January 25, 2007

As of sometime this afternoon, circumstances have gone from “oh, good, we’re getting that rain we need” to “uh-oh.” I’ve spent part of my day calling other local farms to see about the possibility of purchasing or trading for some of their crops…unfortunately, nothing in the way of row crops can be counted upon to grow during 10 solid days of rain. Except for maybe mustard greens, and there is only so much of that anyone can take.

The first farm pointed out that while they’d like to help me, they are going to have to RENT A CANOE to even get to their fields……yeah. So, my CSA program is about to get interesting, but we can only do our best and the rest “is what it is”.
But, just because it’s raining, the work doesn’t go away. It just changes. All those receipts that never were scanned for taxes….done. Next I attempt to get through my seven different record keeping methods to figure out what our farm income was last year, and contemplate how there needs, perhaps, to be a better system. Tomorrow afternoon, I have stacks of dirty pots waiting in the greenhouse. Speaking of which, the cold/wet weather is wreaking havoc with that. I just started my tomato seeds in flats, and on sunny days, the 70+ temperatures in there get the job done for germination. I didn’t anticipate this streak of weather, and so nothing is happening in the greenhouse that needs to; it is waaaaay too cold. I had to send away for 2 gigantic heat mats, which I was lucky enough to find on eBay for $50 less than it would have cost me to buy them from my favorite farm supply store. That amounted to money I didn’t really want to spend, but it’s a pittance when compared to the financial loss that would result from no seedlings to transplant in April and May. This needs to be our best year ever, with lots of vegetables and flowers ready to go, on time, for the anticipated summer sales.
In my spare time I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s entirely worthy book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” It details the challenge the author and her family set for themselves of trying to go an entire year ONLY eating what they could grow themselves or purchase locally. My perusals, as well as some recent conversations, got me to thinking about something. If you take grocery stores out of the picture, eating what’s available in season amounts to an absolute glut of some fruit or vegetable. The glut lasts anywhere from 3-15 weeks, and then that item is gone from the garden or orchard, not to be seen for another whole year. For example, the peaches we wait for all year? By mid-August I can hardly stand the sight of them. And then by October I miss them again.
We in the USA have become quite spoiled by the variety and bounty constantly available in stores (even when the variety and bounty tastes like cardboard on account of it having been picked extra-green and shipped across the planet). Shoot, before I started doing this, I don’t think I was even really aware that there were seasons when things didn’t grow. I’m still trying to perceive when a lot of these plants want to be grown in this area…most of the books don’t tell (and if they do tell, you find out later that those instructions applied to growing in Minnesota); it’s just the long road of learning.

January 13, 2008

Kathryn came to the farm today, and as usual a lot got done in a short amount of time. We had purchased new planting trays, really heavy plastic ones with over 150 cells per tray. About half of them are filled with seed from last year’s tomatoes, peppers, etc. Now we need to order a whole lot more seeds.

Also the stock (this is a heavily scented cool weather flower) was all transplanted into the garden, taking up 6 rows in two beds. I’ve never grown stock before and don’t entirely know what I’m doing. But, nothing new there…. We pulled another mutant turnip today. This one is so hideously malformed I can’t even sell it to our customers with a sense of humor about these things. I’ve really got to find out what is causing many of our root crops to be any morphology except round. Clearly, I’m not in touch with my Inner Turnip. (Addendum 1/14/08: the culprit is, nitrogen. It turns out you can’t plant root crops into soil that has had fertilizer applied unless quite some time has gone by…the ground in question was summer’s organically fertilized zucchini patch…..oops!)

Yesterday we assessed and sort of began repairing storm damage. The battered tent was extracted from the grape arbor. The arbor is easily repaired, the tent….is not. I think it just became "spare parts" for the original tent. The fallen almond tree was cut up, and the fence fixed. Sort of. The lighthouse was mucked out, since storm water always ruins the dryness of the straw inside. This time, though, we got cast-off expanded metal from our farming partner and laid it down on the lighthouse floor. I am hoping that this will keep a great deal of the straw high and dry. If I ever get time, I’ll apply the long-overdue roof patch to the outside of the structure where it rests on the concrete slab, and hopefully eliminate the water coming in altogether (but in 5 years I haven’t managed to stop the leaking, so best not to become too hopeful there). I’m hanging it up early tonight, tomorrow we go to our first rehearsal with the Berkeley Community Chorus in pursuit of another musical pipe dream–the chance to perform Mozart’s Requiem. It’s going to be three free concerts in April/May, http://www.bcco.org/ for more information.

The seed order is ready to be placed. As I run over the lists of what we need, it occurs to me, fruit grows on trees and vines that live from year to year, except for melons. Watermelons and cantaloupes. They always lurk, easy to forget in the lists of squash and tomatoes. Can’t someone come up with a melon tree?

January 5, 2008

I’m writing this entry from a valley outside Ashland, Oregon, to which place we journeyed during little breaks in the Big Storm. That’s because we’re nuts…every year we come here to visit a dear friend and celebrate Ken’s birthday, and almost every year it’s during the Storm of the Year that we’re trying to travel.

Really, we were very lucky. The only drama was the last five miles of the drive, through increasingly heavy snow. At night. During a power outage. So, we had a little problem during the last 50 feet of our trip. We hadn’t been told that the driveway had not been plowed in…a while, so we drove past it in the dark, not realizing it was a driveway. We had to shovel out a space in 2 and a half feet of snow to get our friend’s Ford Expedition off the road. That was fine, I actually like limited snow shoveling, but right after we left the spot we were working, CRACK and a big tree limb crashed down. We missed being clobbered by about 30 seconds, and now we had to move the tree limb. Anyway, it all got done and here we are. I spent last night reading the 1909 Sears and Roebuck catalog and the 1943 Chicago Mail Order Co.’s midwinter sale catalog. They certainly had their views on the construction of brassieres back then…”Cotton poplin, stitched for graceful, firm up-lift, extra control”…..oh, my. Gotta be uplifted, I suppose. Anyway, our farm had an UGLY day of it yesterday. Power was lost at 8 am. A huge almond snapped at the crown of the roots and fell on our turkey pen fence. Our outdoor 20’ tent from COSTCO was hurled like a toy and came to rest on our grape arbor in a mess of broken pipe. The greenhouse had a shelf against the south wall, with all my hundreds of plastic pots, and most of what was on the shelf was shoved off by the wind bowing the wall…the vents on the roof were flapping and had to be tied down from the inside, various poultry shelters were blown over, and local flooding was considerable. Water blew in through the cat door, and there was a big puddle I had to go out at one point to try to do something for the birds, and was trying to recall if even the worst storm of my years-ago sailing adventure had been like this (no). All the chickens were in good shape and had the sense to get under cover, while every turkey just stood there and got soaked. There is nothing to be done with those birds, they are just so stupid that they won’t get under a shelter when it’s provided. Once again, I am really glad we don’t rely on electricity for heat. Our woodstove lets us get plenty of warmth and we can even cook on the top of it, if needed. I have no idea how the garden came out. We have raised beds with good drainage, but how well the lettuce and other things fared against those high winds remains to be seen. So up here in snow country I have all my seed catalogs with me, and I’ll keep my annual tradition of reading every one of them to decide what to grow this summer. Gotta find those new varieties of striped green eggplant and pink zucchini someone discovered in a remote corner of the Amazon…we hope that everyone had a happy New Year!