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Week Fifteen – Greenhouses are Confusing!

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But people are amazing!

Virtually all of our attention lately has been devoted to deciding how to proceed with our greenhouse and how it fits in to the farm as a whole. I took an entire day to update and refine our scale site drawing first envisioned and created by Kemper. I printed it out and stitched it together and stuck it in the frame he got so we have a two-foot by three-foot drawing to scribble on and try out ideas. It’s awesome!

We’ve also gotten a ton of insight and advice from some magnificent growers. We had Barbara and Ross over to share their thoughts about greenhouses since they’ve built and managed many of them. Ross suggested starting with the plastic-covered hoop-type and avoiding the costly panel construction—partly because our intense UV exposure here degrades the panels and makes them vulnerable to hail damage, and partly because the up front cost is so much higher and we might do better by starting with something smaller and building up. He also gave invaluable tips about the types of vents, thermostats, and sprinklers that have held up best to the humid conditions inside a greenhouse.

Today I visited Michael Reed who also had some super great suggestions including building up a thermal mass using earth or straw bales on the north side to passively moderate the temperature. He agrees with the chorus of wise responsible grown ups who have counseled us that it makes most sense to start simple and learn as we go. We talked about how to gain the most solar benefit by choosing where and how to orient the greenhouse and even how to fill it inside so that we can layer plants and save space while still allowing each plant the maximum exposure. And he also takes down his plastic and replaces it with shade cloth during the summer, so he supported that idea.

Last week we also had a visit from Fergus and his crew of farm staff & interns at Los Poblanos. They came down to see our place and talk lavender. They have a situation in their field that’s remarkably ridiculously similar to ours. Along the southern edge of their field (where there’s a driveway lined with tall cottonwoods) they’re having issues losing lots of plants. But they, like us, aren’t sure if the shade is entirely to blame. It was also a culinary variety planted on their southern edge that’s less tough than the Grosso, and they also suspect that because of the design of their irrigation system that it might be getting less water than the rest of the field. They’re going to try re-planting and increasing the amount and consistency of water by splitting their field into zones. Hopefully we’ll both get some answers.

It’s so reassuring to get so much loving attention, information, and encouragement from so many amazing people.

And speaking of homeless plant starts, we’ve started putting the trays of plant starts outside as much as we can but have to watch over them to make sure they’re not gobbled up by alpacas or chickens… which has us drawing more lines of fences throughout the farm plan to keep everybody where they belong. Meanwhile, Kemper suspects that the yellowing leaves we’re seeing on some of the starts are from over-watering. And Jon agrees. And so I will have to try not to be so overbearing and protective with the water. And the spinach starts, which have hardly grown a full set of leaves are already bolting.

In the garden, things are waking up and reemerging all over the place. We have cilantro that’s popping up despite the fact that I snatched up as many seeds as I could to save as coriander. The chard is spreading everywhere. Carrots are finally starting to pop their heads up, and the radishes are looking great. The peas are taking their sweet time grabbing onto the trellises. It looks like they popped up in a hurry and are now taking a two week break before doing any more growing.

Kemper and I made an agreement this week that may turn out to be the very best thing that’s ever happened on this farm. We’ve designated the area of the orchard North of the house as the experimental zone. It’s where we can try weird seed and new ideas and Kemper can put anything anywhere without worrying that I’ll freak out. And it might just turn out to be the most wonderful, wild, magical spot.

 

Week Fourteen – So Fresh & So Clean

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Put alpacas, chicks, and plants out… Put them in… Repeat!

We’re in a pretty good rhythm taking care of all the things lately as long as we stick around during the day. Being away means the chicks are locked up in their cage inside and the alpacas are stuck in the back and the plant starts spend the day in the hallway leaning toward the sun. But putting the plants out has had its downside, too. Lots of them are showing signs of sun-scalding. Hopefully with careful watering we can keep bringing them out for full sunshine without cooking them to death and if we can, they’ll get tougher and tougher.

We got our first rain in months Friday and Saturday. Didn’t add up to much, but it’s crazy to think how long it’s been. It was the longest dry spell on record since 1895.

Our big new area of growth and difficult decision-making is in our lavender nursing capacity—the greenhouse we’ve been chomping at the bit to build has been helped along by a contract to grow a couple thousand lavender plants for Robert, who’s building a lavender farm and retreat center outside Belen. So now we’re weighing all the possible ways to best nurture that many plants. A huge kit greenhouse on the existing slab that joins with the house? A partially-underground area with a shorter roof made of double-wall plastic or poly panels? A custom designed glass greenhouse? In-floor heating? We have a couple months before the starts will need to be under shade and a few months more after that before they’ll need to be protected from cold.

