Genuine Faux News of the Farm
Vol 5 Issue 1 - January 2009
The picture at the top of the newsletter was taken by Tammy just prior to Christmas. She was going to take pictures of the patterns of drifting and blowing snow, but couldn't resist trying a picture or two of the sundogs that were quite visible as the sun went down. If you don't know, sundogs will not appear until we get into cold (below zero) weather. The drift pattern that you see in the picture is an indication of the strong winds we had after receiving ten to fourteen inches of snow over a couple of days. Cold, snow, wind. That sounds like a good recipe for some garden day-dreaming.
Last season's successes and failures are still fresh in our heads, but the simple fact that we cannot do much in the garden right now is enough to get us to begin wishing that we could. Humans are nearly as bad as cats - we always want what we can't or don't have. Once we have it, we seem to think we should leave it and wish for something else.
The nice part of this time of year is that Tammy and I do get to spend time daydreaming about our gardens. But, in our case, we can call it "planning for our farm business." It's a nice thing when you can incorporate something you enjoy with your job.
One might be tempted to believe that the planning gets easier each year. And, in fact, parts of the process is easier. We have much better ideas about how much of things to grow, how many seeds it will take and how much space will be needed. However, our plan has grown more complex each year as well. We're working to put more cover crops into the plan, rather than the haphazard approach of years past. We're doing more with companion planting, and among these companions are more annual flowers. We're looking at being more efficient with our work hours and we are, of course, considering adding more crops to our list. Oh, and don't forget the bees...and the composting system....and....
I do periodically take this work with me and put myself in a new environment (such as Roots, or the Den at Wartburg). So, some of you may have noticed that I can appear to be working for semi-long periods of time. Actually, I am working - but feel free to say 'hello.' Just be prepared for references to undersewn legumes or trap crops until I can extract myself enough to realize you might want to talk about something else.
And now...back to daydreaming. It's going to be a good year.
One of our favorite tools for gardening has to be companion planting. And, of course, like many things, companion planting can be broader (or narrower) depending on who is talking about the concept. For our purposes, we consider companion planting to be any method of placing plant types near each other for the benefit of one or both types. In fact, you could consider nearness with respect to space or time. But, we tend to consider time with our rotations - so we focus on spatial considerations when we consider companions.
What can companion planting do for you?
We plant nasturtiums with our winter squash in order to repel squash bugs, borers and cucumber beetles.
Sunflowers can be a trap crop for stalk borers in soybeans. Scented geraniums and 4 O'clocks attract Japanese Beetles. Bad for the beetles since these plants are toxic to them.
Soybeans or other legumes undersown (once corn is 12 inches tall) will fix nitrogen into the soil.
Many companions attract and provide shelter for beneficial insects. Including pollinators and predators. Zinnias and borage attract pollinators for our melons.
Corn can provide a natural trellis for climbing beans.
5 Issue 1 - January 2009
Tammy and I discussed the whole idea of a Genuine Faux Farm blog for a while before we decided to give it the official trial. Of course, we aren't sure how it and our newsletters will fair if we do both. That's why it's called a trial. The biggest benefits are that Tammy can more easily get some writing in AND our CSA members (and other interested parties) can also weigh in.
We are hopeful that the blog will allow us to more easily keep everyone up to date with farm happenings - including pictures. We had/have good intentions about updating our picture journal. But, a blog tool is built to format this for us. While we can certainly format things nicely and Rob could certainly write interactive pages, it seems more efficient to use an existing tool.
At present, we see the newsletter as an opportunity to provide you with official announcements and information. We put much more time and effort into the material you see here than you will find in a typical blog entry. You can expect more 'spur of the moment' items there and planned content here.
So, if you would enjoy seeing a little bit more about our work on the farm - and what we are currently thinking about it. Go visit our Genuinely Faux blog. Feel free to leave comments, make requests or just enjoy what you see there.
The Berlage family have let us know that there are piggies available for a cooperative buy. At present, we need enough people to purchase the three hogs we reserved, we may be able to reserve more than that if enough people contact us. Talk it over and get to us with your interest as soon as possible. Please tell us how much (in 1/8 increments) you want in your portion. For more details on how cooperative buys work, please go here.
Keep your eyes open for the Go Green Fair to be held at the W in Waverly on January 31. We will be holding a table at the fair from 9am to noon which gives everyone another opportunity to come and talk to us about the farm and the CSA. This event is being held in conjunction with activities that center around the visit of Robert Kennedy, Jr's visit to the Wartburg campus.
