Monday, April 22, 2013

Deep breath...

Some people say that I asked for it, by choosing the name I did:  Mud Creek Farm.  Ruth says we should just call it "Mud Farm" -- after the storms we had a week and a half ago, that's literally what it is! 

Luckily, we gained access to a really dry field down the road, which we'll be planting potatoes in this year.  A gorgeous sandy loam.  Our strategy, besides gaining some much-needed early ground, is to be as far away as possible from the dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle.  Last year this pest was so heavy on our potatoes that it threatened to completely defoliate the plants.  After squishing them on our hands and knees 2 or 3 times, I finally broke down and sprayed something on them-- an organically certified spray of course.  But what a hassle!  I had to spray after dark, so we wouldn't harm the honeybees, and believe me, after a 13 hour day of farmwork in 90 degree heat, you don't take kindly to strapping on a 3 gallon backpack sprayer, donning gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator.  It was something that made me conclude that we should grow our potatoes THIS year as FAR away from these beasts as possible.

So Betsy (one of the farm crew) and I drove around the neighborhood, scouting out fields.  She grew up here, and her family knows just about everyone who owns land on this side of town.

We narrowed it down to five options, looked up the soil maps online, and determined this one would be the best.  We also really liked Pam and looked forward to working with her to help make her hayfield yield a more edible (for humans) bounty.  (Currently the hay is going to feed Pam's horses as well as Betsy's very large draft horse!)  Pam graciously agreed to let us plow some of it up.  First we took soil samples.  It looks awesome.

 You might say it sometimes takes a village to raise a potato patch...

We enlisted the help of young Nick (also a neighbor) who got a chance to plow his biggest field yet, and he did a great job!  This soil is SANDY -- we might not even be able to slap the word "Mud" on these spuds.  Well, while its raining maybe.  Hopefully it will rain decently this year, since we have no irrigation options here.  But I've never irrigated potatoes before.  And two drought years in a row...?  The chances we take as farmers.

 After plowing, we decided to just go in and till, to break up that grass sod as well as we could, so we can plant as soon as possible. 

Ruth pulled her first 12-hr day of the season, driving the Kubota back to Mud Creek with the headlights on.


 It looks splendid.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the greenhouse is nearly overflowing! Tomorrow we get onions in the ground, then soon the broccoli, lettuce, kale, cabbage, swiss chard, kohlrabi, and more, go in.

Lots going on.

More seeding, more planting.

Garlic is up and growing strong.


Deep breath, it's "go time".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jack frost and bluebirds

Winter sure is putting up a fight!
Spring has decided to come s-l-o-w-l-y this year.
 Farming teaches us to roll with the seasons, for we really don't have much of a choice.
 Best we can do is stay warm and cozy inside, and keep ourselves well rested and well nourished, because when the green-growing season finally does get here, we'll need to hit the ground running.
It is quite beautiful though.
Finally the ground thawed enough to dig up our overwintered parsnips.  Boy, are they sweet.  We got lots of volunteer helpers, big hands and small hands, eager to get their hands in the dirt.  It wasn't nearly as muddy as we thought it would be.
We washed some of them up, and had an open farm stand last weekend.  Many folks came out to get these early spring goodies.  Parsnips are really a truly nourishing food, they are one of my "comfort foods".  They have been eaten since Roman times, and are particularly high in potassium, and antioxidants too!  My favorite way to cook them is to cut them up into bite-sized pieces, roll them in olive oil and salt, and roast them until slightly browned in an oven.  Yum.  Also, anything that has been in the ground for that long (almost a year!) has to be nutritious, since it has had a long time to soak up minerals and nutrients from the soil, it's a proven fact.  And the freezing temperatures all winter amplify their sweetness hugely.  Ironic, huh?  But you can almost see their "wintery" nature... I can imagine maybe Jack Frost's fingers...  perhaps winter has its sweet aspects.
 We had a nice warm week to get started on things out in the fields-- Here Ruth and Anna are putting new blades on our tiller, so we can start planting.
My dad put his bluebird boxes back up --  he said that after putting up four of them, he walked over to the first one again, and a bluebird was already sitting on the roof, staking his claim.  It's a fast real estate market for birds this spring I suppose.
And, finally, we get some seeds in the ground!  Sugar snap peas, carrots, beets, and spinach!
Now it seems we might have prayed too hard for rain... we'll see how the recent deluge has affected these seeds.  Did someone hear me say I didn't want to irrigate this year?  Well, I don't want a flood either!  You can never really win when you're betting against nature.  We just take our small victories when we can, count our losses, and move on.  Til next time the soil dries out...