in a single season record - that is for certain.  We get them, when we get them.  We eat a bunch, we freeze a bunch and we sell a bunch - then we move on.  It's all good.

I want to eat a Hearts of Gold melon.  So, we'll plant five to ten plants instead of the 70 to 100 we've put in some years.  If we get one - we'll eat and enjoy it.  If we get 20, we'll eat 19 and give one to someone else....  Ok.  That might be too much melon for us to eat in one sitting.  We'll give two away.

I don't mind growing a few carrots.  But, we don't have to grow a 200 foot long, five foot wide bed of them.  In fact, if we don't want to grow them, we know someone else who likely will and we can trade.  

Here's to a growing season that gets our juices flowing again and sets us up for future successes.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Goals Week - Back to Enjoying Growing

"What motivated you to start the Genuine Faux Farm?  I mean, you got your degree to teach Computer Science and Tammy has her doctorate in Social Work Education and neither of you grew up on a farm.  How did you get to where you are now?"

This is a popular question that gets asked often when I present to classes, or if one or the other of us is being interviewed.  In fact, I have had a few people ask if I would write on how our thinking brought us to where we are today.  I thought I would honor that request - but I suspect it won't come in the package that might be expected.  I thought I would address some of that topic while writing about some of our goals for the 2021 season at the Genuine Faux Farm throughout the week.

The Fine Line

With all things, there is a fine line between having the opportunity to do something you love and becoming overwhelmed by that thing so that you no longer enjoy it as you once did.  There aren't giant blinking signs that go off when you straddle that line either.  Essentially, you just meander by it on the way from here to there and, if you are lucky, you notice that you are getting numb.  Noticing means you can actually do something to correct course!

That doesn't mean you no longer love what you are doing and it certainly doesn't mean there aren't moments where there is still enjoyment and positive feelings.  That fine line is not an "on-off switch" either.  But, failure to recognize that you're on the wrong side of the fine line can lead to the regrettable - the evolution of something that once gave you joy to something that now only causes pain and regret. 

I feel that we crossed that line some years ago with the farm and we have been meandering our way back to the borderlands.  

First, let me point out that there isn't a straight or simple path that we can follow either.  The Genuine Faux Farm has grown, just as Rob and Tammy have grown over time - and in that growth we have meandered within the bounds of an overall plan we set for ourselves.  We could not foresee all of the paths or pre-determine which opportunities were going to lead to success and happiness in what we were doing.  Similarly, we couldn't predict all of the difficulties that would steal satisfaction away and leave us standing on the downhill slope and on the wrong side of that fine line.

What We Enjoy

I think I speak for both of us when I say that we both like to get our hands in the dirt and we like to see the plants we nurture thrive.  It doesn't matter whether it is a tree, a bush, a flower or a vegetable/fruit.  We also love to see birds and hear them singing as we spend our time outdoors.  And the textures, smells and sounds of the weather around us can be fascinating.

If you are a grower, I think you'll understand that the biggest part of it is - being a part of it.  

There are few things more beautiful than a row of green beans that are just putting on their first flush of beans for harvest.  Unless it is that row of lettuce that is at peak size, shape and color.  Or maybe it's the melons that carpet their growing area between the borage and zinnias, showing off the yellow flowers asking to be pollinated so they can grow us some tasty melons.  Or maybe an iris with multiple flower stalks laden with their color - unless it's the daylilies later in the year or the asters towards the end of the year.

There are discoveries to be made every day too!  

The bull snake that surfed over the broccoli plants to get from one end of a field to the other.  The volunteer chleome plants at the end of a plot that we just had to let grow.  A new texture of leaf for that lettuce we thought we would try.  A frog bobbing in the black tub that holds water drained from our cleaning area.  A rainbow.  A new story to tell.  A surprise that you actually like Golden Beets.  Oh look you can grow Brussels Sprouts and, huh, you really don't want to grow Brussels Sprouts!

Add to all of that the fact that both of our personalities like challenges, puzzles and a wide range of jobs to do (maybe Rob more than Tammy on this front) and a small, diversified farm has the right people to work it.