Please visit us and other table holders at this event. Come with ideas or questions about sustainability and see if you can get answers or resources that will lead you to solutions or start you on a project!
We are aware of interest in a beef buy. However, our source for grass fed beef was forced to terminate his operations recently. We can, however, contact Craig Claussing for his hormone-free beef. If you are interested in seeing a beef buy in the very near future, let us know as soon as possible. For information on how beef cooperative buys work, go here. Remember to tell us how much (in 1/16th increments) you want.
The Practical Farmers of Iowa conference in Marshalltown was a positive experience for us. Admittedly, there was less for us this year in terms of session content, but that may be as much an indiator of our personal knowledge growth as anything. It was still a great place to connect with other growers. The chance to network with our peers encourages us by either affirming, challenging or expanding what we think we know. Rob was also able to put together a research poster on the tomato trellising trials the Genuine Faux Farm participated in last year. Once the PFI report is completed, we will post results on our website.
We are also planning on attending the annual organics conference sponsored by MOSES in LaCrosse. Last year was our first time attending the conference and we found it to be very useful. This year, we are planning on having Rob attend the Organic University session on beekeeping. At least that's the buzz we've been hearing.
The A to Z Cookbooks were a big hit last season and we are wondering if there are more persons interested in these books this year? We suspect that we will be able to pick up another bulk box at the MOSES conference this Spring just as we did last Spring. However, we don't want to throw money at a box of books if no one wants them. For those who are willing, please let us know how good (or bad) you think this purcahse was for you - we will summarize comments on our blog (with no identifying information).
The conference is Feb 26-28, so we will need to know of your interest in these books prior to that time. If we do not get sufficient response, we will not pick up these books.
From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce (3d Edition) by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Highly recommended to everyone who wants to get more out of their shares!
Vol 5 Issue 1 - January 2009
If you would like to introduce a child to the joys of gardening, try this idea on for size.
Lay out a rectangle of whatever size you want for the garden. Don' t make it too big because it will lose some of its purpose as a play spot once things mature. And, of course, the size of the child may have something to say about your final layout.
Along three sides (the two long sides and one short side) plant tall items. The goal is to grow a bit of a 'hedge' in order to make a living play house. The front will provide a tunnel entrance to the play area. For this side, set up an arch trellis of some sort. The can be accomplished by getting a single cattle panel and bending it into an arch, using rebar to hold the ends in place.
Involve the child(ren) in the selection of plants. You can opt to grow mostly flowers or vegetables depending on what seems fun and interesting. Be creative and see what happens with different choices - that's part of the fun.
The trellis will require a vining/climbing plant or two. So, consider cucumbers, climbing beans, morning glories or other climbers. You can plant something different on both ends of the trellis if you wish.
Excellent choices for 'walls' include sunflowers, corn, broom corn and/or tall zinnia varieties. You can make these walls more ornate by planting climbing beans next to the corn, or climbing cucumbers next to the sunflowers.
If you wish, you can plant an annual grass on the 'floor', or put in some plants that don't mind a little shade. Or, of course, you can leave the floor alone.
For those that were wondering what those big, tender carrots were that we grew last year. St Valery was given a trial last year and they were a wonderful surprise. These tend not to get the hard woody core that others might as they get bigger. If you like carrot taste, you'll like these alot.
Roots Market in Cedar Falls has offered to host CSA informational sessions. The second installation will be Saturday, January 24 from 11am to 1pm. Even if you already know us and feel comfortable with the CSA, it would be pleasant to visit with you!
If you want to see who we are, ask us questions about how the CSA works or just want to introduce yourselves - we'll be there! We will be willing and able to take signups in person for next summer as well.
Vol 5 Issue 1 - January 2009
We are working out the details for our plant sales in 2009 at this time. And, since we are dreaming about gardening this month - we thought we'd encourage your own thoughts of green and growing things.
How to acquire GFF Plants in 2009
We will sell these plants at Farmer's Markets in May (and perhaps the first week in June). We will take direct orders for plants. There is a chance we will also hold a plant sale in Tripoli in May.
Per plant $1.50. Four plants for $5. Ten or more plants $1 each.
What do they look like?
Plants typically are in 3 inch or 4 inch pots. We believe that plants do better if they are a little younger. We want to avoid having roots wrapped around the outside of the pot. The transplant shock in those cases is sufficient for our plants to catch and pass larger and older plants. Do not expect flowering tomatoes, you don't want those anyway!
What will you be selling?
