Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Upcoming

The Genuine Faux Farm blog is going to be a little sparse for a time while I recover from the removal of my left kidney and the cancer that is contained in its tissues.  Perhaps I will be anxious to return to blogging sooner than I think as I recover.  But, I do think it is important that I remove almost daily blogging from my "to do" list for a while.

Here is the good news.  Prior to surgery, I wrote and queued up a Variety Show post for the next two Saturdays and a Postal History Sunday post for this weekend! 

I will make it a goal to write an update blog post one week after surgery on May 5.  It might be short - but it would be something.

Until then, be well.  Be kind to each other.  Remember to stop and greet the flowers when they dress up for you.  Nod a greeting to the bees as they pass you by on their way to work.  Skritch a cat and provide them with taxi service if they ask and you are able.  Patiently listen to a tree as it takes the time to use all of the words it needs to describe something to you.  Really listen to some music or to a bird sing.  Watch the sunrise or the sunset.  Do what you do with integrity and show empathy for others.  Work hard and take care of yourself.  Learn something new.  Share something you enjoy with someone else.  Listen carefully and think well.

And, be the voice that tells someone else that they are loved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hurry Up and Wait

The month of April at the Genuine Faux Farm is always "Hurry Up and Wait" time.

April weather in Iowa can be beautiful one day and blustery and cold the next.  One moment, you're thinking you could put some tomatoes in and the next you're glad you didn't because those same tomatoes would probably be dead if you had.

If there's anything we've learned - it's that you need to be patient in April.  There's still plenty you can (and should) do.  But, getting ahead of yourself usually just leads to more, not less, work.

This year is a bit different.  With the unfortunate timing of the surgery to remove a kidney, we find ourselves being pressed to get as much as is possible done prior to the surgery - simply in hopes that we can keep up after the surgery.

This is where we should probably be thankful for the cold periods that prevent us from getting TOO far ahead of ourselves.  Except that it will be hard to do some of these things when it does warm up.  I need to remember not to expect too much of myself for a little while.

And, no, I don't have to like it.

Our goals right now include getting the potatoes in and having both high tunnels planted... well, mostly planted.  There are some things that still need to wait.

We'd like to get the hens moved to their Summer Cottage and to a new pasture - but we decided it would be better to wait on that one.  It makes no sense having to deal with all of the little things that happen when poultry experience something new... there's always a bit of work that comes from that.  As a result, we know we won't get the old pasture re-seeded, nor will we get the room cleaned out.

We've already decided that we can't move Eden to the west position - the winds just stayed too heavy for us to move it.  So, we'll grow in the same spot again this year, even though that's not what we want.  But, we did get some help putting some compost into the growing beds, so that will help us deal with the situation.

We make adjustments every single year.  We always accept that some things are not the way we wanted them to be.  This year is no different, even if the challenge presented to us is not quite the same.


We got the next batch of seed trays started and we got Casa Verde (the little green house) recovered so it can be used.  Fields will be prepared for planting and our first batch of bees are settled and doing reasonably well. 

Over the last week, we've done a decent job of getting things done on all fronts.  But, there are simply too many fronts.  So, we'll continue to rush around until the last minute - so we can wait for a while - until our own personal weather system calms and we can walk in the sun again.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Fighting to Wake Up

There was this odd roaring sound and I remember hearing my name being called.  It was a voice of someone I loved, and she sounded scared.

I opened my eyes and nothing made sense.  But, I still found enough voice to say something... I don't remember what.  That seemed to be enough to help.

I made a move to get up and someone told me to stay still.

This is foolish, I can just get up, can't I?  Then I realized that the windshield in front of me was a rumpled and wrinkled web.  That can't be right.  What's going on? 

 

It was one of those gorgeous Fall days in September where the sky is the deepest of blues, there's just a few puffs of breeze and the temperatures were a bit above the norm.  A perfect day to drive up to Decorah and pick up my soon to be partner for life so we could head up to Shakopee and the Renaissance Fair.

We'd been there the previous Fall and I'd really liked it, so Tammy agreed that it seemed like a nice way to celebrate.  We had a cooler in the back seat with some lunch and probably some iced tea.. I don't remember for certain.  The route was familiar, the companionship was comfortable, and it was a beautiful, lazy day.

As we approached Chatfield, a town we knew to be the home of a respected Social Work professor, we were both fighting a little bit of the "sleepies."  So, I put in some music to help me stay awake, but didn't make it too loud so Tammy could relax if she wanted.  A quick gulp or two of iced tea and we were entering the town.  I noticed the familiar landmarks of the town and...

I was fighting to wake up.  There was this odd roaring sound in my head.  I heard a voice of someone I loved.  I spoke. I opened my eyes and nothing made sense....

I was placed in the waiting ambulance and told to lie still.  Someone put their face in front of mine and told me that I had been in a car accident and that Tammy was taking different transportation to the hospital.  They couldn't or wouldn't tell me much else.  

After a little while all I remember is that my body began to rebel.  My muscles were shaking and forcefully contracting.  So much for lying still.  I wanted to apologize, but my teeth were chattering.  They told me I was going into shock, so I started to focus on trying to get my body to STOP that silliness.  At first it didn't listen, but it eventually subsided.  

I remember lying on the gurney in the E.R. for what seemed a very long time.  I seem to recall that I was given some sort of a scan and then I was carted back to the same curtained area I had started in when I arrived.

I stayed still, patiently awaiting further instruction.

They told me to stay still.  Stay still.  Don't move.

How did I get here?  We were driving into Chatfield then.... nothing?  Did I fall asleep?!?  I mean it felt like I was trying to wake up.  Did I fall asleep at the wheel and cause this accident?!?  I don't remember!  I don't remember!

Stay still.  Don't move. 

A police officer comes in.  He looks at me and I see something that is either disgust or ... something... in his eyes.  He asks me what happened and I tell him that I don't know.  

We start going through the details about me.  I can tell him my phone number, where I work, my social security number - or whatever other vital information I was supposed to give.  

That look in his eyes grows more intense.  He asks me again, a bit more forcefully - what happened?

He doesn't understand that I am desperate to remember.  I want to yell at him that I am frustrated because I can tell him all sorts of inane details, like my childhood phone number, my ACT and SAT scores, the date I started my job at Rockwell-Collins - but I could NOT seem to recall anything about recent events.

All I could say is that I thought I could remember Chatfield.  Was it just south of Chatfield?  

"No," he said, "it was north of Chatfield."

I knew he thought I was lying.  I had been judged and been found wanting.  And I wasn't sure why that was - but now I knew I must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Lie still.  Don't move.  Stew in your own guilt.

Maybe I don't want to remember.

It was odd.  Nothing really seemed to hurt except for... well, it felt like I was lying on a bunch of rocks.  And, it was getting uncomfortable.  

