Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

I feel bad saying it, because maybe it means I'm no farmer, but when everything unruly in the garden dies back and the trees have lost their leaves and all that's left are the neat rows of carrots and cabbage and salad greens, and everything else is dead all around them, I feel at ease. The wildness of summer is gone, with all its overwhelming greenness, and there's contrast again. I can see what's left to be done, and it isn't everything. That jungly mess of summer, with its sprawling tomatoes and squash, has a way of making everything seem untamed, and I start to long for the tidy brown rows of winter and spring, empty and waiting to be newly planted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

short days, long nights ( A checklist, a to-do list)

Short days, long nights.
Broccoli harvested (didn't I say I wasn't growing broccoli? well, I did. And it was awesome). Garlic planted. Bed mulched. Driveway leveled/dump truck coming. Hoops raised. Greens covered. Tomatoes razed. Compost bin constructed. Tools put away. Crop list written.
Brussels sprouts unsprouted. Fence unopened. Concrete unhauled. Bricks unlaid. Beds undug. Leaves unmowed. Blocks unstacked.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In preparation for Matt's new job

Planting fall broccoli/pulling up spent cucumbers /at odds with the weeds/ at one with the rain/peeking in on potatoes /finding little more than nothing/unidentified sprawling squash plants/piles piles piles/squash bugs squash bugs squash bugs/uncovering strawberries/rescuing asparagus/admiring yarrow/fighting with locusts/untangling blackberries/laying down barriers/lifting others/soaking seeds/picking beans/wasp infested hornworms/bee stings/breaking sticks/carrying bricks/ picking up cats/ gathering eggs/dirty hands/dirtier feet/

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's in your box this week?

Our CSA has been running for about 7 weeks, and I've been meaning to put up a photo or two of the beautiful veggies we've included. This one was a few weeks back, and we've since added a few things (scallions, carrots, beets) and said goodbye til fall to a few things as well (turnips, radishes).
Featured here, from left to right, we have: turnips, radishes, collard greens, rainbow chard, lettuce mix and a bunch of mixed herbs. Thanks to everyone who supports us. This has really been working out very well.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A lamentation

Yesterday I had a sense of humor about garden pests. I wrote a haiku or two, had a little fun with it. Today I am despondent. Because today, there is a new pest. And this pest trumps all the other pests we've had so far.
First we had the cabbage moth. Well, we still have her, really. A white moth that comes around looking kinda pretty and lays one little yellow egg on the underside of the leaves of all cabbage family crops. Then a tiny little green caterpillar appears, and starts munching. These are a nuisance, but relatively easy to control when you're working with a space as small as ours, so we hand pick all the little eggs, and smoosh all the little caterpillars. Plus, the cat plays around with the butterflies, even manages to kill one once in a while. So cabbage and collards are under control.
We've been through the spinach leaf miner (see previous entry). These are a bigger deal, since they lay way more eggs and their damage happens more quickly and is much worse. They are a bit more complex, too, since they overwinter and pupate in the dirt, but they lay their eggs like the cabbage moth, so we come around and rub those off just like the others, and pretty soon the problem seems under control.
Which brings us to the cabbage root fly. This fly looks like a house fly, but that's neither here nor there since we definitely won't be out swatting flies all morning long, so who cares if we can't tell them apart? It, too overwinters in the soil. It pupates in the soil too, but not before its larvae have eaten a tunnel through the roots of the cabbage plant (insert here collard greens, kale, turnips-you get the picture) and left it for dead. So, you don't see this pest until you've uprooted your cabbage plant to look for it, only to find that your cabbage plant's roots have been replaced with five or six gross white maggots that writhe and wriggle. Ew. Sick.
So because of this pest, we are losing our crop of cabbage and collard greens, and if we don't do something about it (read pull all these plants out of the ground and burn them or feed them to the chickens), we might well lose our turnips, kale and radishes, and all of next year's cabbage crops too.
So today I have lost my good humor, and my hope for these, my favorite crops.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Owed to the leaf miner

Your white eggs were seen
Neatly laid and tucked away,
and promptly destroyed.

Ode to the leaf miner

Lush green leaves turn brown.
Spinach is a bug's delight,
Bugs, a farmer's woe.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Put your watering cans away, we made the Big Time.

