As I see it now, the theme of the summer is easily summed up in two words: HOT and DRY. It literally feels like the dust bowl out there and I can't really remember the last time we had a soaking rain. The sun felt strong this week and although it's physically challenging work, I feel more connected to our Earth and our food through this challenging weather. We as farmers spend most of our waking hours absorbed in the same environment as the food we grow and eat. It feels similar to when you share a meal with someone and you are all eating the same thing. Knowing that we as a crew and as a community share the same sun rays as the plants, the same temperature, and live on the same soil, keeps me going on those long, hot days. There is a freedom in simply being in our environment in all weather and letting go of our comfort zones. This is when I see the most growth and change in my life.
Our morning routine this week has been to head straight for the water and in every direction possible. We are using all the tricks we can. Our aluminum pipe system has taken up residence in our newly planted west field, taking care of our fall brassicas, chard, lettuce, and beets. This system which delivers the most water through overhead sprinklers requires us to move about 7 long aluminum pipes across the fields. It feels as though you could pole vault with these - they are much lighter than one would think. It's quite empowering to carry them on your shoulder and I must say that Erinn and Dan both do it with such grace, each able to carry two pipes at once.
Second, we have the water reel (not to be confused with the water wheel which is used when transplanting). This is just a couple years old now and let me tell you, it's a work out setting it up. It is a retractable hose with a sprinkler attached that covers about 7 beds in either direction depending on the wind. When Janelle and I pull it out at 7am, we debate over who will get the full body workout and who gets just intense arm strengthening. It's a great way to wake up in the morning if you ever get a chance to try it.
Yet another way is our drip lines that remain under our biodegradable plastic used with our tomato, eggplant, and onion crops to name a few. Although this takes more time and possibly more money upfront to lay down on the beds, it is ultimately a more efficient system and requires us only to turn the faucet or pump on for a few hours assuming the pump is working... It does require time for setup and repairing of holes, but the water goes directly to the roots avoiding the pathways and foliage of the plants. It also does not compact the soil as much as an overhead sprinkler system.
Lastly, we are even using your run-of-the-mill home oscillating sprinkler which works great for directly seeded crops like our carrots, but also has saved the flowers which I will add are STUNNING! Erinn has done an amazing job! With all of these methods of watering we must think strategically in order to be most efficient with our time and energy as well as conserving water where possible - which is what farming is all about. We need to think about how long the water reel will take to run, which pipes have more pressure, what crops are in dire need, what covers the most amount of space, what will need transplanting next, etc.
Last week marks the end of an era and the beginning of many others. Summer education programs started last week and it's refreshing to have so many young people on the farm. There is so much discovery and exploration happening and it puts a smile on my face. A couple weeks ago a little girl asked me as I was in the wash station, "Are you a farmer?" and I replied "Yes I am, who are you?" and she proceeded to tell me her name. It's such a delight to have so many levels of education happening in one place.
We finished harvesting the garlic which had been in the ground since November, so it felt like a big deal. This particular garlic really went through the ringer. It sprouted in December and then we quickly mulched it with leaves. It definitely experienced some deep frosts and did not receive much water or fertilization. We didn't even need to weed it all season! But to both Erinn's and my surprise it is some of the most beautiful garlic we have had in a few years. The garlic will now cure in our greenhouse for a couple of weeks so that it will be able to store for the winter months.
As for the summer vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and carrots, they are moving along and should be ready very soon. Luckily for these crops the heat and sunshine is perfect - we just need to keep watering. The routine continues of seed, transplant, water, weed, water, harvest, and repeat. And did I say water?
I will leave you with a quote Amanda shared a few years back at this midsummer time. "The beat of time is like the throb of a healthy heart, strong, steady and reassuring...it is the richness and the ripeness of the earth again made manifest. And man participates, if he will, not as proprietor but as a participant in life itself." -Hal Borland.
Enjoy the summer, the harvest, and the world around us,
Assistant Farm Manager
for the Farm