But, I had been told to lie still.  So I did.  

Eventually a nurse came in, looked a little startled, and said, "Hasn't anyone come in here to help clean you up a little?"  My reply was that the last I had heard, I wasn't supposed to move....

She was very apologetic and let me know that there had been a rush for the E.R.  The good news, it seems, was that I had nothing serious wrong with me.  A broken collar bone and what would likely be a body full of bruises.  The scans had shown nothing to worry about with the head and neck.

I had to beg to differ.  I told her I couldn't remember what happened.  She told me that was normal and I should be patient.  They let me know that Tammy was going to be ok, but she had received a pretty nasty cut to the head and had taken a helicopter ride to the hospital.  I think it was good that they had just told me she was being taken care of and skipped the details earlier....

As she helped me to sit up, I heard things falling to the floor and she looked surprised and startled again.  I looked down and saw numerous little squares of safety glass... everywhere.  It was in my hair and some trickled down the neck of my shirt.  I had been lying on a bed of broken glass. 

Again, she apologized.  I told her that if others needed her help more and I could wait, I could certainly deal with discomfort.  Miraculously, I had nothing more than a few pinprick cuts from all of that glass.  No harm.  No foul.

Another person came in and they helped me get rid of the glass.  I couldn't use my right arm to help and it was kind of embarrassing to have to have help getting glass out of my shirt and the back of my pants.

They put a harness on me to hold my shoulder in place.  And, of course, the barrage of confirmation questions followed.  What's your name?  Where do you live?  What's your birth date?

I told them.

They both looked at each other when I gave them that last answer and said, "oh."  

"Yeah.  Happy birthday to me." 

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

Epilogue

Eventually, most of my memory leading up to this accident returned.  I remember going through Chatfield.  I remember coming around a turn and going up a hill, noticing a few cars that had come to a stop.  Someone wanted to turn left at the top of the rise and, obviously, there must be approaching traffic.  I took a quick glance in the rearview mirror and noted a car just entering the base of the hill - still quite a ways back. 

I eased into my place in the queue of cars waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass.  I slowed down and even coasted a little, tapping my breaks - with plenty of room between me and the next vehicle.  I had come mostly to a complete stop.

I remember glancing over at Tammy.  Her eyes were closed and she had her legs up on the dashboard.  Something she liked to do then and something I know now is dangerous to do - especially now that we have airbags.  Yet, it saved her legs that day.

At some point soon after, the roaring starts and .... I was fighting to wake up.  I heard my name....

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

The newspaper clipping from Chatfield announced that we were the first people to receive the dubious honor of having the "Jaws of Life" used to get us out of the vehicle (probably some of the roaring).  They had just received them not long before that September day.  The clipping also noted that we were wearing our seatbelts and that they saved our lives.

They also reported that I had not noticed the stopped cars and swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid them - only to meet a pick-up truck going the other way.  Well, that explains the judgemental looks and disgust.  Another stupid, young male driver that wasn't paying attention and made a bad decision.

But, it didn't explain why the rear-end of our car was in the back seat.  It also didn't explain why paint from the car I had noted at the bottom of the hill was on our car and paint from our car was on the front of that vehicle.

I hadn't fallen asleep.  I didn't cause a crash that resulted in someone I love being extracted from the vehicle by the Jaws of Life and then flown via helicopter for treatment.

And I didn't deserve the looks I got from people who thought otherwise at the time.

Why Write This Particular Blog?

How many times a day do each of us jump to an undeserved conclusion about someone or something?  How often do we make an incorrect assumption based on a particular characteristic?  This time it was young, male = irresponsible & dangerous behind the wheel.  Next time is it black, male = likely to stick a knife into me?  Is it Asian, female = probably a sex worker?  You fill in your own blanks - then ask yourself how you can change.

We can't deny it - we all have tendencies to make quick judgments.  There are times when it could be a good thing - possibly keeping us out of a dangerous situation.  But, when you let it be the final word, it isn't so good anymore.

How often do we actually take the time to learn more about a person or a thing and give ourselves the opportunity to correct ourselves when it becomes clear that our initial conclusions were wrong?  It's a rare thing and it requires an awful lot of effort (often by someone else) to get us to reconsider.

The Chatfield paper may or may not have corrected the story on a later date.  At best it was a little "correction" on page 9 - buried in column three.  But, it was old news and no one cared now.  I had simply confirmed the stereotype and there was no reason to reconsider.  At least I had people who stood up for me and advocated for some review that revealed the truth of the accident.  The official reports eventually reflected the facts as they were discovered.  I have little doubt that the final accident report would not have changed if there hadn't been a push to investigate further.

I write this blog post because rural EMS services were there to take care of us when a serious accident happened.  They had been able, via donations, to secure a critical piece of equipment to extract us from the vehicle.  Today, there is a bill that resides in the Iowa Senate that would make rural EMS services a required service - thus securing funding.  If we don't do something, there won't be an EMS to save the next person who wakes up, confused, with a web of windshield glass in front of them. If you live in Iowa, contact your state senator.  Last I looked this was the bill being considered.

I also write this blog to remind us all that there are times when a person cannot and should not be expected to be at their best.  This is when compassion, rather than confrontation... or judgement... is needed.  There will be time enough to deal with business.

And finally...

Sometimes the voice of someone you love can make all of the difference in the world.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

By the Sheet - Postal History Sunday

I have been noticing a pattern that has been emerging and maybe you have too.  Every seven days there is a Postal History Sunday post on the Genuine Faux Farm blog.  Huh.  I wonder how that works?

Let's take all those worries and troubles we have and mix them up with some bread crusts and other kitchen scraps.  If we throw all of it to the chickens, they'll have it worried down to nothing in no time!  Meanwhile, we can take a few moments out of our day (whichever day it is when you find yourself visiting this blog entry) and learn something new while I share something I enjoy.

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This week we're going to actually answer a couple of excellent questions regarding the postal rates in the United States in the 1800s.  But, in typical fashion for me, we'll get there in a little bit of a "round-about" way.  

Determining size by the sheet

Postage has traditionally been assessed for mail based on two common variables: 

  1. how far a letter must travel to get to the destination, and
  2. how big the letter is.  

The thing that has changed over time is how postal agencies determined distance and size.  In the early 1800s the United States determined size by the number of sheets of paper that were in a mail item.  As we move to the mid 1800s, the United States changed to a weight-based method of determining size.

The folded letter shown above is dated August 9, 1839 and was mailed from the Washington County Bank in Williamsport, Maryland to the Cashier at the Hagerstown Bank (also in Maryland) whose name was Elie Beatty.

To cut right to the chase, this letter had FOUR sheets, even though I currently only have one sheet with this item in my collection.  That raises the question - how do I know that?

