A week in brief

A week in brief

This is why I've been forcing myself to write every day: because when I set out to document and reflect on an entire week that's somehow slipped past me, the task seems impossible.  There are so many details and conversations and colors and projects that happen in one hour, let alone one day-- and forget one whole week!-- that to try to encompass the whole will be woefully inadequate.  Nonetheless, I guess, I'll persist.

Read More

Reflections on running the farm

There are these special weeks, sprinkled throughout the year, when Ted goes on vacation and I'm left to manage the farm.  A lot of people have asked me what that really means.  What's really different?  There are obvious answers, and there are many ways that simply having another highly skilled person on the farm allows us to do twice as much each week.  Beyond that, there's a shift that nothing short of running the farm would create.

So, what's different about running-- versus assistant managing-- the farm?

Read More

Preparing for squash

Preparing for squash

It sounded so easy: "Transplant the winter squash."  They've been ready for a week or two already, so what's the big deal?  Just pop 'em in the ground.  

After a full week of trying to get such a seemingly simple project done, I am humbled.  Yes, amazed by how much zucchini is coming out of the fields, dumbfounded by how fast weeds are growing, impressed by the skill and pace of all the interns, and surprised by how much time irrigation management takes.  But mostly, I am humbled by this project that's not even close to done on the eve of our last chance for the week.

Read More

Pass-off

Pass-off

David finished the week's vacuum seeding.  Ted led bed prep and transplanting out on the final frontier in the fourth field.  So Delicious employees came to volunteer for the morning and pulled all our greenhouse garlic to cure.  I harvested fennel and green onions with Kiya.  She led zucchini and cucumber harvest after lunch.  Volunteer Louisa cleaned green onions while her two sons spread manure with the crew.  Two youth farmers got up in ladders to harvest buckets of cherries.  We filled the coolers with produce for tomorrow's farm stand, watered the nursery, cleaned up around the wash tubs.  And at the end of an otherwise normal day, Ted passed off the farm to me.

Read More

Snippets

Snippets

Experimenting with a new format and combining two days into one post: a first, and a sign that both on- and off-farm lives have been stacked full this week.  There's so much to share.  More prose coming soon :)

Read More

Learning agronomy

Here's the trouble.  We have about eight new beds ready for planting tomorrow, and at least twenty beds worth of plants ready to get in the ground in the next week.  The cover crop in the Final Frontier field-- the next hope for making plantable beds-- was a jungle of tangled peas, vetch, and rye grass just a few days ago.  It's now desiccating atop a rock-hard plate of dry soil, and all its nitrogen will continue rapidly escaping back into the atmosphere until we can till.  We can't till until we irrigate to get the right moisture level, and then there's a couple days' window to incorporate the organic matter before the soil's too dry again.  We missed the window in one section already, and we need to keep the process in motion-- while keeping everything else on the farm watered with a limited number of irrigation lines-- until all that crop is mixed underground.  And even then, we wait.  One to two weeks for the crop to decompose enough to make fine beds.  Hours and days while harvest takes priority, training new volunteers draws us away from the tractor, and broken sprinkler heads foil our plans to irrigate on time.  We'll get there, but it'll be close.

Read More

Hannah

Hannah

It was Hannah's last day.  She's been interning this spring, filling in for one of our season-long interns who had to take sick leave for a couple months.  Most other interns come on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, but Hannah's schedule worked out to be Thursday afternoons, Fridays, and Saturday mornings.  So Fridays- a relatively quiet day with few volunteers, Michael off, and often Ted away half the day or more- have been rare opportunities for me to work directly alongside her on a diverse array of projects.  Today, after several weeks of Friday chaos with the plant sale and Urban Farm volunteers dropping in by the dozens, Hannah and I got one more quiet Friday.  

Read More

In the dirt

In the dirt

They planted Cal White potatoes, which are usually huge but came very small (and easy for little hands to tuck under ground) this year.  One girl caught on quickly and led the charge down the bed, plugging in spud after spud with enthusiasm.  Between kids unearthing bits of plastic and worms as they dug, she found a single clear marble.  She carried it with her as we left the field to wash hands and switch stations, showing her friends with a smile.  I wonder what she'll do with it.  And I wonder, if she keeps it like a treasure, what it will remind her about this warm cloudy morning when she visited a real farm and planted a whole bed of sprouted potatoes with her classmates, once she's my age and finds herself digging in the dirt.

Read More

The Why

The Why

I'm thinking about questions.  How I think of them, how I ask them, how I answer them for others, how I receive answers from others.  After eating my lunch, I strolled around the orchard for a few minutes instead of diving straight back into work.  Yesterday, driving the tractor slowly back and forth across the edge of the first field, I had noticed that the large plum trees hovering over me were nearly bare of fruit.  It stuck in my memory.  I was refreshed from eating and lying down a minute, my mind was at ease with my goals for the rest of the day, and I gave myself time to investigate. 

Read More

Onions all day

Onions all day

They planted onions all day.  Patterson and Talon: yellow storage onions.  Michael, Phil, and Sophie, with Hao, Mo, and Huiyang helping until three o'clock.  Four beds that we'd prepped a couple weeks ago, covered with black plastic, and waited for the weeds to sprout and die off under the darkness.  Plants six inches apart, four rows in each bed: almost 5,000 onions.  Mo's mother is visiting from China for the next month, and she explored the fields to take photos while everyone tucked in all those plugs, one by one and two by two.

Read More