For the last year and a half- and actually for as long as I can remember in any garden I've worked- our "irrigation" has consisted of a hose (or series of hoses totaling 300 feet) and a bunch of buckets and cans. Not anymore! We bought a brand new drip irrigation system from the good people at Nolt's produce supply, and installed it yesterday. Normally I am averse to working with any kind of hosing and leave it all to Matt to take care of (a tangled hose or wire could send my temper through the roof in seconds and leave me in poor spirits for the rest of the day), but I thought I'd give this a whirl with him in case one day I find myself alone and needing to know how the system all works. It was much simpler than I'd anticipated- pleasant, even. We laid out the long header along the top of the beds, about 85 feet or so of hose. Then Matt punched holes in it about every 12 inches, and I followed him with the little plastic valves, plugging them into the pre-punched holes. Next, Matt took the giant roll of tape and rolled it back and forth lengthwise down the garden- about 150 feet each- cutting and tying each end while I attached my end to the valve. This whole production took about 2 hours. We turned it on and lo and behold, water dripped slowly from the holes, just as it should. Nothing to it, really. Now we have to wait a few more weeks to put mulch over it, which will keep it from looking unsightly (see long, black lines running the length of the entire garden), and will keep the plastic from heating up and the water from evaporating.
Now we can turn the water on and go about our business, safe in the knowledge that the plants will get the water they need, and none will be wasted.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Would Saint Patrick Do?

I was supposed to attend a very important workshop on Wednesday that would teach me how to price my produce for market. I was excited about it for weeks, because I've never felt very professional when it came to pricing my produce, and this might give me the confidence I needed. We're supposed to do a market at Greensgrow in Kensington this season, along with a few household shares on the side, and I've yet to work out all the fine details of either of those operations. I also recently called up a chef I used to work for to see if he might want to buy some micro greens that we aren't even really sure if we're growing yet. Needless to say, I need to attend a workshop about pricing produce for market. But when I came home from work on that gorgeous, sunny Wednesday afternoon, all of my housemates were out back drinking beers and eating Pringles and playing beer pong by the fire.
Now, I'd never played beer pong before...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Ways

Well, we're back to our old ways again, as the saying goes. Digging and hauling, digging and hauling. When the warm weather first starts and the sun is shining, digging in the dirt and hauling rubble are two things I can really get behind. Let's hope we finish this project before it's been warm long enough for me to realize that that's all I've been up to.
Today we were supposed to plant peas. I know that because today is St. Patrick's day. It is also the day we were supposed to plant arugula and spinach. But instead we were digging and hauling, because the tree people haven't come yet to cut down the last of our locust trees (see previous entry), and we can't have those guys stomping around and cutting trees down on top of our newly planted beds. But when will they come? Something tells me it isn't spring unless I have something planted in the ground. Lucky for me, the garlic we planted in the fall is coming well up out of the mulch now.
Tomorrow promises to be another delightful sunny day, and if the tree people haven't come by then, we'll be digging and hauling again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nor'easter Haiku

Summer birds come home
Stop by my kitchen window
More snow on the way

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The only cure for Winter is Spring

With all of this snow still everywhere, we're stuck inside trying to imagine digging our shovels into thawed earth. Theoretically, I like the seasons, keeping pace with nature, being at the mercy of pressure systems and ocean currents, yada yada yada, but right about now I'm wishing I had a big, combustion engine-having machine to blow all this wet white stuff off of my garden beds and make my handy little garden diagram here into a living thing. Alas, I wait, and really it isn't so bad. The long winter months put me in such a slump that it's all I can do to get my little seed bins out and start planning. And now's the time, folks.
We've got a nice situation this year with the new Community Grower's Alliance started up with PHS, and they're giving us a bunch of seedlings. How many is hard to say, and that is hard to work with, quite frankly, but Matt and I are making do and just gonna go ahead and start some cool weather seeds inside this week. Typically we do our brassicas (broccoli, collards, kale, cauliflower) about mid-late February so we can plant them out around April 1st. This year we're not growing broccoli or cauliflower, for several reasons. For starters, we are no good at growing broccoli or cauliflower. Every year I plant broccoli, and every year it either bolts or produces tiny little heads that are hardly worth the effort of picking (they are delicious, though... so tender). Furthermore, they take up tons of space, and since space is highly limited on our little 1/2 acre operation, broccoli gets the boot. I'll buy it the farmer's market and be glad to support another farmer.
Deep down I'm conflicted about this, since I desire both to grow my own food supply and sell vegetables at market, but must choose between the two. Homesteading and self-sufficiency are exciting, wonderful things for me to dream of, but I also get immense satisfaction from harvesting multiple bunches of collard greens, washing them in cold water, packing them for market, and displaying them on a table. The times I've worked harvest days on large farms have been the most exciting for me- shining up radishes and packing them neatly in a box, imagining them on the shelf at the grocery store and then in someone's home. Each individual radish has been in my hands, even each leaf of lettuce has been carefully chosen and gently handled.
To be honest, true self-sufficiency cannot be achieved on 1/2 acre of land, so the choice is not all that hard for me to make. I might be able to supply all of our onions for the year on a piece of land that size. So we do what we can. We make compromises, switch it up from year to year to keep it exciting, and try to get better at what we do well. This year, that means lots of baby greens for gourmet salads, creamy Adirondak Red potatoes (which will likely never make it to market because I can't help eating them all), and rows and rows of carrots, among many others.