This weekend was a flurry of organizing and cleaning up thanks to a visit from Robert. His coming by was a great excuse to put away all the loose ends and scrap piles that have been haunting and torturing me for months. Kemper nearly finished weed-whacking all last year’s weeds from the front field and now you can see there’s lavender out there—not just scruffy rows of mystery growth! Our farm hasn’t looked this clean since we got married. Evie even remarked that our house “looks like a farm now.”

The infrastructure support continues to increase our efficiency (and my sanity) thanks to a huge effort by my parents and brother who spent all Friday in the drizzle helping us organize inside the garage and now when we need a tool or material we can just walk right in there without tripping or ducking and find it on a pegboard! No searching, digging, head-scratching or cursing necessary! It’s a miracle!

Kemper and Leon also put up a smooth two-wire fence around the poppy mallow test area Friday to keep the alpacas out. (And Decoration already found his way in…) Guess we need three or four wires!

The dedicated attention we’ve been able to put toward the farm, the insane amount of help we’ve gotten from my family, and the opportunity to grow plants on contract are transforming our farm in the most exciting way. Every day it gets closer and closer to the way it looks and feels in my dreams.

Week Twelve – The Infrastructure Party Continues

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The ‘Croncost’ is Sorted!

We mathed our compost bin design plans to death and figured out a size for which we’d have enough scrap tongue and groove lumber to build the three-bin system and it’s awesome! We were limited in material choices since treated lumber and recycled palettes are against the policies of the organic certification, so it was super exciting to be able to make it work with approved materials without having to buy anything new. It will likely need to be rebuilt in several years because the wood will break down quickly under those conditions, but it should serve us well in the meantime!

We’re fairly certain the majority of the peach crop was lost in the freeze last week. Time will tell if we get any.

Week Eleven – Tractors and Power Tools

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Building and Moving and Harrowing

Kemper borrowed Tyler’s disc and hooked it up to the Ford 800 to try using it as a harrow. He set it barely down and ran it across the grass-ish area south of the garage to see if it would break it up just enough to establish new grass seed. He’s pretty confident that it’ll be just the right amount of soil disturbance.

Kemper and the kids broadcast the Purple Poppy Mallow seed in the northernmost section of the field (after stratifying them in the refrigerator for a month and then soaking them for 24 hours in hot water.)

Friday Kemper fixed up the drip system in the lavender field so it’s finally getting the full pressure but we’re DYING to get our new system in place. Especially since the pipes running from the pump just gave way and are going to need a temporary repair…

The chicken coop now has roosting bars and a door! Which is how we discovered that Remy can fit through exactly the same size opening as a chicken! He’s been sneaking in to steal eggs and I spent an hour adjusting the doorway and testing it on chickens and Remy until finally deciding they are the same size. Sigh.

The peach tree is all blooming and we had a low of 28 Saturday and are expecting another freeze Wednesday. We’re hoping desperately we still get fruit.

Week Ten – Chicks!!!

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New life all over the place!

Week Ten :  Babies and more babies!

The awakening continues, with plants in the trays growing bigger by the day, peas just barely popping their heads up in the garden, clover becoming a gorgeous green carpet in our pathways… (Though it’s pretty hard to check on the peas when we can’t quite walk in the pathways just yet. Thank goodness that won’t be a problem once the clover is established enough to handle year-round foot traffic.)

And: WE GOT MORE BABY CHICKS! The two little Maran pullets were promptly named ‘Cheep’ and ‘Hush.’ They will lay a dark reddish brown egg. Time will tell if we’ll be able to tell the hens apart from our Barred Rocks, though! And now, to round out the egg rainbow, I just need to find a couple more green layers! I plan to get 2 more, but as my mother pointed out: that ruins our fibonacci sequence! Before yesterday we had 1 cat, 2 dogs, 3 children, 5 alpacas, and 8 chickens. So now I guess I have to make it all the way to 13 chickens and get 8 of something else. (Did someone say guineas???)