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States May 1, 1816 - June 30, 1845

DistanceRatePer
up to 30 miles
6 cents
sheet      
over 30, up 80 miles                  
10 cents
sheet
over 80, up to 150
12.5 cents           
sheet
over 150, up to 400
18.5 cents*
sheet
over 400 miles
25 cents sheet
      *March 3, 1825                    
    18.75 cents

There it is, the postage rate table for letter mail in the United States at the time this letter was mailed.  The distance from Williamsport to Hagerstown was (and is) about 7 miles.  A "single letter" would require 6 cents in postage.  This particular item has a nice bold "24" at the top right, which is four times the single letter sheet.  Thus, we can deduce that this item had four sheets of paper total (including this outside wrapper).

One sheet - Longer haul

While I do not have many items from this time period in my collection, I do have a couple that I can show here.  The second must have been only a single sheet, but it traveled a much longer distance.


This letter was mailed on August 30, 1819 from Cincinnati, Ohio to Newburyport, Massachusetts, a distance of 915 miles (more or less).  A clear marking reads "25" at the top left, which indicates the postage Stephen W Marston would have to pay for the privilege of receiving this missive.  The rate per sheet was 25 cents if it traveled over 400 miles, so this qualified as a "single letter."

At this point in time, most mail was sent collect to the recipient and very little was prepaid.  I have heard it said by some that the prevailing attitude in some cultures was that it would be offensive to prepay a letter because it might imply that the sender felt you could not manage to pay for your own mail.  While I have no idea if that claim is accurate or not, I can accurately report that prepayment at this time was uncommon.

Major changes - July 1, 1845

Things change dramatically in 1845 when the United States switched the measurement of size from the number of sheets to the weight of a letter.  Now, a letter that weighed up to 1/2 ounce would be considered a single letter.  Each half ounce over that amount would require another rate of postage. 

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States July 1, 1845 - June 30, 1851

DistanceRatePer
up to 300 miles
5 cents
half ounce     
over 300 miles                  
10 cents
half ounce

This brings us to the question about postage rates going DOWN instead of UP (which is what we might consider to be normal in the present day).

The U.S. Postal Service was beginning to see more and more competition from private enterprise that was seeking to provide mail services to the public.  One such entity was Hale & Company, which I wrote about in this Postal History Sunday about Independent Mail.  The biggest difference is that the US Post Office had the support of Congress, which passed laws that made it illegal for these private entities to carry the mail as they had been doing.  At the same time, the same Act of Congress reduced and simplified the postage rates - putting them at prices that were closer to the amounts these private entities had been charging.

The letter above was mailed April 4, 1849 and is datelined from Baltimore with a destination 90 miles away (Martinsburg, Virginia).  A big blue "5" shows the postage due.  This same letter would have cost 12.5 cents under the old rate structure.

The United States issued their first postage stamps in 1847, ushering in a new normal - the prepayment of postage for letter mail.

Unsurprisingly, the two denominations for these stamps were 5 and 10 cents - matching up nicely with the postage rates for mail in the United States at the time.

Encouraging pre-payment of postage

Once we get to 1851, our postal service in the United States begins to look a bit more like the system we are familiar with.  Prepayment is encouraged by setting two different rates for prepaid and unpaid mail.

Letter Mail Rates in the United States July 1, 1851 - March 31, 1855

DistanceRatePer
up to 3000 miles prepaid
3 cents
1/2 ounce     
over 3000 miles prepaid    
6 cents
1/2 ounce 
up to 3000 miles unpaid
5 cents           
1/2 ounce 
over 3000 miles unpaid
10 cents
1/2 ounce 

A letter with the new three cent stamp of 1851 is shown below.  I am unable to determine the year date for this letter, but it was clearly a single rate letter that was prepaid in Boston (on its way to Middlebury, Vermont).

It was at this point in time that the trime was issued to help customers pay for the postage with these new, lower rates.  For those who do not know what I am talking about - I recently offered a Postal History Sunday focused on the three cent rate and the minting of the three cent coin known as a trime or a fishscale.  

By the time we get to 1855, things change yet again!  Prepayment is no longer optional and the rates are adjusted once more.

Letter Mail Rates in the United States April 1, 1855 - June 30, 1863

DistanceRatePer
up to 3000 miles prepaid
3 cents
1/2 ounce     
over 3000 miles prepaid    
10 cents
1/2 ounce 

Below is an example of an item that traveled over 3000 miles and required 10 cents in postage.

This letter was mailed in San Francisco on April 3, 1863 and traveled via Panama, arriving at its destination in Boston.  This letter must have weighed more than a half ounce and no more than one ounce to require 20 cents in postage, paid by two 10 cent postage stamps.

Postage rates from 1863

To answer the question that was asked about postage rates further, here is a table that shows the next several rate periods.  Starting in July of 1863, the distance component was removed from the rate calculation for mail inside of the United States.

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States

Effective Date
RatePer
July 1, 1863
3 cents
half ounce    
October 1, 1883                  
2 cents
half ounce
July 1, 1885
2 cents           
ounce
November 2, 1917
3 cents
ounce
July 1, 1919
2 cents ounce
July 6, 1932                 
3 cents
ounce

The trend for the reduction in postage rates actually continues until 1885.  There is a short interruption during World War I when an increase was used to help fund the war effort.  Once we get to 1932, the trend of increasing rates would slowly begin.  The next rate increase would be in 1958 (to 4 cents).

Because I haven't shown you a picture for a short bit - here is an 1898 example of the 2 cents for letter mail weighing up to one ounce rate.

You asked about letter rates going up and down in the United States and....now you know!

Bonus Material!

Because I am feeling generous right now, I thought I would add a little bonus material to the mix today.

Let me remind you of our first postal history item that I shared at the top of this blog.  It just so happens that there are MANY pieces of mail still out in the world for collectors to find that went to Elie Beatty, Cashier for the Hagerstown Bank.  It is because of correspondences like this one that postal historians are often able to learn more about how the postal services worked during the time the correspondence was active.

The Hagerstown Bank correspondence has value for historians who study banking systems too.  Elie Beatty was a well-respected cashier and was apparently quite talented at his job.  The site linked in the prior sentence gives us this summary:

"The historical significance of the collection lies primarily in the insights it offers to the operations of a prosperous regional bank during a tumultuous period in United States banking history. The antebellum decades witnessed a series of banking crises, most notably the Panics of 1819 and 1839, recurring recessions and depressions, and the famous "Bank Wars." The financial and political upheaval, combined with disastrous harvests during the 1830s, wreaked havoc on Washington County, Maryland, and caused the Williamsport Bank to suspend specie payments in 1839. Despite the prevailing economic climate, the Hagerstown Bank emerged as a stable financial institution with considerable holdings."

Is it possible that the Washington County Bank in Williamsport is one and the same as the Williamsport Bank referenced in this paragraph?  

