March 27, 2010
Let's see, last week we were industrious as usual. Built a gravel-based processing area so we don't have to stand ankle deep in mud while we're washing carrots and radishes this spring. Worked on constructing end walls for the new hoop houses. A task which, after a while working on it, we decided to defer until after we re-convened on how they should be constructed. We also decided to ride over to fellow farmer Jay Payne's place, Cedar Grove Farm, to see his hoop houses, which are quite similar to ours, and get some ideas. Jay sure does have some lovely lettuce mix growing in his houses right now, not to mention a spinach patch that could make cabbage patch kids all over the world green with envy. Always nice to visit a fellow farmer and see yet another way it can be done. I've heard it said that there are as many ways to farm as there are farmers farming, and I'd have to agree. The diversity of nature is reflected in those of us working with it.
In the realm of plants, we direct seeded turnips and cut lettuce mix (which I noticed today had already germinated only 5 days later) and transplanted over 100' of head lettuce starts. We also potted up tomato seedlings from 2" blocks to 4" pots. I can already tell they like it. More cukes got seeded and the garlic got weeded.
We also accomplished a nice chunk of work in the hoop houses that I had been putting off because it just wasn't an appetizing task. Mulching. Which, ordinarily isn't unpleasant, but after the leaf bags have sat in the rain for almost 2 months, becomes a bit of a slimy challenge. Yuk. But we prevailed. We hauled wheelbarrows and cartloads of leaf bags, we heaved and hoed, and in the end, one hoop house had all its aisles full of leaf mulch, ready to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and provide a ready supply of bed mulch for the crops to come. Only one more house to go . . .
And speaking of that one more house, we spent time this week re-working the beds to get them just right. Now is the easiest time to do tractor work in the houses -- the ends are open and there are no crops to work around -- so now is the time to get it right. And so we did. Painfully. It required a lot of hilling and re-hilling, discing, tilling. I kept trying to save myself steps, and finally I just gave in and did it the way it should have been done to begin with -- with all the implements and everything measured and marked out. It's amazing. Here's a math problem for you: if your hoop house is 28' across and your tractor has a wheel base that's 5' center to center of the wheels, how do you arrange the beds so that you end up with 6 of them that are 3' wide or more, each? The answer is that you make 4 passes with the tractor on the center beds, wheel tracks overlapping, and give the extra feet to the beds on the sides. I took the tape measure out and spray painted marks for my tires to go in--between foot 4 and 5, 8 and 9 and so on, and I did that for BOTH sides of the house so I could make my target line coming from either end. Never have I had to be so precise in exactly where the tires go on the tractor. Each foot is invaluable growing space, and maximizing growing space is what this project was all about. So I did. And now it's done. Thank goodness. Hopefully we won't have to do that again for a while. But hey, if so, now I know the process that gets it right.
On another side of the business, I got to learn more in the realm of irrigation. Did you know that a pipe thread is different than a hose thread? The threads are closer together on a pipe thread than a hose, and the two are definitely not interchangeable. Hmm. Good to know. Leads me to purchase things like adapters that go from one to the other so I can correctly connect my water filter to my pressure regulator to my mainline for my irrigation system. I talked with a fella from the Dripworks company where we're ordering our stuff from for quite some time about what all I needed to get to make my system work like I want it to. At one point I even drew out figures for myself to try and get a visual on what would be connected where and how many fittings of each kind I would need. Schematics. Graphs. What can I say, I like to organize my information visually. So anyway. I learned more things I needed to know, which leads to more things, which leads to more things like it always does. Pipe threads, number of gallons per minute, PSI, mainline, sub-main. Gosh, my vocabulary just grows every day. Kinda like the plants.
And, lest I forget, I also went over to UGA and gave a talk at the Sustainable Food Systems Symposium. I represented the producer side of the system, and it was quite interested to get up in front of the auditorium and discuss what "sustainable" means to me. Quite a lot, actually. Maybe that'll be the subject of my next blog . . .