Finally Spring Maybe

29 04 2008

As our first season gears up for vegetable farming, we are all feeling overwhelmed at the never ending list of things that need to be done around here. Being idle for a moment is painstaking because even when our bodies get a chance to slump over, our minds race over the what needs to be done.

Less complaining more farming. Spring is here, wildflowers bloom. Vegetables will grow as well. Our first field/garden is off to a magnificent start, which can only be blessed by the addition of an irrigation system.

This is what I more or less have on my mind today:

Composting.

Composting is more of less the act of creating organic matter in a quicker more controlled manner in order to amend the soil. Composting happens as natural decay in a balanced ecosystem. So as we breach the tender ecosystem by having a farm, soil looses its stability and therefore its ability to birth healthy plants. Therefore we need to return to the land what we have taken away. We can recreate the organic matter beneficial to plants through composting organic/living materials such as kitchen scraps, chicken litter, horse manure, newspaper, weeds, garden refuse, and more. Composting can be done in a more controlled environment to promote proper decay, so we can add the most stability back into the soil.

Use of compost is necessary ingredient of a sustainable farm. Therefore creating compost on site, is the next logical step if we are to pursue sustainability. Being able to produce all the needed compost on site, to be able to correctly amend our soil every year to be able to produce the healthiest crops will be a keystone, a fundamental, and and important example for future farming.

Spring now, but Fall with its decay of the landscape is a most important lesson to carry with our presence on this farm. How do I go about simulating a perpetual decay so there will be enough or an abundance of usable compost? What kind of systems, given the ingredients and tools that are available, can be developed to provide all the compost I need to build a healthy soil?

Where can I forage for more ingredients to increase the amount of compost? Would green manures be an important part of the composting process?

What kind of tools and structures can be had to have more efficient composting? What kind of composting method would be most suitable to our specific farm needs? What are the most efficient ways to stay up to date with organic standards for composting in case we decide to become organic?

How can composting be annually planned so that there is more compost when soil amending is most necessary? Will there be enough compost for seed starts in early spring? How much compost will be needed to add the soil before planting in spring? Will there be enough compost for the greenhouse? Compost to be used as mulch in both summer and fall? Are these all the applications where compost is going to be needed? Quantitatively, how can this all be planned? What are the numbers, say in cubic yards of compost do I need to make annually? How can this be measured and adjusted for farm expansion?

What other methods of organic soil amendment besides composting can be used along side of compost to add other necessary features to boost plant production? Cover crops as green manure, as mulch, nitrogen fixers, and weed suppressors? Vermiculture bins to make worm castings? Uses of different teas and tonics?

Just thinking about it.





Report from the Field (homecoming guest post)

22 04 2008

I flew into Portland for a high school buddy’s wedding… it all went down at McMenamins – Edgefield outside of Portland. It was really great, lots of black and super casual. I ate a mushrom spinach canneloni the size of a loaf of bread. If you haven’t been to any McMenamins in Oregon you must check them out. This one in particular used to be a sanitarium and was converted into this resort type grounds… they make wine there, garden, have a whiskey distillery, brew pub… everything. Oh yes, a nine-hole golf course also. What a blast they must have had getting their hops to climb up the old water tower and showing old movies in what looks like the old lecture hall. It’s inspiring how they’ve transformed this place into a lush, green, lush, vibrant, lush compound of happiness and giving back to the earth.

Inspiring for us where we are now:

In case Gabrielle hasn’t gotten this across in previous posts… the list here never ends. I mean… as an outside witness… it never ever ends. What was that Bush Admin. quote? From their press secretary… ‘It doesn’t matter, because while you’re reporting on these realities, we’re making decisions that create new realities…’ It is like that here… except, ya know, we’re farming. One thing done and another thing creates a new reality.

Each day there are five projects (or more) going on, and then because the way the land is laid out you try to make yourself the most efficient for each one. You start to work on a greenhouse door, the battery for the power tool you need runs out but the new one is re-charging back at the house. So you run up there, and while your there you clean off the old deck and power wash it… then water gets on the automatic safety shut-off so it stops the power washer and the sun comes out so since your up at the little house you pull some weeds in the Landscape Gone Wild of a front lawn and stack some firewood in-between downpours. Remember that greenhouse door? Back down there with charged battery… only to find out that you can make a semi-finished cut with the ‘power’ saw until it quits. You finish with a handsaw and you’re starting to get tired.

But you think you’re wiped out now? You put your door to the greenhouse up and it’s totally FUBAR. Improvisation is a must, yet the more people that get around you with ideas, the more tired you are. You send faithful helpers along to finish other tasks and start dinner… and then it’s you and the door. And you have it figured out… and it weighs a ton… and you screw it all together, the plastic is on the wrong side, get the damn hinges put in for the third time, dig a trench so you can move it along the un-even ground and then… yes… the door is up… and you have crossed off, more or less, one thing from your list.

You eat dinner, and as the light goes down you check in on the PA Primary… and decide to power-wash some buckets so you can get a white-wash mixture made and some chicken nesting tubs prepped so they can get out of your damn dining room.

It is like this every day from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night. In case you haven’t read this article, check it out… ‘Why Bother?’ it’s called.

Pretty much sums up why people want to do what Gabe and Chad are doing. And Kirby and Lee. And me. And why not you? Start small, because the list is really long people, but when you are doing things like this because you know it’s what makes us humans… and deep down, for me at least, it feels oh, so good.