We will certainly have our wide range of heirloom tomato, pepper and eggplant starts this year. There will be one hybrid pepper (Ace) and one hybrid eggplant (Dusky). We are planning on growing some brassica starts for sale this season (broccoli, cauliflower,kale,brussels sprouts) but will limit the number unless we have significant orders for them. We are again likely to have various spices and will consider other items as requested.
As we get into February, you can watch our 'available' page for a list of plants we are growing with the intent of selling.
The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick
We encourage members of the CSA to strongly consider finding ways to store produce during the summer when their share contains more than they need at the time. But, we realize that the task often seems a bit daunting. In an effort to help you with this, Tammy has been looking for a book that provides an easy reference for food storage and preservation.
We believe that we have found a book that meets our criteria. The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food is easy to read, easy to understand and fairly comprehensive. It includes recipes, step by step instructions and numerous hints for canning, freezing and drying techniques. There are useful reference charts and illustrations. We consider this book a very good buy. In fact, if enough members express interest, we will see if we can get them in bulk for you.
Our only complaint about the book isn't much of one. The title implies that all the processes provided will easily fit in a busy persons' day. While that isn't necessarily true, persons who take up food preserving will find that it really isn't that time consuming. And, the time you save later when you use your preserved food pays you back a hundredfold.
For other recommendations from GFF, visit our library.
Vol 5 Issue 1 - January 2009
The farm attempted to pilot reduced price shares in 2008 and we did have a number of persons who contributed an amount beyond their share price to establish a fund for these reduce priced shares. We are considering doing this again, but had difficulty finding persons who wanted to take advantage of the program by receiving a subsidized share. As a result, we made sure that equivalent amounts of produce were delivered to the food shelf or to Cedar Valley Friends of the Family.
If you have opinions or suggestions regarding this program, we would be happy to hear them.
Persons who have already signed up by sending us a deposit should have already received an email receipt to confirm your registration. If you have not received this, please let us know and we'll confirm with you.
In early February, we will be sending out our billing for the remaining balance owed for CSA shares. Included in this mailing will be a SASE for easy return of payments. Persons who wish to make multiple payments are welcome to do so, but should inform us of your intent. April 1 is our payment in full deadline unless you arrange for a different payment agreement.
Welcome to 2009 share holders who are new this year and to those that are returning from prior years! All members who have signed up for 2009 will be placed on our CSA distribution list. Until the season starts, emails will consist largely of announcments regarding our newsletter.
As always, feel free to contact us with questions and we will do our best to answer!
Currently, we have 83 spots reserved for next year - so there is still plenty of room! If you need convincing, we can connect you with persons who have experience with our CSA in prior years. Why should you join us? Go here and see ten reasons.
Now that we are in 2009, we will be happy to receive either a deposit ($25) to hold a spot, or you may make payment in full for you share. For more information, please go here on our web site.
"Hm. It really doesn't feel too bad at all out here today. I think it's finally warming up," said Tammy as we walked out to our car on what promised to be a bright January morning.
"Ya, I was about to say the same thing. This is actually kind of nice," I responded as we climbed into the vehicle.
It was our one, and only, winter in Duluth. Weather during the month of January had been one of the coldest for some time. In fact, Lake Superior had actually frozen completely over - something that doesn't happen very often. The lake is so large that there is typically enough movement to break up the ice in its deepest and/or widest locations. However, we were in Duluth, so it wasn't uncommon to be able to walk across the lake to visit Superior, Wisconsin - not that we did that, or recommended it to others.
The car started relatively easily, which was another indicator that it was warmer outside. We began our drive from the rental property down by the lake up the hill to the UMD campus. One of the special rules of driving in Duluth was that you needed to stop and listen at many corners because you couldn't see around the piles of snow. And, some of the roads to get up the 'hill.' in Duluth can be pretty steep. That's where Rob learned to drive a manual transmission - but that's another story.
We passed the fitness center with its glass windows completely frosted over and the little gas station situated on the corner of three roads that intersected at odd angles. We always wondered how many near misses there were with people trying to get in and out of that place. And, we began our journey up the hill.
Halfway up the hill was a bank sign that impassively displayed the news that was the temperature each and every day. For several days, the sign had faithfully pointed out (not helpfully - but faithfully) that the temperature was 30 degrees BELOW zero. We knew today would be different - it felt good to finally be thawing out.
As we passed the big tree that usually obscured the sign for part of our drive, we each both stopped chatting. One of us said something like, "umhmm."
What was the temperature? -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that's a heat wave!
Vol 5 Issue 1 - January 2009 page 6
Little known fact: Tammy was not born in one of the contiguous 48 states.