Pricking out, filling up

I was yelling and still not quite making myself clear.  No, I wasn't mad, or even agitated.  I was just trying to give instructions under a greenhouse being pummeled by raindrops.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: the rain on plastic is deafening.  I spent the morning with the interns thinning and filling in plant sale trays of brassicas and lettuces.  It's refreshing and fun for me to help develop new skills with these enthused people.  They pick things up quickly, and so far I just check in every now and again to give pointers on efficiency, another eye to completion, and reassurance that they're doing a great job.

 Phil working to fill in plant sale trays

Phil working to fill in plant sale trays

The nursery projects are pretty endless these days, which is great news on a rainy morning.  For the plant sale, we need to fill in any cells that are empty with extra plants, and thin each cell down to (usually) just one plant so it has ample room to grow.  We leave multiple plants in each cell of crops like beets, spinach, onions, cilantro, and dill, since some will grow fine in clumps and others are easily separated during transplanting.  Moving plants around to fill in empty spots takes a certain finesse.  It's best done when the first true leaves haven't quite emerged and the roots are barely splitting, and it helps to do it on a cool, cloudy day to minimize stress on the baby transplants.  It seems like a really disruptive move, but I've noticed that plants tend to bounce back quickly, and don't usually experience any stunting from it.  In cells that have more than one plant, we just pluck out all but the most healthy.  This might be overly optimistic, but I've noticed that the remaining plants tend to perk up and go through a growth spurt soon after thinning, as if the disturbance introduces air and helps them expand their reach in the soil.  Either way, it's a meditative, peaceful project, and there'll be no shortage of such tasks in the next week or two.

 Gathering Flashy Trout's Back lettuce seedlings to transplant into empty cells

Gathering Flashy Trout's Back lettuce seedlings to transplant into empty cells

While we stayed warm and dry in the nursery, Michael braved the rain and kept up the pruning.  A group from a local arborist company, Sperry Tree Care (led by Gritz, the partner of one of last year's interns, Clara) came out on Saturday to help us get ahead of some of the pruning, which was such a boost!  There are still miles to go before we can step away from the orchard, though.  Luckily the rain let up in the afternoon, and we spent the last few hours of the day getting after some mixed trees (peaches, plums, apples, and pears) in a forgotten area of the farm behind the caretaker's residence.  I also got to meet with a prospective new academic intern from the Environmental Studies program at the University of Oregon.  After showing him around and talking more specifically about what we do and what he wants to learn, we decided to move forward and get him signed up!  So at least one more person will be joining us on these peaceful Tuesdays come April.  This is the best time of year, when the farm family gradually grows and grows until we're bursting with enthusiasm and energy with the youth farmers in the summer.  I try not to get too far ahead of myself though: one day at a time...