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.

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May morning photo journal

May morning photo journal

I arrived early today to finish revamping a little herb and flower garden near the farm stand, and to document all the beautiful crops approaching harvest.  I've been struck dumb a lot in the past couple weeks, walking through a field, looking down to notice how fresh and thriving the [insert broccoli, green onions, carrots, peas, etc etc] are looking.  It warrants another photo journal, since the brief evening one I did about a month ago caught nothing of this sort.  It's really time.  We're on the verge of harvest season.

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Book review: Food Fight by McKay Jenkins

Book review: Food Fight by McKay Jenkins

When groups come to volunteer on the farm, I welcome them, give them a broad overview of what we do, and take them for a guided tour around the fields.  When I start explaining our agricultural practices, which I'll touch on here much more as the season progresses, someone from the group often raises their hand and asks a seemingly simple question: "Do you guys use GMOs?"

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Field walk

Field walk

For the first time this year, Ted and I walked the fields together.  In my focus on all the seedlings and greenhouses, I'd almost forgotten the acres surrounding them, patiently braced against winter.  There's an old adage that the best fertilizer is a farmer's footprints- or something like that- and it always turns out true.  Even when there's not loads to do out there, making regular observations inevitably turns up new developments, new projects that need attending, new pest or disease or irrigation problems that need solving. 

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The menagerie

Wednesdays in February are unique on the farm, not only because they're when we make huge gains on filling the nursery to the brim, but also because they bring a sudden surge of diverse people to the farm.  We'll spend these next three Wednesdays seeding our entire inventory for the spring plant sale in April, and because it's a cooperative fundraiser for the Youth Farm and Grassroots Garden, volunteers from Grassroots migrate to the farm to help with all the seeding.

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