March 17, 2008

One of the many lessons my farming partner has tried to teach me is the concept of “management”. Those farmers that drive around in their pickup trucks all day, seemingly lazing away the afternoon whilst looking out the window…aren’t so lazy. They are looking at every aspect of their operations, gaining an up-to-the moment “big picture” of what’s going on. Growth rates, soil moisture, irrigation strategies, weather forecasts, labor efficiency, weed control, crop progress, fertilizer strategies, and erosion control might constitute a partial list of the factors under consideration.

I don’t need a pickup to survey most of my realm, but what I do need is time to walk the entire property. I’m my own labor force on all but rare occasions, so stepping out of the “multi-tasking mindset” and into a managerial one isn’t always easy for me. But, tonight between sundown and the last of twilight, I made my rounds. The observations made me almost wish I’d not bothered. Out front, the berry hedges are leafing out. The major pruning has been completed, but the fine tuning and training of the canes to the trellises needs to be done before the next 3 weeks are past. As this crop earns significant cash, that has to be first priority, but, that’s a 300 foot hedge. Oh, fun. Weeds are taking over and obscuring the water risers on the east edge of the property. That’s an accident waiting to happen when someone can’t see them and will run them over with a vehicle. They need colored stakes put in ASAP to mark their locations. And the weeds need to be dealt with before about the next 7 days are past. Some random berry shrubs over there also have no irrigation source, and they need water within the week. The plums have already bloomed. The peaches, nectarines, and greengages are entering full bloom. Apples and cherries are just starting bloom. Weeds in the orchard need to be removed. The asparagus survived the transplant and needs a layer of compost as a top-dressing. The turnips are growing fast, as is the stand of seedling carrots. The carrots will need thinning in another 2-3 weeks and should be top-dressed with compost then as well. The row of new beets looks good and the last few beet transplants need to come out of the greenhouse.
I was getting worried about my flowers from last year and whether they’d re-seed themselves since we turned over the soil in that part of the garden. Cosmos and coreopsis have germinated heavily already. In the middle of the garbanzo beans. And the zinnias are doing the same, right in the middle of the giant spinach. Oops. This can work, but it will take attention. The flowers will earn more $$ than spinach or garbanzos, so, the flowers get favored. If cosmos is fertilized, it won’t bloom–we learned that little tidbit last year the hard way. The older beets, radishes, and chard are taking off and beginning to show serious top growth. In 3 weeks or less there should be 300 beets beginning to be harvestable. I’m panicking, except the farmer’s market starts in 3 more weeks. The lettuce, old, new and in-between is exploding. As are all the salad greens. However much salad I’m making now, I’d better get to making more, and figure out to whom to sell it. The parsnips are pencil thin and look good. They need cool weather to taste their best so they may be a bust this year. However, I can get up a huge seed supply and do it right next winter. The collards and mustard greens and the kohlrabi are bolting and need to go, except for a plant or two for seed, right after I make sure they don’t cross-pollinate with anything else out there. The onions and garlic look really, really good, as does the spinach. The dahlia bed has to be worked on ASAP–the new tubers for this year have already shipped and will be coming any day. The dahlias are a huge income earner and need to be prioritized. About 6 cardoon plants need to be harvested and used before they get much older. The clary sage is going crazy and I need to find a buyer for it or make plans to dry all the leaves or send them to a distiller, however one goes about that. So the garden looks great aside from needing about 10 days of work in 5 days’ time. And really, there are over 500 tomatoes in the greenhouse that want attention or some great plan, and if I want to have early melons, starting them right now from seed would be a good idea. So that’s the managerial analysis of the situation. I’m sure someone will get right on all that……