After getting all introspective with my last post, I thought I would follow up with some nice boring factual data :-). So… let’s talk about what we are growing on the farm this spring.
Last Saturday at the farmers market, I worked Brian’s booth and we had for sale: salad greens, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb, beets, carrots, broccoli raab, radishes, and red leaf lettuce. Oh and also eggs. We harvested and prepped the veggies on Friday and sold them at the market on Saturday. We sold out of everything except spinach! Most of those veggies have been growing slowly under hoophouses since winter – the carrots, for example, were planted several months ago and last week was the first harvest of little baby carrots.
We’ve been doing a lot of seed starting for warm season crops. Recently I have helped plant trays of potting mix with bean, squash, corn, lettuce, and broccoli seed.
The seeds we plant into trays get held in the propogation house for several weeks to germinate and grow into little seedlings. Then they get transplanted. Some things we are now transplanting directly out in the field: lettuce, onions, leeks, chard, kale, beets, kohlrabi, collards, etc. I am getting to the point where I can do the transplanting like a frickin machine! No careful handling for these seedlings, efficiency is the name of the game. Moving quickly down the row, you make a little hole with one hand, drop the plant in with the other hand, and lightly shove the dirt back around while moving on to the next plant.
Some heat-loving crops are being transplanted into the hoophouses and will grow there all summer. So far we’ve put in green beans, zucchini and yellow squash, and – just this week – two whole houses full of tomatoes! Growing these plants under the protective houses will allow Brian to get an earlier and bigger harvest than many of his competitors.
With Betsey we’ve been tending the garlic and onions and next week we’ll be planting potatoes. There are pounds and pounds of seed potatoes sitting around everywhere – in the shed, on Betsey’s porch – patiently waiting to go into the ground! Betsey has also been teaching us about fruit trees and grape vines – pruning, pests and diseases to watch out for, and how to tend the plants to get a bigger and better harvest. There is so much work and thought that goes into this and so many choices to be made by the farmers for each crop. It gives me a new perspective on what all goes into a bottle of wine as well as the organic veggies that I see at farmers markets.
One thing that goes into them is a helluva lot of weeding! Thats basically what organic growing is all about… a neverending battle against weeds. We’ve done weeding using hoes and pickaxes and a cultivator pulled by Sam the horse, but the majority is done by hand, on hands and knees getting in between and around the plants. I am getting quicker and quicker at weeding by learning to be slightly less of a perfectionist!
In fact it has been interesting watching myself learn to do each of these new tasks. Each thing may sound easy – hand weeding or hoeing or driving the tractor or spreading fertilizer or sticking transplants into the soil – but the tasks are on a large scale and new to me and there is always a technique to learn in order to do the job quickly and efficiently. My learning curve always follows a similar progression: at first I start out like a complete idiot and fumble through whaterver it is doing a bad job and doing it slowly 🙂 Then I start to improve my technique so now I am doing a good job, trying to do it perfectly, but moving very slowly still. Finally, after a bit the muscle memory kicks in and I can speed up, maybe losing a bit of accuracy because doing the job fast is usually more important than doing it perfectly.
So, I am enjoying the challenge of learning all these new bits and pieces and how they fit together into the running of the farm. Some of them do get monotonous. But every so often, I will be out in the field in the middle of a 3 hour stint of weeding, and the thought will just pop into my head, “I could be sitting behind a desk staring at a screen on this gorgeous Tuesday afternoon, but instead I’m out here in the world with my hands in the dirt and I’m glad I am here doing this right now.” It’s a good feeling.
Next time I post I will get some good pictures up but this time all I have are a couple of crappy iPhone pics: