The week began on Sunday with a few friends visiting for a short tour of Full Life farm. I continue to invite everyone that I encounter, especially close friends who are obviously interested in food sustainability. If you live close, I will be honored if you are able to come. The warmer weather will offer more and more opportunities for visits, especially with the Carroll County farm tour the week before the local farmers’ market opens. Later in May and June, there will be House Building Days. There may even be a day set aside to build a Cob oven. I am looking forward to these coming work days because these are skills that are vital to the future of sustainability locally and internationally where I intend to take these ideas.
Monday began with prepping, weeding, and the leveling of soil as well as creating a pathway between two plant beds while avoiding the mixture of wood chips that are filled with carbon (which would eat the energy in the compost-manure and take it away from plants that need it most. This time the plant bed just outside of the Hoop House was selected for transplanting the Brassica Dinosaur Kale from small pots. After a search to determine what constitutes Dinosaur Kale exactly, I am leaving this to the observer and for later growth. There are several varieties of Kale, including the common grocery store Scotts kale (with frilly leaves that usually becomes stuck in one’s throat however small you cut it), Lacinato (usually narrow with slight indentations), and the plain leaf, which has also been commonly called Dinosaur. The plant beds were weeded thoroughly and the weeds’ soil was left for the bed as much as possible. The removed weeds were fed to the chickens that eagerly devoured the weeds in short order. The seedlings were removed from the pots as delicately as possible and placed in the plant bed that was wide enough with room for four rows. These were planted as close to the surface as possible to keep them from drowning or burial by water. Prior to the transplanting, compost was taken from the compost pile at the front of the farm to replenish the plant bed soil that was removed by the removal of the weeds.
On Wednesday, Paul, Terra, Zeina, and I left immediately for one of the outside plots of land used to grow additional crops. Today, we cleared the plant beds of weeds and cleared the weeds from plowed ground next to and beyond it. While it doesn’t sound like a great deal of time, most of the three hours was spent making these preparations to plant bush beans in one bed and plant remaining and additional potatoes later on Friday. Paul pointed out the English peas that had been planted earlier were starting to grow as plantlings. Since growing plants and seeds as a child with my father, this has been the very first time I have seen the results of my efforts in a long time. It is rather rewarding and profound to have the potential life of another being in your hands and fingers grow before your very eyes day to day. There is obviously a lot of required work that is also labor intensive. But there is also a lot of repetition within and around these tasks. As I have learned and have become more comfortable with my experience and knowledge, I have learned more each day. As I learn, I also learn what is important, what isn’t and where some corners can be cut to save time and increase efficiency. Paul demonstrated this just before we left on Wednesday when he dropped two rows of Bush beans into furrowed rows and I followed behind to cover them up.
On Friday, Paul, Zeina, and I left for the same plot to prep plant beds that we worked Wednesday, this time to plant potatoes. Manure was added and mixed, two furrows were created to plant Red Pontiacs, white Kennebec and other potatoes approximately three feet apart to allow for growth of more potato tubers. This was new to me for some reason since I didn’t realize that under the ground potatoes multiply themselves as other living things reproduce. The potatoes need at least three feet to avoid any crowding. The rest of the time was spent harvesting late growing kale leaves planted back in October. Some is all ready for market, and some is going to seed and beginning to sour. These won’t be used for the farmers’ market. The remaining late carrots from October were also harvested. It’s already April so harvests this late are not unusual but the yields are usually not high since first harvest for the kale and carrots are usually 75 to 90 days after.
Midday, we returned to the farm to wash eggs, greens and vegetables. There were very few eggs remaining after the bulk were washed Wednesday afternoon after I left. While I waited for the water to heat up after starting the fire, I washed batches of kale leaves in cold water to rinse out the dirt. After thoroughly rinsed, the leaves were spun in a large greens spinner to shake off excess water and placed in bags. The carrots and rutabagas were washed after rather than before to avoid transferring the mud to the kale. The latter are not really ideal for a spinner so they were shaken and bagged for market. While I washed, Paul harvested garlic chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, and Jerusalem artichokes. Because, sanitary conditions are of vital importance for market, there is a very strict protocol for washing everything. After the eggs were washed and dried, I washed my hands and both sides of the sink before I washed the parsley, rosemary, and Jerusalem artichokes in much the same way I washed the greens and vegetables before I had to wash the eggs.
The process of learning from such teachers as Paul and Terra allow me to take in as much information as possible, and learn what I need to take with me on the road to my own sustainability to teach others to take care of themselves and their communities.