Monday, April 12, 2010

Method? Madness? Both?

At this point I can say that if you go into farming, you're crazy. If you're not crazy, you'll become crazy. Fortunately for me, I'm mad, which is a higher level of crazy, so I'm OK.

Now that we have the most important item of business attended to, I'll tell you about what's so crazy: everything! No, really, imagine this: you spend every waking minute of your life creating seedlings that can get planted into the field, and then it's time to plant them into the field at the SAME TIME that you need to keep creating seedlings that you plant into the field, but now you're working on watering the plants in the field, and planting them, and watering the seedlings in the greenhouse, some of which need to be planted, and where was I?

Crazy, right. I'm crazy. No! I'm mad! I'm not alone. There are lots of farmers, so there are lots of crazy people out there, growing your food. It's not as dangerous as it sounds. We're crazy in the way that squirrels are crazy in the fall, you know, gathering nuts and stuff. There's just SO much to be done! :) And it's all GOOD stuff!

Do you want to just hear about what's happening? OK...well, we started planting in the field! We have 500 feet of broccoli, a few hundred feet of carrots and turnips (gold and baby white), peas, 500 feet of potatoes, some kale and onions, and mesclun. We hand-watered these babies and covered them with Agribon row cover, to keep in the moisture and protect them from foraging deer. We have a LOT of lettuce to transplant but we are dealing with a few things here: labor, water, and soil amendments, namely compost. We are stretched a little thin on the labor thing (see above); working on getting a gravity-fed irrigation system set up, and having a hard time finding 5 tons of good compost to spread on the field, so we are adding worm castings plus choice amendments to each planting (things like greensand, colloidal phosphate, lime, etc.) This is very time-consuming as we have to "truck" each batch of amendments in essentially in a wheelbarrow. And hauling water in 5 gallon buckets from the stream is hard. So...

The skinny on gravity fed irrigation: check this out

Look on the left side of the page for the topic, if you're interested.

I balk at technical undertakings, like hooking up my record player to my stereo, anything computer or cellphone related, and irrigation. But I'm hardheaded too, so I persist through my obstinance (sp?). And I've learned a LOT about irrigation the past few days.

In as many ways as we can, we'd like to be petroleum-independent. The old farming ways, that are actually new, are heavily reliant on petrol. Tractors, pumping water, synthesis of fertilizers, trucking things to and from the farm. All these things add up to a heavy carbon footprint. We are fortunate to have the ability to gravity feed water to our fields to support our plants in the ways they need. It's just a matter of designing an intelligent system to do this.

Which we can. I learned a lot from Tom at Snakeroot Organic Farm. Tonight I got confused while reading his informative discussion on the topic and just called him up and he spent half an hour talking to me about what to do at our farm. For nothing! He's just that kind of guy. Before that, I called Mollie LeBude from Forest Creek Farm and Nursery and she talked me through this irrigation thing too. Farmers are crazy, but they're pretty damn helpful.

Here's the dry details on our irrigation: we have a stream, a small one, about 30 feet above the field, so with 1/2 lb pressure for every foot drop of slope, we'll get about 15 pounds of pressure for our watering system. This is great! We can put a pipe in the stream with a filter, run it downhill for the 30 feet we need, connect it to some tubes that can be connected with smaller tubes and run into our rows with plants and they'll get water. We want to use "lay flat" tubing I think instead of the black plastic tubing Tom from Snakeroot uses. It's just a matter of what's available, really. Lay flat is blue tubes you see in fields. It's ubiquitous around here. I think I mentioned in an earlier post about how farmers need a wide range of skills and knowledge, and here we are learning that a basic understanding of physics is extremely important..

Knowing the diameter of the intake tube with the length of downhill slope will tell us how much water pressure we get, which will tell us how many gallons per hour (the tubes, called 'drip tape' that actually water the plants emit 1/2 gal per hour) we can muster. Or something like that. I have to finish learning this tomorrow. I'm tired tonight. I haven't had a day off since my birthday, and before that it was a long time.

How does this fit in the seasons? And living in the flow of the seasons? It's all madness now. The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland was/is definitely an Aries. "Mustard?! Let's not be silly!"

my favorite clip ever!

There is so much more to say, but instead I'll just wish you a Very Merry UnBirthday!

And say Happy Anniversary to me and Gabe - we met a year ago today, and our lives have been forever changed from that merry meet.

Blessed Be!

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