That's the first part of our answer to the question at the top of this blog - our personalities tend to match up with running a farm like this as do some of the things we enjoy doing.

Re-Crossing the Fine Line

As a mentioned, somewhere along the way - we lost our way.  There can be such a thing as too much of a good thing.  And, there has to be recognition that we, as humans, are pretty complex when it comes to what we like and what we don't like.  Those two things can look pretty similar sometimes.

The point is, we are aware that we still like many of these things and we have some ideas as to why we have been liking them less.  Some of the factors have less to do with us (chemical drift, changing weather with more heavy rain events, declining demand) and more to do with how the world around us is working right now.  Some of it has to do with reaching "saturation points" where we can't enjoy what we have because there is too much of certain things - challenge isn't good if there isn't success to balance failure, for example.

Right now, we take our recognition that we had crossed the fine line as a blessing.  It means we can do things to get back to that line and do our best to be as near to it as we can - without crossing.  Because that's how we know we are trying to be at our best.

This week, I thought we would share some of the things we are looking forward to during the 2021 growing season.  By sharing them, I suspect I will find myself anxious and excited to get out there and get things growing again.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

For What Ails You - Postal History Sunday

Once more you find yourself visiting the Genuine Faux Farm blog to read the most recent edition of Postal History Sunday.   If you are new here, you are most welcome!  If you are returning, you know what to do!  Please grab a snack and a beverage and pull up your favorite chair to join the rest of us.  Maybe we'll learn something new?

Oh - and before we get started, we need to take those worries and troubles and spread them on the bottoms of your shoes.  Put those shoes on and walk around outside for a few minutes until you've successfully wiped them off and you can't recognize them anymore.

There - now we're ready!


The 1893 Columbian Issue

Like so many collectors of United States stamps, I always held the 1893 issue that commemorated the landing of Columbus as something I would love to obtain a complete set of someday.  This is a tall order because there are sixteen different stamps in the group and the last five have denominations of $1 through $5.  That translates to a significant chunk of change if you want to collect a whole set.  Why?  Well, they don't cost a couple of dollars anymore - they can cost a lot of dollars!

The most common denomination is the 2 cent stamp.  There were lots and LOTS of these printed and you can find pretty much as many of them as you would like if you wish without spending much money at all.  And, if you would like to collect postal history with that stamp, you can do just fine on a shoestring budget.

For example, here is a fairly common piece of mail from Stoughton, Wisconsin to Madison mailed in the 1890s.  I like it because we used to live in Madison and we had friends living in Stoughton.  There's a personal connection which makes it a little more interesting for me.

I have a long-standing goal to see if I can find a piece of postal history showing each of the Columbian stamps that have a denomination UNDER the $1 value.  I suspect I won't allow myself to spend what it would take to get those with $1 and up denominations - and I am okay with that.  And, the majority of the items with dollar values fail to show payment of an actual postage rate.  They were often mailed to a collector and overpaid the postage needed.  That typically doesn't interest me either.

After all, there is enough of a challenge (and reward) finding the lower value stamps properly paying a postage rate as it is!

Along Comes the Otis Clapp & Son Correspondence

If you are a postal historian, you recognize that we owe a debt to those who kept all of their old envelopes and wrappers and we owe an equal debt to the subsequent caretakers of this material who eventually allowed someone else to take them for collecting purposes rather than burning them!

Recently, there have been a fair number of items coming out that were addressed to or sent from Otis Clapp & Son.  Most of the material appears to be the address and postage portions of packages that were wrapped in the typical brown paper used for parcels at that time.

Above is a package front addressed to Otis Clapp & Son of Providence, Rhode Island.  Total postage is 45 cents, including a 30 cent and 6 cent Columbian issue stamp.