Elie Beatty's story can certainly be expanded upon, but I will suggest that you can take the link and read the summary there if you have interest.  If there was a doubt as to Beatty's dedication to his job, I will add the following from the site linked above.

"Beatty resigned his position on April 23, 1859, citing "feeble health and the infirmities of age." Beatty died on May 5, 1859 at the age of eighty-three."
One last tidbit comes from the Hagerstown newspaper (The Herald and Torch Light) on April 17, 1878.

Elie Beatty served as Cashier for most of his tenure at the bank, but he was president of the bank for just under two years - being pressed into service at the death of the current president of the bank in 1831.  While it is clear that Beatty was a highly competent individual, is it possible that he was happier with the hands-on management aspect rather than being the person with the final decision making power?  That may be a question for another time and another person - but it is intriguing nonetheless.

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There you have it!  You've just spent some time taking another journey as we explore postal history together on a Sunday.  Whether you are also a postal historian or just an "innocent bystander" who just couldn't help but take the journey with us, I am glad you joined me in the process.

Have a wonderful remainder of the day and a good week to follow.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Blizzard

Welcome to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.

Yesterday, I took the time to remove the covers we put over our crops in Valhalla, the larger of our two high tunnels.  You see, we had some cold (down to 22/23 degrees Fahrenheit) weather that could put those crops in jeopardy and I wanted to do my best to keep them going.

I pulled the cover off of the row of peas we are running in the middle bed and was pleased to see the three inch tall starts looking very healthy.  That gave me the motivation to write about Blizzard snow peas (because that is exactly the variety I have planted out there right now). 


The Year that Set the Bar

One of the most difficult things about farming like we do is the fact that we have never felt that we have had that ONE year where everything seemed to go well.  That's our fault, because we grow so many crops and so many successions of our crops that there will always be failures - and it can be hard to balance the failures with the successes.

However, 2015 was a pretty good year overall AND it was THE year for peas at the Genuine Faux Farm.  We were growing four varieties (Oregon Sugar Pod II, Golden Sweet, Mammoth Melting and Blizzard) and all four did remarkably well.  A fifth variety, Cascadia, actually failed to germinate.. .so I guess it wasn't perfect.

Our workers were dedicated to making the crop work (as were we).  We got them planted at the right time, weeded at the right time and trellised on time.  We stayed on top of the harvest and... well, it was just a really good year for peas.  

We had 450 row feet of peas in the field that germinated and we harvested 445.4 pounds of snow and snap peas (no shelling peas). You need to remember that we do multiple harvests on our farm - this is not a harvest one time with a machine operation!  Even so, we are more used to saying we had a good year if we get about a half pound per row foot versus the full pound we got in 2015.

Blizzard came in at .86 pounds per row foot, which was lower than others in the mix.  But we still gave it the nod as the best snow pea of the batch for two reasons:

  1. They were easiest to pick.
  2. They tasted the best right off the vine (and if you cooked them).

Blizzard actually ended up being our number 1 veggie variety in 2015, beating out a number of worthy competitors.  As I reviewed that list, I realized that 2015 might have been our best growing season in our history.  If only I'd known how good it was at the time!

The peas had us going so much that we even wrote some pun blogs on the topic.  Minding Your Peas and Cukes and Vine-ally! Minding Your Peas and Cukes.  

Why or Why Not Blizzard?

I would like to be able to say that Blizzard has done well for us every season, but that would be an untruth.  There were a couple of instances where the variety was not available to us and we tried to use old seed - which did not work.  There was another year where most of the row of Blizzard peas were not trellised in time and we just gave up trying to harvest them as thoroughly as we should have. (sometimes you have to make choices with your limited labor hours)

But, when they're good, they're good.  Good enough that I purchased too many seed the last time they were available and took care to store them well so I could have them available.  Now, I am even considering planting a few rows so I can save the seed.

Unlike some snow pea varieties, Blizzard does seem to have a peak harvest flush where you could probably pull in most of the harvest in a ten day period.  But, it does have enough of a spread that this is not a deal breaker if you need a longer harvest period for CSA or farmers market.  Since our farm is changing to needing smaller harvest windows, Blizzard fits us well.

Vines are typically four feet tall and do require a trellis.  If you let them do what they want, you'll have a terrible time keeping them cultivated and harvested.  

Vines have strong tendrils and don't tend to let go once they've got a hold of a trellis.  Peas are usually held out away from the vine and they have fewer peas hidden in the depths of the vine.  If you are growing several row feet, this is a huge labor saving characteristic.  Both Mammoth Melting and Blizzard tend to do this, which was part of the reason why we could keep up in 2015.  

Blizzard is a bit less tolerant of heat than Oregon Sugar Pod II (which we think is the best for this), but we are usually transitioning to green bean harvest by the time Blizzard finishes.  From a labor standpoint, this is perfect for us.

--------------------

Thank you for joining me for another offering of our Variety Show on a Saturday.  I hope you found it helpful or interesting.  Whichever fits your need at the moment.  

If you have questions, corrections or suggestions for another veggie type you would like us to feature (we get to select the variety) let us know.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Not Always Bad News

 Here is another example of the kind of work I do for the Pesticide Action Network.  Yesterday, I shared the contents of the most recent Iowa News that I put together for those who have signed up to get PAN mailings and live in the state.  Today, I share with you what a blog looks like when I write it with the PAN "organizational voice."  Essentially, all that means is that this blog is published with no particular author noted.  But, it also means that some of the flexibility that comes along for the ride when I write with my "farmer voice" goes away.  I am now "officially" speaking for... or maybe as... PAN.

The difficulty, for me, with this one is that it focused on a pesticide for citrus - crops I am not terribly familiar with the processeses used to raise them.  But, I learned a fair amount.  The next difficulty is that I have to be much more concerned with brevity.

The best thing about this blog is the ending.  We received good news just as this was being published on the PAN website.  That, of course, required changes to the content (again), but I'll be glad to just have the good news.

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

Aldicarb, a pesticide that has seen minimal use in the United States over the past decade, was re-approved for use on citrus crops in January, after a rushed process that barely accommodated the legally mandated public comment period for the re-registration of the chemical.

The new registration will allow 100,000 acres of citrus to be treated with up to 2.5 million pounds of pesticide products that contain aldicarb.  This will put a pesticide that is classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization into use, raising the risks of groundwater contamination, accidental ingestion with food products, and direct exposure to orchard workers and wildlife.

History has the answer

In 2010, Bayer and the EPA agreed to end the use of aldicarb in the United States after finding that its use put infants and young children at risk.  In particular, the application of this product on citrus crops and potatoes provided the most likely vectors for exposure.  Bayer agreed to cancel the use of aldicarb products on citrus immediately, while the use of this product on other crops was to be phased out over a longer period of time.

