(More than) operating heavy machinery

I had a heavy machinery day.  More than anything else I do, I think I'm most attentive when operating vehicles that have the power to destroy: rototiller, flame weeder, tractor, box truck.  Today I tilled three of our greenhouses, which gets me even more attentive because I could easily rip a hole in the plastic (which, ahem, has happened), dent the metal bows, plow through a wall, or bury nearby crops.  So that's first on my mind.  Then there's the fun of creating what Sophie called "chocolate cake" on the ground: hundreds of square feet of fluffy, crumbly dark soil.  I have mixed feelings about tilling, which I hope to write about here in the future, but for today I relished the beauty and satisfaction of freshly aerated beds.

 Making chocolate cake, aka tilling greenhouse beds

Making chocolate cake, aka tilling greenhouse beds

That was the morning.  In the afternoon, I took off to the FOOD for Lane County warehouse to borrow a box truck, pick up three pallets of limestone, and deliver them to both Grassroots Garden and the farm.  At Grassroots, a team of eight volunteers swarmed one of the pallets and we all unloaded and safely tucked it away from the rain.  Once I got back to the Youth Farm, I grabbed the smaller tractor, loaded it with bags of soil amendments, and helped spread them out over the twelve beds that Ted had shaped in the meantime.  After a quick grafting lesson, watering the nursery, and showing Michael how to use a smaller tiller to mix in the amendments and do the final bed shaping, I was back in that big box truck, driving across town in rush hour, alert and cautious and trying to stay calm knowing I could run right over any number of things in my path.  While it's fun to do something different, I'm glad I get to stay on the farm most days...

 Newly shaped beds, ready for amendments

Newly shaped beds, ready for amendments

But that's just my day!  I realized as I was leaving the farm that everyone there today had a wildly different day than I did:

Michael started out pruning with the interns, then dove into training the interns to harvest the last salad greens from the high tunnels I was preparing to till.  After harvest, he spent much of the late morning washing heads of lettuce for display at this weekend's That's My Farmer CSA Fair (a long-standing faith community event to support local farmers, this year for the first time scheduled in March to encourage people to sign up for community supported agriculture programs!) and mixing greens for the food bank.  After lunch, he went to the fields to harvest cabbage, leeks, chard, and kale for the CSA Fair display-- an early reintroduction to the epic amounts of harvest and processing to come in June.  I came back just as he was finishing, and we tackled the soil amendments together, consulting and figuring out quantities.  He calls it bowling: he takes a fistful of limestone powder and tosses it like a bowling ball down the length of a hilled up bed, so it bursts and cascades down the bed in a fine, even dust. 

 Michael and Phil spreading feather meal

Michael and Phil spreading feather meal

He finished out the day with Phil, unloading the two pallets of limestone into the shed and loading up all that produce for the food bank.  A bit more pruning, then I called him off to practice the final tilling on the tractor.  When I drove off just before five o'clock, he was maneuvering around the front of the greenhouses, getting another reintroduction to something we'll both be doing endlessly this season. 

Sophie, Phil, and Alice all had variations of similar projects today.  They practiced some pruning and learned to harvest greens from the high tunnels with Michael in the morning.  Alice left around noon, but got to duck into the nursery to see Ted's grafting project before she went.  I came in to talk with Ted as she was leaving, and felt tickled when she asked if she could just get right to work in the mornings rather than catching up with everyone-- "I just can't stand still, I'm here to work!"  We encouraged her to try being patient and bond with the team, though we appreciate the sentiment.  

Sophie and Phil ate lunch together on a pallet outside the pump house.  As I sat down to eat, they were finishing up and walked to get coffee a few blocks away.  While I was driving around town in that box truck, they pruned more, then took turns working alongside Ted and helping Michael and I prepare the greenhouse beds with fertilizers.  Sophie had been deep in thinning artichoke seedlings for the plant sale, and as I left for the day, she and Phil were back in that corner of the nursery trying to finish up.  While she was grafting, Phil joined Michael to unload the limestone.  Remember, there were about eight volunteers unloading those 50 pound bags directly onto a truck and then a few yards from the truck to a shed at Grassroots Garden.  Phil and Michael unloaded two pallets (about two tons!) by themselves, having to walk a few yards from the truck to the shed.  It amazes me how a slight quirk in the day could so drastically alter the workload on their muscles and bodies.  I wonder if anyone will be sore from that limestone...

And in the background of all this, Ted finally dove head first into grafting.  I think I'll dedicate a full post to it soon, so for now I'll just note that, after some brief meetings with everyone in the morning, he spent the day immersed in the tomatoes.  Grafting delicate tomato seedlings takes a lot of care, special equipment, and (theoretically) a sterile environment to prevent infection.  I was happy that the interns all got a chance to work along side the process, ask questions, hang out with Ted, and see the magic process of splicing two plants together.  He was hoping to get them all finished today, but I have a feeling I'll end up finishing the project on Saturday or next week while he's on vacation.  There's a small window when the stems are the right size to match up and fit inside the grafting clips, so I hope we'll make it.

 Grafting tomatoes

Grafting tomatoes

 Grafting "Sweet Million" cherry tomatoes onto Estamino rootstock

Grafting "Sweet Million" cherry tomatoes onto Estamino rootstock

As I left the farm, Ted was starting to clean up.  He'd mentioned wanting to seed carrots in the greenhouses, which would depend on whether the the tractor made it through the beds he needs, so he may have stayed late to plant some seeds. I'll find out on Saturday, and pick up where everyone left off.  I remind myself that there's never a day when we get through the to-do list.  There's always more for next week, new people, another day.