In some ways, farming has an unforgiving timeline. Once you plant a seed, nature puts you on a timeclock.
The seedlings grows, get leafy (and we harvest some at that point), while other varieties put out flowers, develop fruit, and we harvest the fruit. There's not much you can do (short of killing the plant) to slow down that growing process (and the weeds never stop growing as well).
Because of that, every time you start a new batch of seeds (something we are doing several times a week during the season) you are starting a blitzkrieg of chores necessary to keep up with the plants. Watering. Transplanting. Weeding. Thinning. More watering. More weeding. And the more beds that are planted, the more watering and weeding you must sustain. For weeks!
I’m sure you get the picture.
Well, this spring, when the distribution of four trailer-truckloads of compost took a lot more time than we expected (to make our new farm garden more fertile -- see here for the backstory) it put us behind in our gardening schedule. And once you fall behind, there just aren’t any short-cuts. The work still remains and it actually gets harder to do (i.e., it is harder to hoe big weeds rather than little weeds!).
The good news is that ever since then our dedicated crew has been highly efficient, and we are now (finally!) catching up to where we hoped to be. From here on out, our daily schedule should go a lot more smoothly, giving us a more reasonable routine instead of having to always catch up and work from behind.
What’s In The Garden?
Daniel, our garden manager, reports that everything is growing quickly. To overcome the sustained heatwave (with little rain), the team has been rotating the irrigation hoses to keep all the crops watered. As for the crops:
BEETS: Big, juicy and delicious! We harvested some this past week and you should get more in the weeks ahead.
ZUCHINNI & LETTUCE: Fallen behind on the planting cycle, so we have to get some garden beds replanted.
TOMATOES & CUCUMBERS: Must regularly maintain these vines and direct the new growth by tying them on trellises.
Recently the team has been strategically reusing the old plastic tarps to effectively prepare old garden beds for replanting without needing intensive weeding. Any bed that was used for leafy crops (no big stems or roots) can be covered with the tarps which naturally uses solar heat and darkness to kills any remaining plant growth (especially the weeds). In just a week or two, the beds are cleared and ready for replanting, and old plant matter is re-absorbed into the soil, enriching it for future crops.
Taste Some Yummy Bread
Our baker Jed English is continuing to refine his break-baking process. It’s a blend of both art and science. Every day he bakes he tweaks his recipe or adjusts his method – each time, zeroing in on new recipes. For a time, he was doing more with pastries, but because they are pretty complicated, he cut down on those.
Here are some of his thoughts about bread-baking that he recently shared on his own blog: “When I first put flour and water together, it appears a mess. It is hard to see the final loaf in that first mixture. Wheat flour is hydrophobic, which means it resists water. However, once the water and flour are brought together, the flour eventually accepts the water and is forever changed. That complicated, mystical relationship is the basis of wheat bread. Once the flour and water are bonded, the foundation is built. All this you need from this point is salt, time, air and fire – with these simple elements is created a basic food staple used worldwide. It is formed from the coming together of earth and water, air and fire. Its transformation is like a resurrection. Life from death, through a baptism of fire.”
Maybe you’ve wanted to sample some of his work?
Well, each Tuesday he brings several loaves to our drop sites – and he would love to slice off some for you to try. Just ask! We think you might just take a tasty loaf home for your family to enjoy! Jed is now including variety loaves, currently available as weekly specials that can be purchased at the drop site or ordered online.
Keeping Chickens Cool
The ongoing heat wave is a challenge. No one likes to spend all day outside in the heat.
For our egg-layers, the hot days can affect egg production. But their movable pens have covers that give them protection from the elements (rain or sun). And we always provide them with fresh water, to avoid any dehydration. Chickens don’t have sweat glands so they cool themselves by panting (which takes more of their energy). With the spate of hot days recently, we are extra aware of their production and do what we can to minimize the heat stress.
The same goes for our broiler chickens. To some extent, they won’t grow as fast if they use too much energy to keep cool. But at this point, the daily temps are still not too challenging. Our chickens all enjoy living in open pasture where they can enjoy whatever cool breezes that come along – and are not confined in massive metal “chicken barns” where they have little room to move about.
This is one advantage we have as small-scale farmers. No one can control the weather, but we can provide the most natural environment, keeping our animals comfortable and happy which results in the best tasting chicken meat and eggs you can buy.
Hay, Hay, Hay – Win, Win, Win
The heat also affects the pasture as new grass growth is stunted by the drier conditions, giving our cows less vegetation to graze. If these conditions continue, it may require us to bring in hay to supplement their diet. It costs quite a bit more, but it has several beneficial effects.
For years this property was used by local farmers to harvest hay. By bailing it and hauling it away, they were, in effect, “exporting” the soil’s nutrients year after year and never replenishing them. But now, we'll be bringing hay back here and spreading it around, reversing the process.
Plus, as the cows eat the hay, their rumination is a super-effective way of processing high-fiber grasses (not edible by humans and most other animals) and turning it into the tasty beef enjoyed by so many of us! But more than that, anything that the cow doesn’t absorb for themselves is automatically returned to the pasture as manure and all those minerals and nutrients are distributed throughout the pasture which restores and even improves the vitality and health of the grasses and clover.
While we would rather not have to buy hay when the weather affects the pasture, bringing it in is a win-win-win for us. The pasture is sustained and improved. The cows’ diet is maintained and healthier. And in the long run, their growth and meat production improved!