AgLogic, the sole remaining producer of aldicarb pesticides, applied soon after for registration of aldicarb for a small subset of other crops, such as cotton and soybeans, which was granted.  AgLogic tried to expand on this by seeking approval for aldicarb use on citrus crops in Florida in 2017, but was denied when they failed to show that aldicarb was a superior product for controlling pests than alternative products with better safety records.

The use of aldicarb in the United States has been low since the phased ban that started in 2011, but the chemical was still detected in drinking water in six states from 2015 to 2017.  

Irresponsible use of a dangerous pesticide

Aldicarb is a known neurotoxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor.  Exposure can cause acute symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, tremors, vomiting and, potentially, death in extreme poisoning cases.  Normal brain development can be impaired if infants or children are exposed to this pesticide.

If we check with PAN’s Pesticide Info database, we find that Aldicarb is also known to leach into groundwater, contaminating drinking water.  In addition to all of that, this pesticide is also a known bee/pollinator toxin.

Pesticide Info’s global ban map shows that the concerns about the risks of aldicarb are widespread.  At this time, over 100 nations have banned the chemical, realizing that the risks of this pesticide far outweigh any benefit it might provide.  

History shows us that the use of aldicarb is a bad idea and most of the world is paying attention and has agreed that it should not be used.  The recent move to return to approved use in the U.S. simply defies logic.

What’s next?

Pushback has been swift following this misguided decision. Our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Farmworker Association of Florida, along with the Environmental Working Group, have filed a lawsuit to oppose EPA’s rushed re-registration of aldicarb.  And on March 12, PAN delivered 22,863 signatures to Administrator Regan calling for quick action to ban or restrict some of the most harmful pesticides on the market, which would include aldicarb.

While PAN and partners work to protect our people and the environment by reversing the new approved use on citrus crops, we have our sights set on the long term solution — joining most of the rest of the world and banning aldicarb’s use entirely.

Breaking News

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services denied AgLogic's request to allow the use of aldicarb in the state on April 21, despite EPA's allowance for the chemical.  With this denial, FDACS stated that "aldicarb poses an unacceptable risk to human, animal, and environmental health in Florida, is one of the world’s most toxic pesticides, and is banned in more than 100 countries."  We celebrate this news with renewed resolve to push further toward a full national ban of aldicarb.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The challenges and the promise of Spring

One of my responsibilities for the Pesticide Action Network is to create a monthly Iowa News publication that is sent out to those who have signed up for PAN's mailings and who report an Iowa address.  These also show up as entries in PAN's Ground Truth blog, where I also write using both my voice and an "organizational voice."  While I don't intend to share every Iowa News here, I thought this month's entry was worthy of a cross-posting on our farm blog.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse of my work "off" the farm.

 
The challenges and the promise of Spring

Spring in Iowa seems to like sneaking in and out of the room when we’re not looking.  Veterans of several Iowa Aprils weren’t fooled by the early warmth, even if they were like me — beginning to feel hopeful that we wouldn’t have to worry about the poultry water freezing.  However, things will warm up again and those apple trees will soon be in bloom.

In addition to the temperature roller coaster, the month of April finds us balancing the promise that Spring always brings with the trepidation we might feel with all of the uncertainty in our lives and the world we live in.  We are concerned for our friends in Minnesota, and we grieve for the needless loss of human life.  It should be clear to all of us that Black folks and people of color must deal with societal and systemic roadblocks that I, as a white male, am not subjected to.  While things feel like they are flying apart, we must adhere to the promise of Spring and embrace the diversity of all people and adjust or replace our systems so that they are inclusive and equitable.

On the farm, we have started our early crops and the first batch of chicks have arrived.  We look forward with anticipation to the first asparagus harvest and the day that we put our first succession of broccoli into the ground.  Along with that comes the perpetual worry that the prevailing agricultural systems in our state will continue as they have without regard for the safety and well-being of others. We must work together to make changes that will take the reins of farming from the hands of agribusiness and put them firmly back with those who will be stewards of the land.  

As the Iowa legislative session comes to a close, we are tempted to feel that our efforts this year were not rewarded.  But, we find ourselves hopeful for the future as we continue to make connections with our elected officials in the legislature and the State Capitol. Behind the efforts of our organizer, Carmen Black, we continue to grow a coalition of people and organizations who are willing to advance the vision of what Iowa could and should be.  Once again, we have reasons to hope and persist in our efforts, despite the challenges.

On a personal level, I will also be looking at balancing struggle with hope for the future.  I will have my left kidney and the cancerous mass it holds removed on April 28.  I am fortunate that this was detected early and that we have the means and opportunity to address the problem.  As I make myself ready to deal with discomfort, I hold the promise of recovery in front of me and I am working to build up my resolve and energy to move forward.

I see a parallel in all of these things.  We have identified issues and recognize that they are real problems that will have dire consequences if we do not address them.  We have also been given the gift of recognition that something must be done — even if the process will be uncomfortable.  It is up to us to find the energy and dedication to make these necessary changes so we can all benefit from the promise of Spring.

Please take a moment and view some events and resources I have selected for you and placed below. If you find value in our Iowa News, please share with someone you know and encourage them to sign up with Pesticide Action Network.

Be well,
Rob Faux
Communications Associate for PAN
Owner/Operator, Genuine Faux Farm, Tripoli, IA
State legislative updates

Supporting small and mid-size meat processing in Iowa

Our friends at Iowa Organic Association, Iowa Farmers Union, and Practical Farmers of Iowa have been promoting a bill to address the lack of meat processing facilities that serve smaller, diversified operations in the state.

This bill would create a state fund and program that would make financial assistance available to expand access to small-scale meat processing.  It would also create a task force that would investigate the creation of an artisanal butchery program or promote workforce development initiatives to meet local and regional processing needs.

The current shortage of smaller processing facilities prevents small, diversified farms from fulfilling the current, and growing, demand for locally produced meats.  Many producers are reporting that there are no open processing slots until the end of 2022!

The bill (HJ 857/SJ 878) was passed by the House and is now in the Senate, but appears to be stalled. Your call or email to your senator, sharing your support and urging them to do the same could make a difference.

PAN launches new Pesticide Info site

PAN is proud to announce that we have completed our redesign of the Pesticide Info site and it is now available for use to all who have interest!  

Pesticide Info brings together a diverse array of information on pesticides from many sources, providing human toxicity, ecotoxicity, regulatory information, and more for over 15,000 pesticides. Ultimately, Pesticide Info facilitates public access to critically important data.  Please share pesticideinfo.org with all those you know that might be able to use this tool.

Our food and science

Research continues to find more evidence that our children are adversely affected by the pesticides we fail to treat as dangerous tools that require careful and cautious use.  This recent study suggests that residential exposure to pesticide application, can increase the risk of childhood central nervous system tumors.