 

We continued work on the chickens’ new coop and finally have finished nesting boxes! They’re awfully cute! And I’ve already collected 5 eggs from them. Last step is to figure out how to hang our roosting bars and ramps. That’s a bit challenging — we decided to use stripped branches from the old juniper Kemper cut down, but deciding how to orient and fasten those funny, crooked things is really hard! And we have a little work to do to smooth the rolling of our home-fashioned barn door. Leon, Kemper, and my dad designed and built it using old skateboard wheels and a discarded closet track.

We also decided we desperately need a three-bin composting system, but we’ve pretty well used up most of our scrap lumber. We could get pallets, but we’re awaiting a response from the Organic Inspectors to find out if that would be allowed.

Week Nine – Falling Into Place

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It’s working!

Week Nine :  Plant Babies!

Starting new seeds might be my favorite part of this whole gig. It’s so amazing to put those little pieces of magic into some soil and then see them pop up as living, growing beings! Sunday we started several more trays including spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, and holy basil.

Several of the little guys we started last weekend have popped their heads up. The cabbages were first, followed closely by the cauliflower. A couple days later we got the tomatillos and eggplants and then the tomatoes. The chile and sweet peppers still haven’t made any signs, but the teeny little celeries are starting to pop their cute little crooked necks up today! We have two tables now with florescent light fixtures (one with purple plant bulbs and one with regular cool white) and space heaters, but I think the lights are to far away from the plants (and maybe too low wattage) to be accomplishing the amount of light those little babies need. They’re already rather long and leggy. (Which, of course, has us dreaming of a greenhouse just as much as ever!)

We’re looking at plans and a budget to build a prototype greenhouse using stock panels, PVC, or 2x4s and plastic sheeting along the south side of the hallway. I just finished charting the position of the sun throughout the year (azimuths and noon-time elevations for the solstices and equinoxes) to try to estimate wether we’ll get enough sun for it to be a functional space or wether the structure on the east side will impede its performance drastically. But that is, after all, the purpose of the prototype. If it works, we’d build it earthship-style with wood beams and glass panels and hope that we can vent heat into the house in the winter and out in the summer.

The radishes in the garden are also popping up! And so are what appear to be new baby clover in the pathways!

We also finished measuring, staking, and mulching the remaining beds in the garden and since it’s getting confusing trying to describe exactly which section we’re referring to, I thought it would be great to name each set of beds as if it’s a crappy subdivision. We could have ‘Wolf Berry Park’ and ‘Orchard Lane’ and ‘Tunnel Gardens’ and eventually ‘Sunset Place.’ After those beds were happily covered under mountains of hay mulch, Kemper, Jack, and Evie seeded the rest of the pathways with cover crop.

I scored a couple blackberry plants thanks to Mick, a classmate from the Mother Course who works at the Hubbell House. He said they were getting torn out, so I think we’re going to put them in the orchard and build on our bramble collection.

This week’s class at Las Huertas covered crop production planning and was a great overview to the principles that should guide those decisions. Sean is so amazing at bringing a balanced and wise perspective to what always seem to me as daunting and intimidating processes. He talked at length about fitting the production to the business plan and not vice versa, showed us tools for calculating seeding rates for different crops, emphasized the importance of thorough notes, and spent a lot of time talking about the observations and factors that should inform the plan. Then he asked us to come up with a goal or vision or mission statement to serve as a guiding focus for our decisions. I have a draft. With any luck, Kemper and I can agree on a vision for BlueFly Farms and let it guide us through the coming months and years.

The biggest of the apricot trees we planted last year is flowering and gorgeous, and the peach has a thousand buds getting ready to burst. Meanwhile, along the whole valley, the cottonwoods are still asleep but the tippy-tops of all the elms are glowing florescent green. The cranes seem to have all gone home. And cucumber beetles are appearing throughout the garden.

Looking forward to celebrating the equinox and the bursting of life and the goddesses of fertility and the miracle that is Spring.

 

Week Eight – Better Late than Never

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Holy Catch-Up!

The Last Twenty-Three Weeks . . .

Seems as soon as the maze started last fall, the farm journal was the first to go! Not much was happening here, anyway. Tomatoes and peppers being stolen by the chickens, marigolds drying up in the field. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to continue managing apples and the garden and attending market (by sending a proxy?) through October.

In November we tackled and built the Alpaca house, and the herd arrived here December 6! We adopted all five and renamed them Luis, Cielo sin Estrella, Linoleum, Decoration, and Bill. They’re the best! They seem like such a natural fit on our farm it’s hard to imagine we haven’t always had them. They happily cruise around all day and eat the grasses and weeds wherever they can find little tender green parts. They don’t care for the lavender, just as we’d hoped, and we’ve seen them reach in with their dextrous tongues and pull bits of grass and bindweed out from the centers of the lavender plants! And our hearts explode with joy!

