Lest anyone get the idea that our farming experience is too glamorous after that last post, I thought I should document a few more bumps in our ever-winding vegetable road. There is more to organic farming, after all, than just building hoop houses. Some of the highlights from the last two days (or should I say, “low-lights”?):
Yesterday, it was hot. Darned hot (94 degrees in Mac!). I’m sure that many of you also noticed and were uncomfortable as well. But having to work outside in that muggy, oppressive heat really tired us out, even from the beginning of the day (it was uncomfortably hot by nine!). Plus, we took a walk around our fields to check on the weed/watering/growth status of our plants and realized finally that those cute little yellow bugs are bad news. Yes, we have a bad case of spotted cucumber beetles. This is a pest we never encountered at the farm we worked on in Washington (aphids, flea beetles, voles, deer, slugs—yes; cucumber beetles, no); therefore we weren’t as worried as we should have been when we started seeing them last week. Those little yellow bugs can do some serious damage! And, apparently they love chard and beets, which have been struggling (not too well) to outgrow them. We realized yesterday finally that we needed to help them along and followed the advice of Jill Paine from Gaining Ground: we picked them off one by one and squashed them between our fingers. Once again: with the sun blazing down on us, we crawled on our hands and knees through the dirt, squishing little bugs with our bare fingers. Yes, we know, our life is so romantic. Don’t you want to be an organic farmer too?
The good news is that our scheme appears to be working so far. We’re hoping we’ve caught the buggers before they can lay their eggs, and we actually have decreased the amount we’re seeing in the fields. (They’re particularly bad in the one field that was cultivated last year, which makes sense since they probably ate their little hearts out on those poor souls’ vegetables and then over-wintered until the bounty began two weeks ago this spring.) And, maybe it’s our imaginations, but the chard and beets both seem to be recovering fairly quickly. I already saw new, uneaten leaves today. Hoorah. Either way, we also sowed more flats of both, in case these plantings never fully recover (which they should). And we’ve added ‘bug patrol’ to our list of routine fieldwork (weeding, transplanting, irrigating, etc.)
One crisis somewhat resolved and another came quickly to replace it: this morning, Casey decided to mow some extra long grass near our hothouse. As he was pulling forward with the mower, he thought he was avoiding the extension cord that carries power from one of the outbuildings to the hothouse propagation mats, but he wasn’t. It got tangled up and cut in the mower, and it was a bit scary, but we thought, “Shoot, we’re out of an extension cord!” Until we realized the power had also gone off in the outbuildings. Then we managed to get the power back on, when we realized the water wasn’t working. Somehow we had messed up the well in the mix!!!!! And that was our next big crisis—trying to figure out what we had done to the well and how we could fix it (and of course it was hot again, so we needed to irrigate). It turns out that there’s a part of the well that has been tricky after power outages in the past as well (in other words, we didn’t break anything, just triggered a known problem). So, with the help of two fine friends (thanks Rich and Denny!), we got the well running again and we’re planning to more permanently fix the problem soon.
We imagine (hopefully) that someday we will go a few days or maybe a few weeks without a crisis. But maybe each crisis will just seem less crisis-like after years and years of fiascos. So far we’ve survived each one just fine, but they still seem huge at the time. Maybe someday our perspective will change.
Anyhow, hand wringing, sweating, bug-squishing aside, the last two days also held some little gems of goodness as well. For example, yesterday morning we successfully planted out the tomatoes in the field house, and they seem to be doing just fine (despite the unexpected heat, which did make us second guess our choice to plant almost immediately). We’ve given them lots of water, so hopefully they’ll thrive.
Another good thing: Rich Blaha from Mossback Farm visited us this afternoon. It was great to meet yet another young farmer in the area and talk about farm stuff (and show off our hard work). But besides the generally good stuff here, it turns out that we have a ton in common. Casey and I decided that it’s kind of like we’re ‘farm cousins,’ because his farming mentor was our farming mentor’s mentor! (Does this make sense? Probably not.) Rich and his wife also spent three years living in our beloved Bellingham, so it was fun to chat about farming and people we know and the challenges of agriculture in Washington. He also is forever in our good graces because he joined in the bug squishing and helped us fix the well. We’re hoping to visit their farm sometime soon.
And, finally, another noteworthy milestone: we ate our first meal from the garden tonight at dinner! Most of the plantings are still weeks from harvest, but we had some flats of kale starts left over from our planting, and, well (okay this is weird), we harvested them and ate the little tiny leaves sautéed served over fresh pasta! It was like kale ‘micro-mix’—very chic and very wasteful. They would have just ended up in our compost pile otherwise, and we’re so craving vegetables these days (we religiously avoid buying non-local, out of season produce at the grocery store, which means there’s not much for us to eat right now since the garden isn’t producing yet). Maybe it was cheating (a pre-harvest harvest), but we were very excited. We can’t wait to cook and eat our own vegetables this year … soon!