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Are you wondering what you will do for lunch the next few days?  Here are a few suggestions:

Iowa Learning Farms will host Kathleen Delate as she discusses the Benefits of Organic Farming on Soil and Water Quality.  The webinar begins at noon on April 21st.

The Iowa Farmers Union continues to offer Lunch and Learn events, featuring Dr. J Arbuckle on the Perspectives of the Iowa Farmer on Climate Change.  You can join the event on April 22 at 12:30 pm.

Iowa farmer George Naylor will be among those speaking on Disparity to Parity: Balancing the Scales on April 23 from noon to 1:30pm

Take Action!

Mexico’s phaseout of the herbicide glyphosate (aka “Roundup”) and the genetically engineered corn that goes with it is under attack by CropLife America, pesticide corporations, and other U.S. agribusiness interests. Our partners at PAN Mexico are asking for our support.

Please sign on today to urge U.S. officials to resist industry efforts to undermine Mexico’s ban!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

One Week

What can you get done in one week?  How much difference will it make if you really apply yourself?  Will you be satisfied that you did your best at the end of that week or will you look at the list that still needs to be done with regret?  Or chagrin?

This is not just an academic question for me today, it is a practical one.  We have a very specific and immutable event coming up next Wednesday that has me thinking about this particular question in a very real way.  

This isn't a new feeling either, because we have dealt with other deadlines that require a big push:  the first killing frost, the end of a school year, a once in a lifetime trip away from the farm - big events and small events - but events that require a re-assessment of what can be done and what should be done - with only a short amount of time to do them.  

And, we have to decide how we will respond to things that are not done.

Limits

I have noticed that I, in particular, can expend a great deal of effort for two to three days at a time before I need to back off a little bit.  From my perspective, this is a constant source of exasperation.  I am usually pleased with the momentum that builds up and I am more than happy to recount for myself how much got done during that burst.  There is a certain amount of joy in doing and doing and doing....

But, then something happens that lays down a sizable roadblock and progress is halted.  Or, I just realize I need to slow down a little because the pace is unsustainable.

Then I have to figure out how to get that momentum going again.

The reality looks a bit different than it sounds as I write it.  It's not quite like I am the Energizer Bunny for three days and then sitting on the porch sipping lemonade for the next week and a half.  Farm tasks always need to get done and reality usually doesn't allow complete inaction.

It's simply the difference between feeling like you are making headway versus trying not to lose ground.

Looking Ahead

This time around, the big event is a surgery to remove my left kidney and the cancer it contains.  The recovery time that follows is bound to be frustrating as I realize I will be unable to do many of the things I am used to doing on the farm in the month of May.  So, we're trying to do everything we can to prepare - and we're trying to do everything else that we feel we want to have done before surgery too.

It's not possible and we know it.

So, we will do what we always do.  We will come to the realization that some things will get done and others will not.  Our goals will shrink each day as we identify things we hoped to do that are no longer feasible.  I'll berate myself for the half hour I spent with my eyes closed in a chair because I felt tired at midday.  I'll question my efficiency and my choices for the tasks I elected to do.  And, hopefully, I'll find myself in that special zone that lasts for two to three days and things on the task list get done, one after the other.

The hardest part of this whole process - other than tolerating the surgery, the discomfort that follows, the restrictions that will be placed on me afterwards, and the worry about how all of this will burden Tammy and others - is forgiving myself for the things that don't get done.

I'll put that on my to do list.  Right after waking up next Wednesday and saying "well, that's done, what's next?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

More Lost Writings of the Sandman

The recent rediscovery of some of my notes I had taken after various conversations with the Sandman led to a post a couple of weeks ago that outlined a few of that wise Spokescat's thoughts.  I ran into that pile of papers again yesterday and couldn't help but take a few moments to read through a couple.  As I did so, I realized that I shouldn't keep all of this to myself - so we have another entry of the Lost Writings...

The Sandman on Public Transit

On very rare occasions, the Sandman would listen while the farmers discussed various topics as they worked in the fields.  Well - actually, the Sandman probably listened far more to what we said than we know.  Whether he found much value in most of our words is open for debate (hint, he probably discarded most of what we said as human "silliness").

Anyway, once in a great while, he would weigh in with me on one of our topics.  His take on public transportation follows:

"You humans would do well to watch me - and even Mrranda, though she's not nearly as good at this as I am.  Cats know how to get from here to there.  It's all a matter of seizing opportunities as they arise.

If the farmer is going my way, it's a simple matter to reach out and hook a quick ride.  And it so simple to exit when you're where you want to go.  It's full service because it usually includes a skritch or two!  Public transportation should be about comfort and convenience - I, the Sandman, have spoken!"

I guess I did not fully realize until that point that the Sandman's penchant for approaching me as I went from here to there and voicing a certain inquiry was his way of "thumbing a ride."  He just had this way of letting me know and I usually obliged with the offer of one arm that he would "hook" and I'd straighten up with a passenger in tow.

If I had a free hand... he got free skritches.  That just shows you how clever the Sandman was... somehow I didn't know I was being USED.

Of course, I made the mistake of trying to explain to the Sandman that things were different for humans and the issue was bigger than that.  He would have nothing of that, basically reminding me that humans are usually pretty messed up and that they should be more like him and his fellow felines.

The Sandman even made mention of slower public transit options by taking note of the times he (or Mrranda - and now Inspector) might jump on to a farmer's back as they crawled along a row of veggies they were working in.

"Public transportation should be about comfortable feet.  If your feet are cold, find a farmer."

And now you know.  Uncomfortable feet?  Find a farmer - that'll fix it!


The Sandman on Sleep Deprivation

I apologized to the Sandman one day because I had neglected to allow him to hitch a ride when he asked for one.  He, of course, had let it slide initially because - well - why get all worked up about a human that is too dull to figure out his duties?  It's what humans do and you just have to deal with it.  But, when I came back around later he did voice his displeasure - after all, it was now convenient for him to tell me what he thought.

After telling him I'd had a bad night sleeping and was really tired...

"Humans are hopeless!  Ugh!  If you are tired, you should take a nap....  I, the Sandman, have spoken!  Now, I need a lift, give me your arm."

Underneath it all, I realized the Sandman had a soft spot for his farmers.  Few self-respecting cats would have taken as much time trying to mentor us as this particular feline did.  Sure, we were probably lost causes.  But, to him, we must have been worth it.

After all, look at how many opportunities he gave us to serve - and to learn his feline wisdom.

Until then, we should all take a nap.  I, the farmer who was tutored by the Sandman, have spoken.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Reason Overcomes Bombast

I received an interesting and unlooked for gift around the holidays that came from a co-worker at Pesticide Action Network.  It was a simple card that included three words.