After delivering apples to Santa Cidre for cider, we were able to supply several hundred more pounds of apples to a Swan Kitchen, a local business that cooks school lunches and sources their produce locally. And when there were still some left after that, we brought them home and borrowed Roger’s grinder and press and made our own hard cider. We didn’t measure the beginning and ending sugar content to calculate the final ABV, but I would estimate it came in right around your average ass-kicking, back-country moonshine. It was quite strong. We’d like to try again in the fall and pay a bit more attention to those details.

In January we got all our paperwork filed with the NRCS in order to receive funding through EQIP for a long and exciting list of infrastructure improvements! We’ve been through several versions of the overall plans and have settled on a 30′ x 48′ high tunnel, micro-sprayers for both the lavender field and the west garden, a water storage tank, new irrigation pumps, two stock-watering locations, bat houses, and internal cross-fencing to support rotational grazing. It’s so exciting to see how it all comes together to create systems that allow us to do the work we want to do!

Meanwhile, the saga of the pair of us functioning like a two-headed monster has continued, with battles over the best location for the high tunnel, the number, size, and arrangement of beds in the garden, and the choices and placement of the plants we intend to grow.

The garlic that we intended to plant in November or December finally went in the ground in February. Kemper read someplace that it’s still an acceptable time to plant it. We’ll see what it’s able to do!

Kemper borrowed Jon’s walk-behind tiller and mixed in a generous layer of alpaca beans along with what was left of last year’s compost load from Soilutions into the plot that we’ll be growing in this season and which will be the site of the high-tunnel in the fall. We’re really hoping that those added nutrients and the increased organic matter will start turning our poor, sad clay into magnificent, loose, fluffy black gold! We also agreed to switch to flat beds with clover-covered pathways. Sean gave a great talk at the Organic Farming Conference about how that strategy has been working at Nepantla Farms, and I’m excited to do it here, too! We chose four-foot beds with two-foot pathways by kneeling on the floor with rulers and masking tape. That’s the smallest pathway we can fit in on our knees, and the longest distance we can reach into the center of the beds from each side. I’m hoping and wishing that once we get these beds established we can broadfork them and add compost each year but leave the pathways untouched except for mowing!

The permaculture class I’m taking, Michael Reed’s Mother Course, is about to wrap up and I’ve got a head full of ideas and approaches to try. What I’ve appreciated most is the way the class has forced me to turn many of my preconceived notions upside down and consider what nature is doing whether I like it or not. Every elm tree is providing a micro-climate for the plants that surround it, cycling nutrients, and cloud seeding. Bind weed is a pioneer of erosion prevention. Talk to your trees. Eat your weeds. Nature always has the last word.

Week Eight : Seeds!

Despite my constant vows that we would have a greenhouse by this winter, we didn’t. And without a greenhouse (or any budget to work with) we’ve been a bit behind schedule, but with our tax return I was finally able to place a big seed order from High Mowing and it arrived last week. (The discount we got more than paid for our annual NYFC membership dues.)

We spent an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon potting the indoor starts on our lovely workbench in the shade (miracle!) and we decided in the absence of a greenhouse to try our trays of starts in the hallway against the south-facing windows with supplemental florescent light. Which will be a great plan assuming that we are actually able to get light fixtures mounted and working before those little babies pop up. This batch of starts includes red and green cabbages, celery, cauliflower, red, yellow and green sweet peppers, green chile, poblano peppers, brandywine tomatoes, tomatillos, and eggplant.

Sunday we finished measuring and staking out the beds in the future high-tunnel area and gave them one more good loosening with the broadfork (which was made easier by the fact that Kemper had just tilled, but I thought was really a fun workout and a zen sorta way to spend a while soaking in some sunshine.) We planted snap peas, carrots, radishes, and beets. We spaced the carrots and beets within the beds using a cardboard template of hexagonally arranged holes to maximize the plants within each bed. The format of the cardboard left a bit to be desired, but I’d like to try again with a laser-cut one.

After the vegetables were happily tucked in, we broadcast white clover and annual rye grass throughout the pathways to function as a permanent cover crop and living mulch.

