Genuine Faux News of the Farm
Vol 5 Issue 7- July 2009
There is something special about the length of the sunlit day in the months of June and July. And, in our case, 'special' can mean equal parts disappointment and satisfaction, wonder and worry, frustration and success, frantic action and meditative pacing, beauty and ugliness. In other words, the long days tend to bring out the 'bi-polar' side in us at the farm. If I re-examine my feelings over the last couple of days, I find a roller coaster ride full of twists, turns and dives that would make any amusement park proud.
It is likely that part of this is rooted in the simple fact that we have enough daylight to be active for a much longer portion of the day. There are so many opportunities to start new tasks and be involved in so many aspects of farm life. In one day, we worked on finishing a roof, weeding, cleaning CSA containers, dealing with poultry issues, spreading mulch, transplanting, laundry, tractor repair and a myriad of other things. Each and every task has the potential to be frustrating and rewarding. Every undertaking may be completed or abandoned, depending on any number of factors. There's enough mood swing fodder there to make it difficult to answer the simple question, "How are you today?"
To make matters more interesting, June and July are months where everything is growing quickly - especially the weeds. In fact, we begin to realize that time is becoming critical for planting, picking, weeding and numerous other tasks. And, we are feeling that these long days are simply not long enough. Or, perhaps, these long days ARE long enough. We just don't have enough energy to take full advantage of them? Of course, we will tell ourselves it is the former case (days not long enough) since we don't really want to admit that we wouldn't be able to take advantage of them if they were any longer.
The key for us has been knowing when to be observant and when to put on the 'blinders.' It is all too easy to see fifty other things that need doing as we prepare ourselves to do a planned task. Clearly, we need to keep our eyes open and take note when something is happening that needs to take priority over the day's plan. At the same time, we can't afford to be diverted by any and all tasks that present themselves. In fact, there are times when I try NOT to notice other things that need doing. This provides me with the opportunity to fully enjoy the selected task without chaffing at the time it requires and/or worrying about all the other things that must also be completed. In fact, it can be relaxing to concentrate fully on weeding a couple of rows of __fill in the blank__.
Then there are days where we actually dedicate ourselves to doing as many of the little tasks that jump out at us as we can possibly do. These days usually start with a long list of things that we'd like to accomplish. Then, as we perform these tasks, we allow ourselves to do other jobs as long as they are not going to take more than 15 minutes. Longer jobs are for other days. Days like this are necessary and therepeutic. And, if you are a list maker, they are farm more satisfying - even if the net worth of the tasks add up to only one item for other days of the week.
As I write this, I see that the computer clock thinks it is 10:15 PM. That means it is really 10:30 PM. About time to go to bed so I can get up...and face another adventure-filled long day.
We can't help it. Tammy and I have a tendency to create or use words differently than many people when we refer to things on the farm. It's so ingrained in us that we often forget that others do not have an English to GFF dictionary. Here's the beginning of your personal copy of that work:
Skritcher - any tool used to scratch up the ground and make life more difficult for weeds. Officially, a skritcher has tines - but we stretch the definition for saddle hoes, wire weeders, etc.
Product Tester - that would be Tammy. She likes to eat produce in the field.
Squish - ya, that's a squash. There is a summer squish, pumpkin squish, butternut squish and rotten squish that goes 'squish' when it's squashed.
Knucklehead - a generic term used for any of our poultry that is causing Rob's blood pressure to go up. Occassionally, deer, chuckies, raccoon, cats and other critters will become a knucklehead. Early in life, Rob called bullheads 'knuckleheads,' but that's another (GFF) story.
Chicklet - a baby chicken.
Garden Zit - potato beetle larvae. They're orange with some spotting/striping and look a little like mini-Jabba the Hut. They pop when squished (not squashed).
Three Shirt Day - think about it. We work outside. It gets warm. We perspire.
Kite - it's a pull-behind tool for a garden tractor that flips up grass clippings into the carrier so it can be used as mulch or compost. It can catch the wind too, there you have it.
Cardio - using the wheel hoe in the gardens. See "Three Shirt Day."
Chuckie - any woodchuck on our property has a tendency to be at least mildly evil. The mama woodchuck is, of course, Bride of Chuckie and the young-uns could be considered Spawn of Chuckie - but they look more like...
Ewok - a woodchuck youngster.
