Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Monday, May 03, 2010

Day 2 at the Farm

May 1st. It's a beautiful Saturday morning so we gathered up the troops and I packed up every conceivable thing I could think of; including a folding table to eat lunch on ( a wasted effort however, because there was already one there). I relished the chance to sport the hippy farmer look. I wore work boots, a long skirt and a tank plus two french braids framing my face. My brother in law, Bun; niece, Jennifer and nephew, Calvin came along.

I was surprised that our neighboring farmers weren't there since the weather was perfect and everyone had so much planting to do. Our farm maintenance man, Don, had made raised beds for us with his tractor. To the untrained eye, they might look like rows of dirt; but to the farmers who made a single bed by hand last week, it was a work of art to rival Mona Lisa.

The kids worked with us for the first hour and then played. I was overjoyed watching them. I don't think I've ever seen them play so hard: running non-stop, back and forth through the rows and pouring cool water on their heads with the watering can. Thank God that Bun brought sun screen or they would have burned. I never think of that because I don't burn and my husband is dark skinned so I know it's unusual for them to burn. But the first scorching day of the spring on baby skin was turning Saphira's face pink.

Timmy used the rototiller to finish one half done bed and make a clean finish to the two ends of the field. We smoothed out the 200 foot bed and fertilized it. The way the tractor made our beds there is, like, a lump in the middle of each path. I hate to see the land go to waste so we're going to turn most of them into mini-beds, good enough for small crops, like our row of carrots. Timmy planted carrots and he had started to double back on the row with the extra seeds when I saw him from across the field. "STOP!!!!!!" I yelled. "Do you know how much work it is to thin carrot seedlings??"- one of the many things I've learned from farm class.

I have to say, before this year I was very naive about farming. Well, I knew I had a lot to learn and that's what drew me to this program which provided me with classes and a mentor, but let's just say I didn't know what I didn't know. Yes, it can be as simple as seed + water + sun + soil = plant, but that is just the beginning. That is like 1+1 = 2 in the world of agriculture. I'm used to being the class brainiac- especially in nursing school. I was usually the first one done with the tests and I did well, despite never reading the texts or studying more than just the night before. In farm class I was lucky if I could follow the conversation. Half of the vocabulary was a foreign language to me. Neptunes? Drip tape? Night shades? Mouldboard? disc and sickle mowers? nematode? tilth? hard pan? Sub soiling? Cucurbitaceae?* huh?? wha??? I loved the challenge though, the new world of knowledge opening up to me.

We also planted honey dew melons. These are a part of my little experiments this year. I had saved a bunch of seeds last summer to plant. Later I found out about "hybrids" and "heirlooms". Apparently much of the produce we eat comes from hybrid seeds that produce quality fruit but the seeds inside those fruit are sterile. I'm curious a) if that's true. (ha ha. I've got to see it to believe it. I'm such a dork). and b) how many of the seeds I collected this is true for. What is the percentage of our food supply that is altered like this?

We watered the seeds with the watering can, walking back and forth from the faucet to the field which took a ridiculous amount of time. We only have one bed planted too! (Three, two-hundred foot rows) There's a dozen more to go! We've spent so much time on it and there's so much to go. It just goes to show you how big a quarter acre really is. There's no way we could farm without drip tape. I look forward to setting that up soon. Did you know that 75% of water sprayed on crops, as opposed to dripped on the soil, is wasted to evaporation? That's a considerable strain on resources. Both money and water.

We took a break to eat stir fry beef and broccoli on rice. and ice cold water. Unfortunately for me, Bun brought two boxes of doughnuts. I say "unfortunately" because I have no will power and by the end of the day I had eaten four of them. Hopefully it was still a caloric break-even though, with all the hard work I put in at the farm. At one point sweat was dripping off my forehead and stinging my eyes. I love that feeling. It's refreshing to work hard like that.

I also planted a border of flowers and the front of every bed. Hopefully it will be real pretty. Maybe my neighboring farmers will be envious. no. that's mean.

Once home, we were all so desperate for a shower we hopped in 2 or 3 at a time. We were exhausted, and quite astounded to find that we'd only been there three hours. One thing that's hard about being a farmer is that coming home from the farm is like coming home from the beach. Everyone's tired. There's a load of laundry and a sink of dishes to bring in from the car and wash. There's garbage and sand. Cleaning up is a job in and of itself. All in all, it was a good day though.

  • *Neptunes: Fish emulsion, used as a powerful fertilizer
  • Drip Tape: A thin tubing run across your beds that drips water on your plants
  • Night shades: the nickname for the solanaceae family. potatoes, peppers, egg plants, tomatoes etc.
  • Mouldboard: A plow
  • Disc and sickle mowers: handle large, rough areas that need to be mowed
  • Nematode: A parasitic worm that can cause severe crop loss
  • Tilth: soil that has the proper ratio of sand, clay and organic matter to grow healthy crops
  • Hard pan: A layer of compacted, cement-like soil right under the top layer. Also called plow pan
  • Sub-soiling: Deep tillage to break up hard pan
  • Cucurbitaceae: the family of plants that includes gourds, pumpkins, melons, squash

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