Oxbow May update – farm life in general.

image

#1 Bunny Snugglepants eats her greens

image

Hangin out in the shop, building our loft bed

image

Alice getting ready to sell our wares at the Ballard market on Mothers Day

Farm update! Spring is happening! Lots of planting and a little harvesting. This is the time of year when we do all different types of field prep like pea trellising, tomato staking, and lots and lots of weeding so that the little plants will be happy and grow for us as best they can.  I and the other new interns are learning the farm systems, ins and outs and how to run our booth at farmers market. So glad to be back in the business of selling food!!

We’ve started moving a lot of the veggie starts out of the greenhouse and transplanting them into the field.  I’ve been seeing and feeling in my body the difference in size and scale of this farm vs last year.  Oxbow is still a small farm in the grand scheme of things, but definitely a step up from Bainbridge in size and degree of mechanization.  In the last 2 weeks we planted out oh, you know, just about a couple of acres of onions and shallots and leeks… Alice had sowed the seeds for these back in January!  Three 8-hour days in a row of planting onions is a lot of bending over!  We transplanted out cabbage and broccoli and lettuce and chard. Just as one example: we put in 10 beds of broccoli: two 250-foot rows per bed at 18 inch spacing equals out to over 3300 plants if my math is correct. And that’s just the early spring broccoli… there are a couple more successions seeded in the greenhouse already!  It is a great feeling to work as a coordinated team of 5 or 6 people, plucking the plants out of their plastic trays and nestling them into the soft soil with speed and efficiency, leaving behind straight lines of upreaching green shoots ready to photosynthesize and grow.

Ohhh… BIG NEWS: I have learned to drive stick. Kind of. At least I can get the yellow truck from the barn to field D successfully which involves 1st, 2nd, R, and not getting stuck in the mud. It makes me feel SO proud of myself every time I do it without stalling at the start. Yay accomplishment 🙂

On the home front, we finished our loft bed so I sleep up near the ceiling instead of on the futon now. It’s definitely hotter up here! The bed building was a team effort between me and alice and Mike who works in the shop at the farm and my friend Remington who came to visit.  Having an overnight guest was the incentive we needed to finish the project!  I’ll post some interior yurt pics soon; it is looking pretty put-together in here and I got my drums set up too!

On the bunny front, there are no babies yet. Did I mention that we got two mama rabbits on Easter?  Snuggles is due around May 15. Margot is kind of a mystery as we weren’t for sure if she was preggers or not when she arrived, and if so when her due date would be.  Thus far the little ladies have been nothing but sweet and easy to care for. They like to eat our vegetable scraps and gnaw on blackberry brambles.

I’m spending a lot of my spare brain cycles thinking about what I want to do next year (or at least, next, if not next year) as far as farming goes. I have a pretty fully-formed idea taking shape in my head. It may or may not have a couple of critical flaws 🙂  But my farm name popped into my head during a bike ride a couple weeks ago (as all good ideas tend to do) and the domain name is available… sooo, we’re off to a great start toward my theoretical future farm!

Advertisements

Spring produce update

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:

Erin and Stacy with the new baby lambs

Getting ice cream after work with Brian

Betsey, Sam, me