Paid in Full - what a critter is said to have done if it does not escape from the Fauxes after it takes out some of their poultry or crops.
Kamikaze - a blackfly or gnat that does that little loop in front of your eye before diving right in.
More in future issues of the newsletter! Consider this a clip and save article so you can build your own lexicon.
5 Issue 7- July 2009
Our first batch of chickens will be taken to Martzahn's Farm for processing on July 15. Typically, we pick the birds up in the afternoon on the same day and bring them back to the farm to be frozen.
Our first batch will be the Freedom Ranger birds that we have raised for the past year and a half. The second batch will be black feathered broilers and they will go to the processor July 22. There are approximately 100 of each. Birds are free range and given organic feed to supplement forage.
Cost will be determined once we see what Martzahn's fees are going to be this year. We were caught by surprise with a (well-deserved by them) fee increase last year and don't want to repeat that. We are aiming for about $3/pound with birds ranging from 3 to 5 pounds.
What does this mean to you? If you want chickens, now is the time to reserve them! And, as you reserve them, you need to suggest when/how you will be available to pick up your birds. For more details, please visit this page on our website.
The girls have been pleased with life and are producing at a reasonable pace this summer. Of course, as soon as we say that, they tend to go on strike. So, we are hopeful that no one will read the newsletter to them this month!
We currently have more eggs available than we have contracted egg buyers. If you are interested in purchasing eggs, please contact us. Even though the hens are giving us eggs, please understand that we do not have HUGE flock, so we can't manage to give everyone eggs!
We typically enter egg contracts for 5 dozen, to be delivered every week, every other week or every third week - until all 5 dozen are delivered. We ask $3/dozen. So, a $15 investment gives you eggs being produced by free-range hens and fed organic feed. The easiest delivery points are during CSA distribution times (Tue - Waverly, Thu - Cedar Falls & Mon- at the farm).
Sometimes the title just doesn't quite work - but it's what we could come up with.
Thanks to Dad Faux and Uncle Gene, we now have a stainless steel counter set up in the shade by one of our buildings to help with cleaning and hydrocooling. In addition to this counter, we also have a 'stand-alone' stainless counter with a double sink. Combined with a pop-up canopy, we and our workers have found preparing the harvest a much more pleasant task than it has been in the past.
We are hopeful that we can accomplish establishing a more permanent packing setup in the near future. However, that will require many hours of labor to do. So, we expect that this will be our operating procedure for the rest of this season.
This report was summarized on July 5. During this time of year, the garden can change so fast that we can only give you a snapshot of what is going on.
One last grand push and we can now say that the shingling is completed on the 'truck barn' on the farm. Our goal was to complete it prior to the one-year anniversary (July 4) from the inception of the project.
This is just another example of how we have to juggle typical warm-weather repair projects with the gardens. Next major project? Probably fencing. Or putting the windows in the house. We know from experience that putting windows in when temps are in the teens is not an acceptible approach.
Circumstances have dictated to us yet again that our original schedule for the Tom Sawyer Day must be changed. We are moving the July Tom Sawyer Day to July 18 from 1pm to 5pm. We ask that you RSVP only if you plan to attend. We need to know who is coming (and roughly when during the day) so we can plan out activities. For more information regarding Tom Sawyer Days, take this link.
Put August 29 down in your calendars. It's the annual Summer Fest! Come see how tall the weeds are - and enjoy conversation, food and games.
Vol 5 Issue 7- July 2009
Rob is currently out standing in his field (still/again). Mr. Wren has agreed to contribute to this month's newsletter by outlining a typical day in his busy life. Reprinted from our August 2008 newsletter by popular request. Ok, just one person...
If you read last month's newsletter, you might recall that we had some difficulty with a raccoon taking out half of our turkey flock. While it is never fun to have to deal with this situation, it is important that we find some sort of humor.
After seeing the movie "Up," we have decided that our lone Bourbon Red turkey is to wear the moniker "Kevin." The rest of the older turkeys have been dubbed, "the Joneses." The flock of new little turks are currently known as "the Peeps."
They apparently have musical aspirations and would like to name their first album "Peeping Up with the Joneses"
Sounds come from the National Wild Turkey Federation. Our birds do make sounds very much like these. If you wish to explore more regarding these turkey calls, you can go here.
