June 14, 2005

As could be guessed from the lack of writing, we have been busy off the scale recently. We had a high school graduation and we volunteered many hours for the grad night event as well. This weekend will be our first attempt at attending a farmer’s market. And moreover, we have begun negotiations with a nearby farmer that we hope will result in leasing part of our land for growing commercial hybrid sunflower seeds.

 The sunflowers are a perfect illustration of the oddly good things that occur with country living. A week ago Monday, a pleasant man pulled into my driveway in his truck. This being unusual, he explained that he wanted to ask me about my sunflowers. Most men don’t want to talk about flowers. To make a long story short, he grows sunflowers nearby for Pioneer Hi-Bred, and my floral collection presented a possible pollen contamination problem for his crop. At first I felt pretty conflicted, since I really, really like my sunflowers and the idea of having to rip them out for someone else’s benefit (and lose all the $$ from flower sales) really wasn’t sitting too well. But we were able to talk to Pioneer technicians and ask a lot of questions, and all the things I was worried about are non-issues. So far everything has been very amicable. We are interested in cooperating with our neighbors. If it happens that we are able to lease our land, the connections and equipment exist to bring the rear portion of our property into production–something that has weighed on our minds in recent months. I have already been provided with generous amounts of seed for beautiful sunflower cultivars. It have felt a little strange about the idea of involving our farm with any commercial agricultural venture, since philosophically I oppose many conventional practices. But I have been impressed by the flexibility of the people with whom I have spoken; they are willing to grow organically, they are willing to refrain from applying any kind of chemical to which we object, they insist on field rotation and cover cropping on alternate years. I didn’t expect any of that from Big Agriculture. Anyway, hopefully this will result in a beneficial arrangement for everyone involved, and allow us to learn new things and meet new people. It would be great to have the means to fix the mess the previous owner left. He did a shoddy job of having the old almond orchard removed, with the result that all sorts of rootstock and "junk trees" are growing unwanted on the back acreage.

In other news, we have two surviving Narragansett chicks. The one that had odd coloration died at 2 days old. The were lung abnormalities, maybe a pneumonia-ish problem….the necropsy report is still pending. I hope the new dozen eggs will arrive this week.

We have begun selling berries, and have our first apricots. The Babcock peaches will be ready in about 2 more weeks. The outer orchard is a royal mess, and the gophers have eaten the roots of my Ashmead’s Kernel apple, which is dying. I’m not too happy about that last one at all, since that is my favorite tree on the property and was covered with fruit. The cats have been killing one rodent a day for weeks on end, with no end in sight. We find decapitated "presents" everywhere, and the bathroom has been nicknamed "the kill floor". ‘Nuff said.

We’re still doing battle for the beans and okra and eggplant. I have been handpicking pounds of slugs and earwigs. Good thing I mostly have extra seed….today I bought a new Whackitty, a forged steel hand tool that just looks like it can slice any weed to pieces. We’ll see….

The sweet peas are about gone, and each night I am harvesting pod after pod. Lotsa seed for next year, but I’ll miss them.

It’s hot, I got a new garden hat from the thrift store and I really like it, the poults won’t shut up, our oldest cat is senile, the shop got cleaned, the brick patio is completely finished, the broom corn is over a foot tall, the butterfly bushes have lots of butterflies, the potatoes look good….

Signing off for now!

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