We reached the end of our budget on the alpaca shelter before finishing the chicken coop, so we’re slowly trying to finish that up using scraps and leftover materials. Last week we built a franken-post by notching and bolting together the sawed-off tops of the other posts. It’s crooked and a little short, and I can’t believe for the price and the time I didn’t just buy one more post. I’m still secretly debating tearing it out and redoing it. It seems such a shame to tack such a sloppy piece on our otherwise solid and gorgeous little barn.

We heard back this week from Western SARE, letting us know we didn’t receive the Planting in Trenches grant that Kemper applied for, and were both incredibly relieved. We’ve got enough to keep up with now with the lavender grant and all our NRCS projects!

So here’s to another year of growing and learning and learning and growing!

Week Thirty-Seven – Alpaca Construction Limbo

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Hey! It’s hard work to build things!

Week Thirty-Seven : The Saga of the Loaf

Planning for the loafing shed (that’s really what they’re called) and alpaca fortress continues, and we keep reaching conclusions only to think of another factor that makes us change our minds again. Over labor day weekend, with the kids away, we eventually agreed on a design that put the loaf, an enclosed hay barn, the chicken coop, and a covered tool-storage/planting bench space all under one roof. We rented a skid steer to move the compost pile out of the way, scrape and clear the ground, trench the fence lines and auger the post holes. And in driving the skid steer back and forth Kemper realized we were about to block the only access for a rig to get in to service the well. Foiled again! So we went back to the drawings and decided we can shift the whole structure to the west, leaving a 25 ft easement along the house. Only problem with that is it means abandoning out sweet adobe chicken coop that we took so much time to build. It’s probably for the best, since it’s a little small for all eight chickens. (And since Remy can apparently get in and steal eggs.) We started digging for the new location, but the skid steer was so low on hydraulic fluid it could barely break through the ground. By the time we got fluid and topped it off, our time on the rental skid steer was almost up and all we got were a couple of trenches. We’re both so fed up with the poor maintenance on rental equipment. But those machines have attachments for for tilling, scooping, drilling, digging… and they can turn in much smaller spaces than a tractor can. Though it’s much less romantic than an antique tractor, we’re considering getting one for all our small-farm needs.

We’ve continued harvesting apples and have planned one final harvest day to get the remaining apples and send a truckload up to Santa Fe for cider. We also discovered that what we thought were Red Delicious might actually be Braeburns, which sounds and sell much better since everyone knows that most Red Delicious are actually totally gross!

Over the weekend, the door was left open on the 4-Runner and Candle made a little nest of toilet paper and laid an egg in the front seat!

 

 

Week Thirty-Six – Bring on the Fruit!

By | farm journal

Can faster! Freeze faster! Process, dry, and store faster!

Week Thirty-Two : Score one for Certified Organic

Kemper arranged a visit from the NRCS, who informed us that we would qualify for an EQIP grant for high tunnel, as well as a boatload of other projects as long as we got certified organic. He said there are mountains of funds going unused because there aren’t certified organic operations claiming them in Valencia County. And THAT is the first real motivation we’ve had to get certified. We’re going to pursue the hoop house and at least get IT certified.

Gala apples sold well at market! We brought home the wormy ones and peeled and froze them. We also pickled a ton of banana peppers, gherkins, and cucumbers from Tyler & Veronica.

Week Thirty-Three : Adiós, Peralta!

We high-tailed it up to Lyons, CO for the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest and left the amazing Callan in charge.

Week Thirty-Four : Swimming in Fruit!

Took a great big harvest of Gala apples & peaches from King Orchard at market (and a big basket of grapes that we kept and froze.) We did a ton of freezing and canning this week, but not much else — except be thankful that school is starting and we can get back to having grown-up lives.

Week Thirty-Five : I <3 Molly

Field trip to El Cerro to repay Molly’s labor! Callan and I cruised down there Wednesday morning. It was cool and overcast and perfect for pulling weeds. We got the tour of her sweet property and fell in love with the greenhouse she built. Met the three dogs, two cats, sixteen chickens, rabbits, and one-of-two gigantic ducks. And perhaps my favorite part: discovering she’s got crazy monstrous intimidating miserable bindweed like ours. We were untangling it from strawberries and chard and it was pretty gnarly. Her soil is so different up there on the hill! All sand. The weeds were so easy to pull! And lots of really different weeds, too. Many more spiny things.