"Reason Overcomes Bombast"

A basic acrostic poem is created by taking a word and using each letter of that word to start each line.

For example, if I were to do an acrostic for many Springs on the farm:

  • Strong rains
  • Pour insistently,
  • Resulting
  • In
  • Notoriously damp
  • Ground

Of course, 2021 has been anything but damp so far, but I did say it applied to MANY Springs on the farm.  

The funny thing about doing these acrostic writings is - it actually takes more effort than you would think to actually put something together that fits the rules AND has some sort of meaning that might apply to the word being used to create the acrostic.  It took moments to come up with words for the first couple and then I realized I had no plan as to how those words would lead to the rest....

Now, if you consider the concept of using someone's name for the acrostic.  You want to give them something that rings true and reflects well on the individual.  Well... ok.  If you anticipate giving the acrostic as a gift I SUSPECT you would like to be positive and uplifting.  If you don't, then you still have the same problem with finding the right words to reach your goal.  But, instead of acrostic poems you might refer to them as acrostic insults!

Poems or compliments or insults - it can be a pretty tall order.   Good thing they only needed to get through three letters for me.

Reason Overcomes Bombast.

Is it true?  I don't know - maybe it is.  But, if it isn't, I think I'll give it a go and try to make it true.  If this is how someone else sees me and they seem to think it is a good thing AND I seem to think it is a good thing - it can only encourage me to fulfill that prophesy.

Whether it is true now, or whether I can fulfill the prophesy later does not matter.  I am still grateful for three kind words that were well-meant and encouraging.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Piroscafo sul lago - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to another edition of Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog!

Once again, we gather virtually in this blog space and the farmer gets to share something he enjoys with those who might find it interesting.  It doesn't matter if you have enjoyed postal history for years or if you just have a passing interest in whatever topics I might uncover for you as I explore.  This is a place where we all hope we can learn something new and enjoy the process.

The April winds at the farm have been strong lately, so attach those worries and troubles to the tail of a kite.  Once that kite gets up to a height where it is only a speck in the sky - cut the string - and let those things go to the distant parts of the Earth.

--------------------------------

A Book Seller Advertisement in 1863

This week we'll start with an advertisement for a book store in Milan, in northern Italy, to Morbegno - which happens to be further north in Italy. 

So, why did I decide I wanted to add this particular item to my collection when I had an opportunity to do so?   Well, there are some basic characteristics that drew my attention initially.  It was mailed in 1863 in Western Europe, which is the sort of thing I prefer to look at in the first place.  The cover itself is pretty clean, with postal markings that I can read.  I appreciate the fine details of the postage stamp design.  And, there are some contents that add extra interest to the item.


The inside of this folded piece of paper shows a very simple pre-printed advertisement for a bookseller who claimed to carry scholarly texts.  The bookseller touts that they have access to books from Libreria Paravia, a bookshop that opened in 1802 and was still open in 2020, despite recent troubles that most brick and mortar bookstores have faced in recent years.

The cover shows the use of two copes of the 1 cent centesimi "newspaper" stamp issued by the Sardinian postal service in 1861.  And, this item clearly illustrates the Italian printed matter rate for that time period (2 centesimi per 40 grams : Jan 1, 1863 - Dec 31, 1888).

And, I was going to pass on it.  Why?  Well, I don't need more than one example of this printed matter rate in Italy!  But, then I looked at the back:

I was sold as soon as I noticed the postal marking at the right.  As you know by now, I often hope to find items that open a window or a door to some new (to me) aspect of postal history - and that marking does just that.

Watercraft on Lake Como

The marking in question reads: Natante Como-Colico 16 APR 63 (1)

Postal history has a strong connection to geography because knowing the locations that a piece of mail visited as it traveled from point A to point B can uncover an interesting portion of the story.  

As you move toward Switzerland, the Alps dominate the landscape, limiting the the options for travel and the carriage of mail.  One of those options would be the deep, elongated lakes - lakes like Lago di Como (Lake Como).  Como has a maximum depth over 1300 feet and has a "Y" shape, with one branch coming to the southwest.  This branch features the city of Como at its southern-most point.  Colico is located near the northern point.

This piece of mail was carried by rail from Milano to Como.  It was then placed on a Lago di Como side paddle-wheel steamer at Como and the boat traveled north to Colico.  It was then carried by some sort of ground transportation to Morbegno.  

The steamers Vittoria, Forza and Unione were all active on Lake Como in 1863, but I do not have access to a schedule that would tell me which one carried this particular piece of mail.  If I had a guess, I would say that the (1) in the marking probably references the first voyage of the mail steamer from Como that day.  Perhaps a specialist in the subject would be able to confirm (or deny) that and perhaps help to identify which ship carried this item?

The Vittoria is shown in the photo below.  


So, how did I, a person who does not speak or read Italian (well, maybe a little, tiny bit of the latter) figure this out?

I knew where Como and Colico were.  I knew the geography of the region and I didn't know a place called "Natante" nor could I find such a place when I perused period maps of the area.  I was also aware of the history of transportation in the Alps and knew there could be some lake travel for mail in the region.

This illustrates two of the benefits that come with internet access for postal historians in the modern world.  First, I have access to all sorts of maps that I can view.  And, second, I can get immediate help with language translation.  It turns out the word “natante” in the postal marking can be roughly translated to “watership.”  Aha!


The above section of text was taken from an 1868 copy of Murray's Handbook for Travelers that featured travel to Italy.  The route via Lake Como was one of several outlined for the traveler in that book.  It is interesting to note that the steamer could go from Colico to Como in 3 1/2 hours (presumably with stops in between).

For those who have interest, this site includes information on Lago di Como steamers.  The photo of the Vittoria shown above comes from that site.   

Lago di Maggiore / Verbano


To the west lies another lake that provided transportation in the Italian and Swiss Alps using lake paddle steamers.  Lake Maggiore holds its northern end within the borders of Switzerland, which gives us an opportunity to look at mail between two countries that was carried by lake mail steamers.

The northern and southern termini of the lake steamer route would be Magadino (Switzerland) and Arona (Italy), but we can actually find mail that got on or off the steamer at other stops on the lake if we are searching.

Shown above is a letter mailed from Roveredo, Switzerland (shown on the map) on March 30, 1864 and received at Pallanza, Italy on March 31.  It seems clear to me that this boarded a steamship at Magadino after being carried by land from Roveredo. This letter qualified for the special, discounted border rate between the two nations, so it took only 10 rappen (or centimes) for this letter to be paid to destination.  (10 centimes per 10 grams : Jul 1, 1862 - Dec 31, 1875)

Like the prior piece of mail, this one included a hint that told me it was carried on a lake steamer.  Can you see it?


