In sight

In sight

A week, a journey through another food shed, a rain, a flurry of breakdown, and just like that: I can see the end. Only three more market weeks. Six more CSA packings. Eight more apple trees to strip. Three and a half greenhouses to flip into winter crops. Another acre of crops to till under, and four acres to cover crop in a frenzy before the rains come. Seven beds of garlic to sow. Five sections of black plastic to lay out for next year’s early plantings. A few tons of potatoes to wash, a dozen tours to give, and a couple hundred volunteers to train.

Piece of cake.

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Animal encounters

Animal encounters

Two animals ended up in black trash bags by the end of the day.  For all the plant life we nurture and control on the farm, there usually isn't much animal life to speak of.  Richard's two "guard" dogs that live on site might have something to do with it.  There are rodents off and on, lots of snakes, a stray cat or two that lay low and scurry away whenever I spot them, and all manner of spiders and insects.  But big animals (besides the human variety) are rare.  So to have two close encounters in one day overshadows any of the other highlights of the day I can imagine.

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Spiral tomato time

Spiral tomato time

Time is circular, not linear.  The proof is in the fact that the farm stand, right around mid July each year, starts to fill up with tomatoes.  They trickle in gradually for a few weeks, suddenly bursting in stacks upon stacks of giant red and orange Big Beefs.  And I, year after year, find myself spending more time between the plum and Asian pear trees back there, sorting through the bounty. 

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Market zone, part two

Market zone, part two

In continuation of last weeks's Market Zone Part One post....

I beep the horn a few times as I pull past Michael in the red truck.  Two interns have already left to open the driveway at the hospital, and two youth farmers are following behind Michael to meet us there. A basket flies off the truck as I cruise down Game Farm Road, and I look back in the rearview mirror to see Michael pulling over and running out to grab it.  Got my back.  It's in, and we're off again.

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First tastes

First tastes

Consider the tomato.

It's been a long time coming, and I've written a hell of a lot about them.

From planting and keeping the first seedlings alive in freezing nights of February to grafting baby Big Beefs onto rootstock plants in March, running out of room for them and marveling at how quickly their scars healed in April to pruning and trellising the quick-growing plants in May, it's been a long time coming. 

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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 :)

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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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Pruning tomatoes

Pruning tomatoes

We finally pruned and trellised a bed of very overgrown bed of tomatoes in the greenhouse today.  Tomato pruning is one of my favorite farming projects: it takes some thinking and decision-making, you get to handle plants intimately, and the intoxicating resin leaves my hands black and my nose bizarrely satisfied.  

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Eighteen hands

Eighteen hands

Eighteen hands on the farm.  Holding coffee mugs, slathering sunscreen over bare arms, gesturing and waving in the morning.  Hands to open bolts first thing, and different hands to lock back up at day's end.  Hands to hold ladders, tie knots, write bold black letters on white sticks.  Hands always moving, and eyes watching to keep them moving right.  


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Soak 'em

For better or worse, I'm a perfectionist.  I was a straight-A student through grad school (minus a couple B's in the oh-so-high-stakes game of middle school), never once went to detention, and have always paid my bills on time.  At the farm, this nutty attention to doing things right has transformed into re-sorting boxes of produce for sale that have nearly invisible blemishes, digitizing our volunteer records and labelling systems to keep things more (in my mind, at least) organized and easy, and turning around on my way home after a long day to double check that I turned the hoses off so they don't blow out.  I just have a strong aversion to making mistakes, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it's often as much about my pride as it is about quality.

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Tomato stories

Tomato stories

After seeding tomatoes for the summer plant sale, potting up the last of the early tomatoes, letting a bit more light trickle in to the grafted tomatoes, and plugging in labels for the spring sale tomatoes, you'd think tomatoes would be all I could think of at the end of the day.  But no, this evening it's easy to let the tomatoes slip my mind.  The people around me have more important stories to tell, when I slow down enough to just listen.

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How to graft tomatoes

How to graft tomatoes

I said last week that I would describe tomato grafting in more detail, and now's the time because I spent much of the day finishing our stock in the nursery.  Before I dive into the nuts and bolts, I should note that our success rate so far over the past two years has been closer to 65 than 100 percent.  That's not bad in my book, but it's something to keep in mind when you're buying rootstock seeds. ...I'm truly in awe of the fact that any of them live at all!  To be able to continue growing and producing (better than before!) after having half their bodies chopped off and recombined with a foreign replacement is miraculous to me.  Plants are just astounding.  

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(More than) operating heavy machinery

(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.

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