Friday, July 2, 2010

Rain or Shine

Day four at the farm. It was pouring out all afternoon, but I was going to go; rain or shine. I have about $70 worth of seedlings in the greenhouse that are drying out like the Sahara. And that's just what I paid for them. Their crop value is in the hundreds. So I was going to go and water them and, rain or shine, plant as many as I could. It made me think of those stories in the Laura Ingles books where the whole family has to get up in the middle of the night to save the crops from an unexpected frost. We farmers gotta do what we gotta do. But thankfully it wasn't raining when I got there.  (Though on later occasions I did weed during rain storms.  It wasn't bad at all.  As long as it's warm out it's actually quite soothing).

I wore my husband's mechanic outfit and some boots. I've pretty much given up on wearing my own clothes. I just leave covered in mud anyway and it's only a matter of time before I blow out the knees in the pants.

When I got there I met a new neighboring farmer, Tim. He was making three rows and they were beautiful. Dang, all these perfectionist farmers are making me look bad. It was nice to have a friend nearby though. We chit chatted about how there is so much to do and everything is top priority; there is nothing that can wait. And we both said at the same time: "why do we do this to ourselves?" lol. For me: I have to plant my seedlings, plant my melons, and weed my beets and carrots. It's all urgent. The beets, by the way, look about the same as they did before I weeded them last time. It's very depressing.

I spent the next two hours planting seedlings. The tomato plants were looking very sad. Hopefully I saved them. When they were still in the trays I watered them all, seemingly enough. But when we took them all out there was only two millimeters of wet dirt. I had no idea how much water it took to really water them.

Dimitri was with me. I dug holes, fertilized them, then he put the plant in and filled in the dirt. The plants slipped right out of the square with a gentle tug on the stem. It was a satisfying feeling to pull them out- if that makes any sense. It was the perfect job for him. He also did some watering (all the kids favorite job). By the end he just sat there next to me. We chatted and he showed off the math problems that he knew. It was the sort of lackadaisical conversation that would be hard to have at home with all of the distractions.

When you mix in the (organic) fertilizer it's important to mix it in or the nitrogen just evaporates. Keeping Nitrogen in the soil is a constant goal of the farmer. One way to do this is to plant soybeans or peas which are nitrogen fixers. They don't actually add Nitrogen but they don't take it away either. The other way- and this is an important thing all farmers must do- is to let a part of their field "fallow" every couple of years. You just plant a cover crop like clovers and let it rest. Another way to utilize every part of the land (especially here where land is so valuable) is to plant clovers in the walking paths so they can be enriched while the beds are being drained. It's also helpful in reducing the mud. Oddly, water treatment facilities dump so much Nitrogen into lakes that they have to pay Nitrogen credits because of the oxygen it depletes and the algae it creates. It's too bad you can't make fertilizer out of that. Well, that's a whole other issue. I read a book about the sludge from water treatment being used as fertilizer and all the terrible chronic diseases and cancers the farmers got from it. There are so many toxins being dumped in our sewage supply ranging from embalming chemicals from funeral homes to pharmaceuticals dumped down household drains . That's an environmental issue that really needs to be addressed.

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