She also introduced me to an assassin bug — pretty cool little guy. And we saw all manner of creepy crawlies in the few hours we were there: beautiful giant yellow and black garden spiders, a jumping spider eating a black widow, two enormous horn worms that became duck snacks, and a huge centipede. (And one of her cats caught a little bird.) It is amazing how dramatic and vibrant and rich the life of this place is when you spend enough time to witness it.

Week Thirty-Six : Alpacas!?!?

I was contacted by the Southwest Llama Rescue, who are trying to place five alpacas being thinned from a herd in Pojoque. And my mom is willing to sponsor the construction of their shelter, so we planned it out using mostly materials on hand. We’re going to write up a budget this week for the remaining materials and hopefully build it this weekend! We’d like to take two or three. We discovered they eat bindweed, kochia, and elm seeds, so now we can’t get them here fast enough! And adding manure will be HUGE for our plant health.

The chickens have been moving there eggs all over the place and I was constantly convinced that they were laying in places I’m wasn’t finding. And finally the place they started laying that I wasn’t checking was back in the nesting boxes in the coop. Go figure. I ordered some wooden eggs to keep in there so I can collect the eggs without sending the chickens scrambling off to their next secret hiding spot. One wooden egg has already disappeared — I cannot keep up with this circus!

Today we planted all the remaining annual starts that have been hanging out under the fruit trees for months. They probably won’t have enough time to produce anything before they freeze, but at least they’re no longer neglected and root-bound. When Kemper picked up one of the trays, he revealed a tiny little nest full of about nine baby mice! They were so cute we didn’t have the heart to call the chickens over. We let them be, and they burrowed down into there cozy little hole. We might regret that when they decide to move in a few months from now…

Week Thirty-One – Post Lavender

By | farm journal

We survived the Harvest.

Week Twenty-Six : Harvest Harvest Harvest <Inventory> Harvest Harvest

We have been out in the field non-stop it feels like. Every morning until it gets hot, and every evening until it gets dark. I started taping my fingers before heading out because I was bleeding from using the same part of my thumb to grab and break the stems over and over. We’ve encountered so many happy bees, and have a hard time knowing how much to try to conquer the weeds as we’re working our way though the field. Every day we promise that next year we’ll spend the first few weeks of June weeding the entire field so that we can focus just on harvesting when the time is right. (And so we can actually see the glorious fields of purple.)

We took a break one night from harvesting to do inventory before all the blooms were gone and it was impossible to tell which plants produced more. We went up and down each row, ranking the plants from 0 (dead) to 5 (amazing.) Our results were not as good as I’d hoped, but not has dismal as I’d feared. We counted just over 2,000 plants (we skipped the southern-most rows that we’re considering taking out.) Of those, we lost a little over 500. Of the 1500 living plants, 550+ are performing beautifully. We can definitely see the decline toward the southern end of the field, but don’t know if it’s the result of winter shade or lack of water pressure in the drip system. We’d also like to compare our map with the soil-type-map we found through the NCRS. There definitely seems to be a correlation between sandy soil and happy lavender.

We took three different sized bundles to market and had to defend my prices to a whole bunch of skeptical crabby customers. Had a minor crisis about whether to stick with our pricing because we still have a small inventory, or adjust the prices and sell it faster. We were doing tiny mini-bundles for $4?, mediums for $10 (which I think were actually smaller than last year’s $10 medium), and $16 for large bundles which were maybe about the same stem count as last year, but 16″ long so much heavier. So many dirty looks. So much questioning myself. It wasn’t fun. But when I ditched out and left Gillian in charge, nobody gave her flack, so at least there’s that.

*We counted the spots where lavender had died and Kemper snuck in pumpkins as zeroes. Meanwhile, in the garden, despite tilling and pulling all the pumpkins they’re back in full force. I started doing squash bug egg patrols, found them everywhere, and started removing them with duct tape. Gross.

Week Twenty-Seven : Sort, Clean, Weigh, Bundle, Hang, Repeat.

We cannot keep up with the trays upon trays of lavender coming in from the field. We switched from hand-picking to cutting whole plants with the scythe to get it all before it fully blooms and leaves crusty dried brown flowers in the bundles. As a result, it’s coming in full of bindweed and salsify seed and we’re spending hours and hours processing it to hang and dry. We keep running out of rubber bands and nails to hang bundles on — every area that’s out of direct sunlight is full of drying bundles. It should smell amazing in here but we’re worried some of the bread trays full of lavender are starting to mold. It mostly just smells musty. We’ve been getting tons of rain and while the moisture is incredible, the humidity might not be on our side in this particular pursuit. Next year we’re DEFINITELY distilling.