Unfortunately, the mute cancels are smudged and unreadable if they had any words on them in the first place.  And, since there is no return address on this package piece we cannot ascertain where it was mailed from, nor can we be absolutely certain as to the year it was mailed.  However, it is a fairly safe bet that this item was mailed in 1893 simply because the 1 cent and 2 cent issues are from the stamp series that was commonly found at post offices from 1890 to 1893.  A new series of these with slightly different designs was issued in 1894.  The stamps with most common use (such as these low value stamps) tend to make their appearance on postal history items closer to their dates of issue.  If this package were mailed in 1895, for example, we would expect the designs of the 1 and 2 cent stamps to match that new series.

Wait!  You want to know what I mean by a "mute cancel?"  

Let me remind you of this stamp:

The oval cancel has city name "Boston" across the top.  If you look at the oval cancels on the package wrapper, you will see no indication as to the town and there doesn't appear to be a date either.  They have nothing to say - hence they are mute.  It's not my term, but it is the one used in the hobby to indicate that no city or date is included in the postal marking.

Internal Fourth-Class Mail 1879-1912

Since these are package fronts, we cannot be certain, but it is a good, educated guess, that the contents fit the definition of fourth-class mail.  Essentially, anything that was not classified as first, second or third class mail fell into this final class of items that could be sent via the postal service.  This included various merchandise, including the types of materials Otis Clapp and Son might ship out or receive. 

The rate was very simple - 1 cent for every ounce up to 4 pounds and was effective from May 1, 1879 to December 31, 1912.  Thus, the item above would have weighed 45 ounces (2 lbs 13 oz)

A similar, third-class mail rate was 1 cent for every 2 ounces and was applied to all types of printed matter packages, such as books, circulars and newspapers.  It too, had a 4 pound limit, which eliminates it as a possibility for the package front shown above (at this rate, it would have weighed over five pounds).

The item shown above is franked only by a 15 cent Columbian stamp and is likely an example of a 15 ounce package mailed at the fourth-class rate.  However, we cannot rule out the possibility that this was printed matter carried in a wrapper - and it could have been a third-class rate.  We'll never know for certain, and that's just the way things are sometimes!

There are two options to describe this one:

  1. It was a catalog or some such printed item that weighed 30 ounces and was mailed as a third-class mail item.
  2. It was merchandise of some sort that weighed 15 ounces and was mailed at the fourth-class rate.

Thirty ounces is a pretty hefty catalog for a specialized company like J. Ellwood Lee and Co, so my guess is that this was also a fourth-class mail item.

Unlike the first item, we have no other other clues to help us determine a likely year of mailing and just like the first item, we have no postmarks that will help us.  However, a quick history of the J. Ellwood Lee Company gives us an idea that, perhaps, we should not be surprised if it was used somewhere in the 1893-1894 period.

J. Ellwood Lee Co

The J Ellwood Lee Company of Conshohockem, Pennsylvannia (say that town name three times fast!) was a well-known supplier of medical supplies, such as rubber gloves, ligatures, rubber tubing, as well as other medical equipment.  

John Ellwood Lee was born in 1860 and started the business in the attic of his parents' home in 1883.  By the time the Columbian Exposition came around (the time when the Columbian stamps were issued) in 1893 his company was quite well established.  J Ellwood Lee Company won five gold medals against international competition at the fair.  The company's involvement in the exposition doesn't make it hard to see why Columbian issue stamps might be on some of their mailings.

This article on the Pennsylvania Heritage site can provide more detail on J Ellwood Lee if you find that interesting. 

Oddly enough, Johnson & Johnson (yes, that Johnson & Johnson) purchased J. Ellwood Lee Company in 1905, placing Ellwood Lee onto its board of directors. 

Supposing this package held rubber tubing (not a bad guess giving Otis Clapp & Son's activities), 15 ounces could have held a decent bit of tubing.  Below is an invoice (that I do not own) that was on an online auction site.

The invoice shows an 1894 purchase of reels of silk - presumably used for stitches.  Given Otis Clapp & Son's focus as a pharmaceutical business and the advertising on the front, I think it more likely that the second package front carried some sort of rubber tubing.

Antikamnia Chemical Company

Above is an item that bears 51 cents in postage to carry a package that must have weighed three pounds and three ounces of weight.  Unlike the other two, this one was sent from Otis Clapp & Son to a customer in St Louis, Missouri - the Antikamnia Chemical Company.

