Racing spring rains

Morning.  Filled by catching up with David, our self-proclaimed "youth farmer extraordinaire", who returned today for his third season on the farm and second year as an extended season youth farm crew leader.  He rides his bike every day, laughs easily, closes his eyes to smell the sweet air on a regular basis, and brings a lightness to work that few others can muster.  We started the massive potting up project that needs to happen this week: greenhouse and plant sale peppers, eggplants, and basil.  We counted and potted up Ted's grafted tomatoes, too: 100% survival of Sungold and Sweet Million cherry tomatoes, 90% of Chocolate Cherry, and 76% of Big Beef on the Supernatural rootstock.  Better than I'd thought!  The next round is looking a bit worse for wear, but we'll still get a good number of surviving plants.

 David potting up grafted tomatoes.

David potting up grafted tomatoes.

Midday.  David and Louisa, a long time volunteer, take off near one o'clock, and I go out to check on the transplanting project and see if they're ready to break.  There's a whole row of tightly spaced peas lying out, ready to be plugged in, so I join them.  Trina, a newer volunteer who impresses me every week with her friendliness and willingness to do new things, asks me about how we manage pests and how we maintain fertility as we transplant more peas.  I'm so focused on the massive amount of nursery work to do, and she helped jolt me back to reality with her curiosity: here we are, sharing agriculture and ideas and knowledge together.  

 Transplanting peas and some unexpected, very welcome conversation on agricultural practices

Transplanting peas and some unexpected, very welcome conversation on agricultural practices

Early afternoon.  I'm wrestling hoses between the nursery and outdoor hardening-off benches where most of the plant sale starts now wait.  They seem to be at just the right stage- full but not overgrown- and will hopefully toughen up over the next few days so that the storm coming this weekend (ahem, smack dab on top of the plant sale!) doesn't shock them.  I'm starting to get slow-witted from low blood sugar, but I want to water before I break for lunch so I'm not in a hurry to eat and jump back in.  I stop to talk with Jen, our program manager who's dropped off perennial plant donations for the sale, and set up a simple project for Ed, an all-star volunteer who's pumped and ready to dive into everything.  Ted gets back from picking up more perennial donations, I finish watering, and finally I can stop for a moment.

Lunch.  I rinse out a bowl from our kitchen supplies and start to wander.  Duck into the last greenhouse and cut a couple heads from a small patch of salad lettuce that still stands.  Pluck a few big spinach leaves from the neighboring bed, and slip back outside.  Turn the corner to the single bed of flowering arugula and mustards, smell the pungent aroma of arugula flowers as I stride past and snip off a few buds, mindfully and playfully.  A few semi-opened tat tsoi flower buds for yellow.  Across the roadway, I grab several red cabbage flower stalks and toss them on top.  Eat the rainbow, they say.  I walk back to eat at the picnic tables, grateful for sunshine and vibrant everything.

 Freshly harvested salad for lunch: lettuce, spinach, arugula buds, tat tsoi flowers, red cabbage raab

Freshly harvested salad for lunch: lettuce, spinach, arugula buds, tat tsoi flowers, red cabbage raab

Afternoon.  No more time for nursery work today.  I join Michael and Ed to spread our huge mismatched collection of backup plastic over the future onion field.  We unfold the massive pieces, estimate good placements, pull tight and secure with newly filled sand bags.  Plastic takes a lot of effort and good communication to get right, but oh how satisfying it is when it's all tight and ready to keep off the downpours.  This plot of land will stand a chance at being dry enough to till in the next few weeks.

 Plastic mulch secured and ready for rains

Plastic mulch secured and ready for rains

Day's end.  We plant a bed of green onions to finish off the day.  Glad to have the help of Ed and Keith, who've been volunteering regularly all spring.  To our delight, Isaac, who helped a ton last season, finally came back this afternoon just in time to arrange the plastic and help plug in onions.  In another moment of Youth Farm magic, we tucked in the last sets of scallions just a few minutes before five o'clock.  Michael and the volunteer crew put things away and took off, and I lingered to get the peppers ready for potting up tomorrow and remove the ends of the overflow nursery to let the last plants harden off.  I love days when I don't need to rush away.  I leisurely harvested some greens and kale raab to take home, puttering and cleaning along the way.  As I left, Ted continued to mow the roadways and cover crop, trying to beat the rains in the forecast.  With the spring we're getting so far, we'll be racing the rains like this until June.

 Transplanting green onions to finish the last dry day in the foreseeable future

Transplanting green onions to finish the last dry day in the foreseeable future