We do have some use for several things on the farm that may be cluttering up garages or closets in your home. Please note that we aren't asking you to sacrifice things you might have use for. We also realize that several of these items are a 'shot in the dark' with a low likelihood that someone has them. However, we have learned that silence does not promote connections that can be mutually beneficial. In nearly all of these cases, it would be best to ask us first before dropping them off.
Vol 5 Issue 7- July 2009
We are pleased that many of you are choosing to have friends or family members pick up your share when you are away. And, we want you to feel certain that we will do what we can to help them figure out the system and make them feel welcomed. However, you might want to tell your friends that they should bring a bag or container to take the produce home. We certainly can provide them with some plastic bags - just as we do for anyone who might forget a bag or container. But, there is often a moment or two where your friends might feel a bit lost before they realize they need something to carry produce home. Save them the embarassment and give them this little tidbit of information.
First, we'd like to thank ALL of our CSA members for working with us this season. It's been a pleasure meeting so many new people and working with individuals who enjoy fresh produce. People have adapted to the distribution method quite well. Here are a few things to clarify or remind:
At this point, we do not have large amounts of extra produce beyond that which is going to the CSA and Food Bank. But, when we do have excess, where does it go?
First and foremost, the CSA is our priority for production. And, yes, Tammy and Rob also get a share of the produce - since it was discovered that they had to eat as well. However, if a crop is in plenty AND can exceed what we feel are sufficiently generous amounts of that crop in shares for one week, we will seek other sales opportunities.
We also sell additional produce to CSA members and other individuals who want to can or freeze vegetables for the winter. For example, we were able to provide boxes of tomatoes from 25-50 lbs (or more) to numerous CSA members who were looking to can in 2008. If early indications are taken to fruition, we should have excess in tomatoes again this year.
If we are in a position of excess, we will let our CSA members know in our emails. If you have a request of us, you can certainly let us know and we'll contact you when/if we do have excess you can acquire. Every year is different, so we can only make educated guesses as to what we will have.
In addition to sales to individuals and CSA members, we have sold to Bartels in Waverly, Roots in Cedar Falls, Harmony Restaurant in Waverly, Somewhere Else Restaurant in Tripoli and UNI.
The year has started out fine - here's hoping for alot of fantastic produce throughout the season.
We sometimes forget that our efforts to determine what and how much we distribute to each share holder are not as transparent as we think. For those with interest, here is what we do to determine what is distributed.
For crops that are currently in a cycle of plenty, we set what we feel are reasonable goal amounts for each share size (large, standard and single). For example, we have plenty of lettuce right now, so we figure a "3,2,1 distribution," which gives three heads to a large, 2 to a standard and 1 to a single. It is a simple matter to multiply and add out. For example, on Thursday we have 11 large shares, 49 standard and 7 singles. Therefore, we must pick 138 heads of lettuce. Typically, we will pick 145 heads to provide choice to the late comers and insure that there is extra for the Food Bank at the end.
For crops that are in a limited production cycle, we tend to pick what is ready and attempt to divide it out as seems appropriate. For example, when radish were in plenty, a 24, 12, 6 distribution was easy to do. But, we were forced into a 8,6,4 distribution last week given the available product. Once again, we have to determine these numbers based on an assumption that ALL members will be picking up and that ALL produce allotted will be taken by each member. If people do not show up, or do not take certain produce, it can be offered in trade to other members or it will be donated.
Here's where it gets tricky. Sometimes a crop, such as broccoli, will not produce enough for all members on a given distribution date. This is where we get a bit more creative. Large shares tend to get priority for low crop amounts. However, we try to get all share sizes broccoli at some point when the full heads are ripe. This means that a distribution where larges and singles may get broccoli in one week and standards only in the next. The trick is to maintain proper overall amounts each week that represent the proper sizes AND still get everyone an opportunity for each veg we grow.
We have also been known to combine two crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower and give members a choice of one or the other. This is especially useful if we can only harvest 25 heads of each and we need a total of 50 to satisfy all shares.
And finally, with some produce, such as zucchini and cucumber, there is a definite possibility that members might begin to feel overburdened if we distribute large numbers of them EVERY week. For example, large shares have been known to get 8 slicing cucumbers in one week. This could go on for several weeks in a row. To avoid an overload, we may 'roller coaster' the amounts (8 one week, 4 the next, etc) and we may alternate between distribution days/sites (Tuesday gets 8, Thursday 4).
Vol 5 Issue 7- July 2009 page 5