Once again, we have a 1 cent stamp from the 1890-93 definitive issue that encourages me to believe that this, too, is an 1893-94 mailing.

The Antikamnia Chemical Company (established 1890) was known for its powder and tablet products to reduce pain.  The main ingredient, acetanilid, was sometimes mixed by this company with other active ingredients such as codeine, heroin and quinine.  The initial efficacy of acetanilid rested on a single German study of 24 patients, but the company is known for prolific advertising to maintain sales even after running afoul of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  

More may be read if you locate the second resource in the "Resource Section" at the end of this blog.

The bookmark shown above is not in my possession and was found as an offering on Etsy.  A person could also find advertising covers for this firm if there was interest.

Otis Clapp & Son

Otis Clapp first opened his retail homeopathic pharmacy in 1840 and the company Otis Clapp & Son was still operating until it was purchased in 2008.  Oddly enough, you can find the company advertising various homeopathic remedies over a long span of time AND you can find it listed as a publishing company.

By all accounts, Otis was a remarkable individual, serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, is listed as a founder for M.I.T., the Boston Female Medical College and an orphanage. 

Otis' son was also quite remarkable.  Dr. J. Wilkinson Clapp was as professor of pharmacy at the Boston University Medical School and put emphasis on research.  A decent outline of their history can be found at the Sue Young Histories site.  Sadly, the old Otis Clapp company site with the company history has been taken down, so I can no longer reference it.

Apparently, Otis Clapp bottles are a fairly popular collectors item.  These bottles were found on the Antiques Navigator site. 

What I find interesting in all of this is the connections these three pieces of postal history make within the medical and pharmaceuticals fields.  Clearly, Otis Clapp & Company was populated by exceptional people and the early stories surrounding that company are generally positive.  Similarly, J Ellwood Lee was seen in a good light - even by employees well after he could have been excused from personal interaction with the workers.  In both cases, the primary players saw significant success while being regarded as good and honorable individuals.

On the other hand, the founders of the Antikamnia Chemical Company could be said to have found financial success, but there is some question about the ethics and quality that went along with it all.  It could be interesting to uncover how Clapp and Lee might have felt about Antikamnia. 

But, perhaps we should get back to the postal history stuff now?

Why the Ugly Cancellations?

The postal markings available to us on these parcel fronts are far from helpful to the postal historian.  However, they did the job they were intended to do - deface the postage stamps so they could not be re-used.  

Most third and fourth class mail items were struck with cancellation devices that did not include a date and sometimes did not even indicate a city/town of origin.  In the fine book by Beecher and Wawrukiewicz (see resources), they suggest that these 'mute' cancels purposefully eliminated the date to not call attention to the speed of delivery of this type of mail.  

We need to remember that all sorts of things were being mailed in fourth-class.  Sometimes an item would simply have a mailing tag tied to it.  With all of the different sizes and shapes, shipping could provide some interesting puzzles for the postal service.  It is no wonder that it might take longer and it is understandable that they did not want to give customers any additional ammunition to complain about the speed of delivery.

Not all of these cancels were perfectly mute - often giving a town name.  It is possible these markings had such text, but I can't make it out if they did.

As far as the quality of the strikes are concerned, we can also surmise that the package surface was rarely as stable as a flat letter on a solid surface would be.  It does not take much of an experience with a stamping device to figure out exactly how hard it is to get a clean strike on an unevenly supported surface.


Thank you so much for joining me for this edition of Postal History Sunday!  

Some of you might take note that a prior version of this post appeared in the GFF Postal History Blog in November of 2020.   I took the time to add to the introduction and edit to make it more accessible to a wider audience - hopefully so anyone could read this and enjoy!

Have a great remainder of the weekend and I hope your upcoming week goes well!


H. Beecher and T. Wawrukiewicz, US Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999, 2nd ed.  ( a newer, third edition to 2011 is now available) 

Fiedler, William C. (1979). "Antikamnia: The Story of a Pseudo-ethical Pharmaceutical". Pharmacy in History. 21 (2): 59–72