Friday, July 2, 2010

An impromptu mentoring session

Mckenzie and I pulled up to the farm at the same time today so she got to go over the state-of-the-field with me.    It was so convenient! I'm a spontaneous person anyway, so it works out even better for me than if we had scheduled something.  She showed me what she means when she says "weeding".  She pointed to an itty bitty bitty little green sprout and said I had to get that out.  I'm like, "are you serious?!"  But then she showed me how she does it: raking her fingers through the dirt really fast, just kind of bulldozing it.  It looked like a very do-able technique.  And I imagine if you're on top of your weeds like that it might actually take less time on the long run.  She said you should do it very very fast.  She's always talking about being fast and efficient and I totally understand why.  The profit margins on farming are very very very thin.  So keeping your man hours low is the only way to make it profitable.

In my original CSA* plan- back in late winter, I had committed to bringing in 120 bunches of beets. This is how the conversation with the CSA coordinator went:

me: "I don't have as many beets as I was signed up for."
Matthew: How many do you think you have?"
me: "mmm.  Maybe twenty"
Matthew: "Ok.  I'll put you down for twenty"
Me: "Ok thanks"
Matthew: "Bring the twenty bunches in Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning"
Me: "Oh bunches?"
Matthew: "yeah, how many bunches do you think you will have?"
Me: "um... four?" 

Pathetic I know.  It's because I didn't weed them until it was too late so they were competing for nutrients and space.  Plus they could be thinned more.  It's interesting how a beet by itself can be twice the size of two beets side-by-side.  Thankfully, my CSA coordinator, Matthew, is a total angel and he was very nice about it.  He says this year is a learning year.  The next time I harvest the beets (my next commitment is in 6 weeks) I will do it in the early morning before they've gotten any heat from the day.  Then immediately rinse them in cool water.  McKenzie says that's the difference between a beet or lettuce that will last one day and one that will last two weeks. 

I learned how to stake the tomato plants.  Home gardeners are probably familiar with the fancy circular metal stakes for tomatoes, but this way is cheaper, in my opinion cooler, and more feasible for large crops of tomatoes.  This is how you do it: Every two plants you pound in a stake deeply with a hammer.  Then using twine (I was wondering why I had to buy twine) you tie it tightly between the two stakes and then go back again.  This is the tricky part.  The twine makes a figure eight around the two plants/a criss-cross in the middle.    So basically the plant is going to grow through the narrow space between the two twines.  (Is twines a word?)   Repeat it every six inches up the stake. And when you have a whole row of tomatoes like me, repeat it another dozen or so times.  This, of course, should be done very very fast, as per McKenzie's instructions..  lol. 

*CSA   Community Supported Agriculture.  It's all the rage these days.  It's where the community basically invests in a farmer, so that he or she isn't taking on the whole risk and investment themself.  The customer buys a "share" for something like $700 a year. Sometimes they offer big and small shares; every week or every other week, that sort of thing.  Then you go to the designated pick up place and you get your fresh picked vegetables of the week.  Usually the harvest is bountiful so it pays for itself.  It's local.  It's (almost always, depending on the farm) organic.  It's a win-win for everyone.

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