We’ve also been harvesting chamomile and calendula and bringing it in to dry. We made chamomile tea but I totally skimped on the flowers and the kids were not impressed. Probably shouldn’t be so stingy next time.

Our chard is doing fantastically and we’re eating it almost every day. The kale is producing lots, but still looks like swiss cheese thanks to those fat, hungry cabbage white caterpillars. We cut a few heads of lettuce, but most are already bolted. The spinach we planted just up and bolted before we cut any, and I’m pretty sure the cabbage will never form heads. Must start those earlier. Our nasturtiums have all pretty much tanked, also. There are may be two still healthy and we must’ve planted dozens!

I’ve lost track of when our garlic and carrot harvests happened. (Probably week twenty-five?) The garlic was surprisingly successful since we didn’t plant any of it, but MAN ALIVE it’s hard to get out of the solid clay. I was trying so hard to let it dry out, but we had to water to loosen the soil enough to get them out and even then had to use a full shovel to break it up enough to pull out each head. We saved some lovely ones for seed next year and made about 8 braids with the rest of the soft-necks. The varieties that did the best this year were the ones that didn’t do well last year and so were left in the ground after chicken-pocalypse. The carrots came out shortly after the garlic and their flavor was nice, but they’re all teeny-tiny golf-ball shapes. Blaming the clay again. Must add tons and tons of organic matter before we plant anything else back there.

Week Twenty-Eight : Lavender Fesitval!

We did fantastically wonderfully well at the Los Ranchos Lavender Fest! We’d been working all week to bundle and dry all the lavender and finally at nearly midnight when we still had three fully unprocessed bread trays of lavender, Kemper suggested we just bring them as-is and let people bundle it themselves for a discounted price. Done. Went to bed to get up a mere 4 hours later and trek up to Los Ranchos. And it was a spectacular success. Los Poblanos was sending folks over to our booth when they asked about fresh lavender, and we sold out! We kept running out of bags and begging uncle John to share his. It was so much fun to be busy and selling. We gave a few things away and had the most positive reactions from every customer. It was THE BEST.

The very next day we had Qiao Qiao over to take photos of my portfolio and had her take several of our lavender for the website. They came out so gorgeous, I can’t wait to get the final files. It’s so gratifying to see the things you work so hard on looking so dang gorgeous in a picture.

Week Twenty-Nine : Oh right, the garden!

Callan is back and we went back to the neglected garden to try to catch up on weeds and squash bugs. Leon and Callan helped Kemper transplant lavender into the big pots and move them from the shade-cloth over to the shade of the cottonwood. We fried several and are trying not to keep murdering them.

We also ordered a rubber stamp with the farm logo and put it on all the arms, all the paper bags, and all the boxes!

And we paid Callan for all her work and that felt really super good.

Week Thirty : I am chained to a computer.

We spent lots of our festival-spoils getting stuff for the farm (big wash tubs, a solar dehydrator book…) And Kemper ordered a hand-made broad-fork. It’s pretty rad and it came with a blessing for good soil. Hopefully we can make some good use of it before we break it off in the clay.

One of our hens (Pingu, the black orpington) has gone broody. Poor pathetic thing has been sitting on and desperately protecting those unfertilized eggs and when I finally took them all away and threw her out, she went back in and sat in the empty nesting box anyway.

We did well at the downtown market—sold a bit of dried lavender and a full tray of the fresh stuff, and three trays worth of plums from a single tree through our managing project at King Orchard. We also sold a couple bouquets of zinnias, amaranth, sunflowers, and willow.

Kemper covered the kale and hit it with Jon’s fogger and a dose of pyrethrin, which didn’t seem to have much effect.

But mostly I’ve been stuck inside trying to keep up with other work while the garden carries on without me.

Week Thirty-One : The rains keep coming.

Finally seeing some scarlet runner beans forming on the vine! And one or two of the new chicks started laying! Not in the nesting boxes, of course, because those are dominated by Pingu-the-crazed. They’re hiding their eggs behind the recycling bin next to the pile of garage doors, of course. Yay new eggs!

In other news, mosquitos are the worst. They’re so bad this year. We get chased inside if we dare to go out with exposed skin. I keep heading out there and deciding to pick just a few things and then as soon as my hands are full and I can’t swat them away, they start eating me alive. Not. Cool.