The marking to the right reads: Verbano 31 Mag 64 No 2

What a person has to know is that Lake Maggiore is also known as Verbano.  Once you have that piece of information, it is possible to learn more about the marking and how this mail traveled.

The other marking is the receiving marking for Pallanza, which is situated on the shores of the lake.

Lago di Maggiore steamers made a circuit of the lake each weekday (and possibly weekend by 1864), with a northbound leg and a southbound leg for each active ship.  The Verbano marking includes a number that may indicate which ship carried the mail on that particular day.  Later markings often included a direction with “ascendente” indicating the south to north route and “discendente” for the route from north to south. 

From the same Murray's Handbook, we can see that the entire trip from Magadino to Arona typically took 4 1/2 hours in 1868.

Another, smaller piece of mail came along for the ride when I found this first item.  It also features the 10 rappen border rate and carriage on Lake Verbano/Maggiore.  

This particular piece of mail originated in Brissago, which is on the shores of Verbano, as well as its destination, Pallanza.  Brissago, like many of the lake communities, still uses water transportation to get to and from other communities.  There is a road that runs next to the edge of the lake for its entire length in the present day.  But, that isn't an efficient solution if your destination is on the opposite shore.

Once again, if you look carefully, you can find two strikes of the Verbano marking on this folded letter, which identifies it as having been carried on a lake steamer.  Sadly, this example is pretty difficult to read, so we can't tell if the ship number is different.

If you like to travel and are able to do so, a person could still ride on a paddle wheel steamer on these lakes.  The Piemont (built 1904) can be chartered on Lake Maggiore.  On Lake Como, you could find yourself on either the Concordia (built 1927) or Patria (built 1926).  But, if it doesn't matter to you if you are on an old paddle-wheeler, there is still public transportation available on both lakes with a fairly complex ferry system.

I wonder if they still put bags of mail on some of them?

----------------------

There you have it!  This week's Postal History Sunday entry!  I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Alps this week.  

And, as usual, I hope you have a good day, a restful weekend and a fine week upcoming.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Adirondack Blue

Welcome to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.

This week we're going to take a look at one of the potato varieties that we have grown over the past few years - Adirondack Blue. 

Taters at GFF

Potato production on the farm has been one of those love/hate things for many years.  If you have a successful season, potatoes are a great crop to have a surplus of no matter how you sell them.  You can see the attraction.  Most people in the Midwestern U.S. like potatoes and potatoes are easy to store.  That means we could have a popular crop that can be sold or included in CSA shares over a long period of time.

On the other hand, with the number of crops we have grown and the organization of our labor, getting a truly successful potato growing season can be elusive for our farm.  With our heavier soils and wet seasons, we often have trouble for a whole host of reasons.  In particular, the times when we need the labor has often been when we did NOT have available workers beyond myself (Rob).  Sometimes, you just can't do it all.

A typical plan in the past was to buy 250 pounds of potatoes for seed (usually five varieties) and hope for a tenfold return in production (about 2500 pounds of tubers).  We had settled into growing Purple Majesty, Mountain Rose, Rio Grande, Carola and German Butterball for many years - and then, availability of the first three forced us to go looking once again.

While we still hope for a 10 to 1 return on the seed weight, we have reduced our production numbers significantly.  This year we only ordered fifty pounds of seed potatoes in two varieties (Adirondack Red and Adirondack Blue).  We've proven year after year that we can handle the row feet required for about 100 pounds of seed potatoes even in the most difficult of years.  It's the row feet after that where we've run into problems if additional challenges are placed on us.  At least that's our story and we're sticking to it!

 Above: some Adirondack Blues after hilling, with grass mulched green beans in adjacent beds.

About Adirondack Blue

Adirondack Blue is a blue fleshed (or purple flesh if you prefer) variety that maintains its color even after it is cooked or baked.   Some colored potato varieties go a little gray or lose much of their color when they are cooked, so we consider that a plus.  Adirondack Blue serves well for all preparation methods.  The larger tubers do just fine as baked potatoes, you can cut most sizes into rounds or wedges for fries or you can make mashed potatoes - and before you make a face about BLUE mashed potatoes, let me tell you that it is actually a very attractive blue color.

And, these potatoes really taste quite good!  In contrast to Purple Majesty, our prior favorite for blue taters, Adirondack Blue tends to be a bit more moist, making them a better candidate for mashing.  We've taken to doing a large pot of them, just for the two of us and having leftover mashed potatoes through the following week with our meals.  It's actually a nice treat, as far as I am concerned.

Colored Potatoes May Have Health Advantages

I am NOT going to pretend to be a doctor, nor am I going to fall prey to the hype many sites are throwing out there about the health benefits of colored potatoes.  What I can tell you is that there are a few studies that indicate that they ARE more healthy than non-pigmented (white) potatoes.  The argument is that

"Pigmented potatoes contain high concentrations of antioxidants, including phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids.These bioactive compounds have been implicated in the inhibition or prevention of cellular oxidative damage and chronic disease susceptibility."
The study that provides this quote in their abstract introduction concludes that:

"Pigmented potato consumption reduced inflammation and DNA damage in healthy adult males. This offers consumers an improved nutritional choice in potato consumption."  J. Nutr. 141: 108–111, 2011.

It's not that I think colored potatoes are the next 'health food,' but I do believe that they can be a viable alternative to some of the starchier varieties for those of us who do love our taters!  It doesn't hurt that they may be healthier for us AND they taste really good.

 Above: picking up potatoes after the underminer lifts them up

Production Notes

Last season, a 100 foot row of Adirondack Blue produced about 270 pounds of tubers for us, which is well over the 10 to 1 ratio we like to target.  However, we have to balance that with another section of Adirondack Blue that had difficulties with moisture (and then weeds) at another part of the farm.  So, our actual ratio for purchased seed was lower than 10 to 1.  The point I am making is that the potential for a good return is there.

Tubers are typically moderate sized with a few good baking sized potatoes thrown in for good measure.  No one will confuse these with a Kennebec or a large russet type that people associate with the traditional baked potato.  On the plus side, I have not noticed many "pebbles" that some varieties seem to have at harvest time.  Skin color is darker, which can make potatoes a little harder to see in our nice, black soil.  However, we have an easier time with these than we did with Purple Majesty.

Another good quality is that we haven't seen too many irregular shaped potatoes that some varieties throw, especially when there are wild swings in soil moisture during the growing season.

Plants are robust and have what I would call a more upright habit and they seem to be less susceptible to Colorado Potato Beetle than many of the varieties we have grown (showing more resistance than Adirondack Red as well).  

While we are coming to the end of our stored Adirondack Blues for eating from last year, we are very much looking forward to growing this year's crop.  We've already put a 75 foot row in and we still need to put the rest in the ground.

Thank you for joining us for the Variety Show on a Saturday.  We hope you have a great day and remainder of the weekend!