Kindred spirits

Persephone Farm in Indianola is another great farm in our little corner of the world that does internships. In fact Betsey credits a former Persephone intern as the inspiration to start her apprenticeship program! Our booth is right across the way from Persephone’s at the Bainbridge Farmers Market, so we have been seeing each other every week, but the market is such a flurry that we’d all barely had a chance to talk. I had been wanting to make friends with the interns but it hadn’t happened yet.

So I was excited when our mutual friend Chandler, a former Persephone intern who now farms near here on Vashon Island, created an occasion for us all to get together and hang out.

We were invited over to Indianola on a Saturday for dinner on Persephone Farm. We were served amazing farm-grown food and homemade ice cream, took a walk around the farm/orchards/pastures/yurts, and then stopped over to a “prom” themed birthday party at the Indianola community hall. The next morning we had delicious local food for brunch at a home down the road from their place. It was great to sit around and chat with farmer Rebecca and her apprentices about how their farm works and to compare and contrast it with ours.

Apprentices Greg, Caitlin, Joel and Mo seem to be enjoying their experience and integrating into their community over there just as much as we are here. We are all understandably proud of our own farms, land that we are becoming intimately familiar with. We each respect and admire our respective farmers who we also get to live intimately with as part of the farm family. We hopefully agree with our own farmers’ methods and feel pride in ownership of our own farm products, vegetables that we’ve invested hours of labor into and watched grow from seed to fruit.

But although we come from different, unique farm operations, we are all here doing this for the same reasons. We care about the land and about living sustainably and thoughtfully on it. We are fascinated by plants and especially by the process of growing food. We love to eat real food and make this food available to others who appreciate it and help those who don’t yet appreciate it learn to value it. We started some good conversations over brunch especially, and I look forward to spending more time with Rebecca and her crew!

Nematodes and other things



Well, the weather is finally warming up and it’s starting to feel at least springlike if not summery.  Every day on the farm continues to be a delight and a joy for me. I feel extremely lucky to be here.









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Betsey has started a new blog for her farm!  We’re working on getting it up and running, at laughingcrowfarm.wordpress.com.

I wrote a little post on there about our recent trip to Sequim, which was *awesome* as we got to learn about draft horse farming and drive a team of draft horses.  More pictures from the trip are on my flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/warnerbecky/

I have a lot of prior horse experience, but it’s all been with riding. I was really surprised at how hard it was to drive the horses while sitting behind them on a wagon instead of on top of their backs. It’s the same communication, right? Wrong — when riding, you have your whole body (seat and legs) to use for communication. When driving you just have your hands on the lines and your voice. John, the horse trainer whose farm we visited and who taught us the driving lesson, has amazing communication with his horses. He can be standing across the field and say “back” and that horse will march backwards. It comes from a lifetime of learning on the part of the trainer and years of building up a relationship with that particular horse. I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to own horses again and experience that relationship as a daily part of my own life.



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Mainly, I wanted to write this post about beneficial nematodes. What are those?? I wrote about soil microbes in my compost post and then realized I didn’t really know what I was talking about. What is a microbe exactly? And why exactly is it good to have them in soil that you want to grow stuff in? I decided to investigate one type of microbe.

A microbe or microorganism is an organism that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. Nematodes are one type of microorganism I had already heard about from Betsey. She applies a spray to her fields containing these little guys as a preventative against pest problems.

A nematode is a wormlike creature that lives — get this — in the film of water surrounding soil particles. Crazy! There are many types of nematodes. In fact, they are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth. But one type of nematodes are what we call beneficial or insect-parasitic. What they do is burrow inside a larger insect, entering through one of its natural body orifices(!), and then emit a bacteria that kills the host via blood poisoning.  The nematode then feeds off of the host and multiplies inside it.  Yikes!

As much as this sounds like some terrifying horror movie, the fact that this happens is great for farmers because having a healthy nematode population will keep down your soil-dwelling pest poulation. Pests like black fly (Brian worries about them on carrots) and root maggots (Betsey had some failed onion transplants because of them) can wreck your crops if they get out of control. In organic farming we can’t (and don’t want to) use chemical pesticides to kill those bugs. What we have to do instead is make sure there is not a good environment for the bad guys to flourish. This includes making sure we have really strong and vigorous plants that will be more resilient and not overwhelmed by a bug attack. It also helps to keep natural predators like bumblebees, ladybugs, and nematodes happy.

To that end, Betsey uses the beneficial nematode spray. The nematodes come via mail order from someplace that grows them (can you imagine being a breeder of microscopic wormlike creatures as your job?) She mixes them with water and sprays them on the fields. I see Betsey out there in the onions occasionally with a backpack sprayer in the evening and I know she is spraying her nematodes — ultraviolet light and heat will kill them so it’s best to apply in the evening.

So…… now we know!

In the news

An article with pictures from our Memorial Day veggie garden planting at City Hall… Includes pics of Brian and Betsey and me.
http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2010/may/31/bainbridge-island/

Lovely article about our “grandfather” farmer Akio who was recently honored with an award. Akio grew up in the house I’m living in on the farm.
http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/kitsap/bir/lifestyle/93729204.html

We are keeping busy, planting and harvesting despite the crazy cold and rainy weather. It does not feel like June! We had one sunny afternoon/evening yesterday, which we celebrated with a bonfire and drinking wine outside. Yay! New vegetables are coming on: romanesco, zucchini, collards. Garlic scapes are ready for harvest. First early potatoes will be for sale in a couple weeks. The baby animals are getting bigger — Brian’s chickens, whom I first met in January when they were 3 days old, are now getting their egg-laying skills figured out. The eggs are still small and often double-yolked, I’m not sure why. Eventually, out of our 50 layers we expect to be getting at least 20 to 25 dozen eggs a week.

We got to take a field trip to Sequim last week to spend a day driving horses with Betsey’s horse mentor, John Erskine. Pics of that coming soon!