Hard work

Farm update

What a busy weekend. We’ve taken on a Saturday market in Pearisburg, VA which reduces our time to devote to garden chores to mainly Sunday. Hours of weed whacking and mowing later, I’ve some crop updates to provide…

The weed pressure this season is nearly overwhelming. For certain, it is frustrating to me to fail to stay on top of things. Likewise, the major rains in June and early July prohibited many of our succession plantings. What does it all mean?

Well, here is the so-so news:

  • Our crop of red onions is pretty much a loss due to extreme competition with weeds. I will start bringing some to markets, but the bulbs will be small.
  • Our offerings of carrots may be compromised as well. I have yet to plant my last row. Our main crop accidentally got tilled under. Our only growing row of carrots is very weedy. I hope we have some for you (and some fall ones for us to overwinter) come September.
  • I missed my planting window for fall potatoes. Will put some in the ground this week and hope they have time to develop.
  • I did not plant successions of squashes or cucumbers. That means we have few plants in the ground. These offerings will be less than in years past. If I can, I will plant some seeds this week and see if we can squeeze in some late offerings.
  • I will have a gap in my lettuce production again this year. I hope to have loose leaf lettuce this week, possibly into next week.
  • Cabbage worms and harlequin bugs abound. The kales are going strong, but you will start to notice some imperfections. That is except for the “Redbor” variety…my new favorite. Not only a stunningly beautiful plant and leaf (dark green/purple frilly leaves with purple veins), this kale seems to thumb its nose at bugs.

The good news:

  • It has been fairly sunny, hot and dry these couple of weeks. We hope that our tomato plants that are loaded with green tomatoes decides it is a good time to have them turn red! our cherry tomatoes are going strong as are our yellow “Taxi” tomatoes. Still waiting for some red slicers, though.
  • Our beans are producing great. There is a little bean beetle presence, but the plants, overall, are healthy and productive. I need to get some canning done!
  • Our corn is tasseling now. May be some sweet corn is in our future, too!
  • Golden and red beets are coming along. I hope to get those rows weeded ASAP so the plants will get some sun and fill out more.

We are working as hard as we can to keep things going. Each season is different, which keeps it all challenging AND interesting.

Still, you got to be able to catch your breath and enjoy what’s around you…like a lovely sunset after a hard day’s work!

Gratuitous sunset photo

Gratuitous sunset photo

Methods to our madness

Gardening is…..and that is where words can fail you. What is gardening? Well, it is challenging. It is hard work. It is nature unfolding before you. It is rewarding. It is confusing … frustrating … joyous … humbling …

Why the stream of consciousness? It is gently raining right now. Rain. Water. An essential nutrient to all. Rain is why our planting schedule is three weeks behind. The recent LACK of rain is why our plants that DID get planted are a tad stressed.

Gentle rain

Gentle rain

So, my garden chores are complete for the time being, and with this break in the action, I thought I would describe some of our gardening methods (ahem…madness).

For starters, have you ever wondered how folks price their produce? I do. Still. Aside from dealing with what Mother Nature hands us, one dilemma we have yet to fully overcome is “how much are my goods worth?” Things that contribute to the cost of our production are pretty common to all growers: supplies, soil amendments, seeds, seed starting materials…etc.

What is tough to incorporate, at least for us, is time…as in labor. This point leads me to our methods discussion. Because I prefer to walk out into the garden and eat our products right there, off the plant, we use no (none, zip, zilch, nill, zero) chemicals on our crops. Cool. But how do we deal with soil health and insect burdens

COMPOST!!!

COMPOST!!!

For soil health….COMPOST…magical stuff. Plus some minerals based on a soil test…all of these things are delivered to the planting beds by manpower (I worked on prepping some beds today, in fact).

We perform a lot of work by hand and the strength of our backs. Yes, we have a tractor, but it is a two wheeled, walk-behind variety. Powerful, but it lacks a front end loader, a dump trailer or the like. So, materials to help the soil be healthy are delivered by hand (compost, amendments, straw mulch).

Tools we use quite a bit are rather simple: a couple of types of hoes for cultivation, a hand-hoe (called a double chopper), a digging fork, a bed preparation rake, oversized wheel barrows, shovels, 5 gallon buckets, totes, and a broadfork. Of course, the BCS is invaluable!!!!

BCS shade is OK

BCS shade is OK

What else happens? Well, many seeds are started indoors starting in February. That process involves making soil blocks and seeding each block by hand. When seedlings are mature enough and the timing is right, the soil blocks are then transplanted into prepared planting beds by hand. Vegetables that are not started from seed are seeded directly into prepared planting beds…by hand. Some beds are covered by row covers to protect young plants or newly germinated seeds from: bugs, wind, heavy rain, and intense sun. Installing row covers involved erecting hoops over the planting bed then covering the length of the bed with row cover fabric.

Weeding. It’s done by hand mostly (amazed that my friends still talk to me after days weeding here). A thick bed of straw mulch has helped to suppress some weeds (and recruit a lovely population of earth worms to the garden).

Bugs. They are squashed by hand…or ignored. We do what we can. My least favorite bugs are the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle…after a while, they turn your hands yellow.

Harvesting and cleaning…all done by hand. Of course.

Labor labor labor. How do I figure this part out? Easy answer is to keep track of all hours worked in the garden….but the problem is, when you enjoy doing something, you don’t always pay attention to the time you spend doing it. Does that make sense? At any rate, we do the best we can to value our vegetables fairly, while still considering aspects of the production process. We are lucky that our garden is a hobby (gone wild?) and not a livelihood….because I’d like all to enjoy our bounty!

Time

Time keeps on ticking, and I can hear it loud and clear like my own heartbeat. I need about two weeks.

Isn’t that funny? Most people want time to lounge on the beach. To go fishing. To ski.

I, on the other hand, wish for more time to work in my garden. Ridiculous but true. Even when Mother Nature decides to leapfrog spring right into summer, I’m happy to toil away, working up a sweat and even some achy muscles. It’s hard to beat. Especially when you have these beauties waiting on you:


It’s high time I get these lovelies in the ground! They’ve been patiently waiting for my attention!