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compost

Week Twenty-Two – When’s Winter?

By | farm journal

Madness and Overwhelm!

The snap peas are finally producing! They’re still only about 18″ tall but, full of delicious little peas. The radishes, meanwhile, went quickly from delicious to pithy and bolted. I harvested and ate as many as I could and sorta thought I could let them hang out in the ground and keep pulling them as needed, and then all of a sudden they were all goners! In the fall I’ll try to do small batches planted in succession and continue that throughout the spring. For now, though, we’re leaving the flowering radishes in place. The bees are loving them, and if we get a few volunteers out of it, we won’t mind. I also pulled a few carrots and they’re petite but normal-shaped and sweet and tender and DELICIOUS. I have a feeling we’ll be swimming in them soon, and I plan to cut some into coins to freeze for steaming later, pickle some, and eat and eat and eat them fresh! The broad-forking plus alpaca manure plus addition of loose sandy soil seems to have overcome the hard-pan-clay troubles we’ve run up against in the past.

Molly M. came down two weeks ago to help us clone for a while and the next week I went over to her place and helped her move a big compost pile. Her farm inspires me every time. She produces so much delicious food in her third-acre. No tractor. Just good practices. And she lent me One Straw Revolution, which was a great read! Lots in the book that applies very specifically to the climate of Japan, but nevertheless there were some great principles that would apply anywhere. He laughs at people who make compost. Instead, he just puts the rice straw back after threshing and lets it compost in the field. Might not work so easily here with our limited moisture, but I love the idea of interfering less.

The cloning is progressing. The propagation-tunnel had to be modified to half its planned size because we didn’t have enough plastic to cover the whole thing, but it seems to be working well! Molly helped us get a nylon cord wrapped over the top and we hung a few micro-sprinklers from the spine of the tunnel.

Markets have been going pretty well despite our insane lack of preparedness. We’re doing half the booth with BlueFly stuff and half promoting the Community Farm and the Maze. Our laser-cut plant stakes are continuing to sell well and aaaaaaany day now we’ll be able to start harvesting lavender. It’s sending out tons of gorgeous buds. And meanwhile, in the heat-island that is Albuquerque, we see lavender in full bloom everywhere we go and must work really hard at being patient.

The alpacas have been doing the most phenomenal job of keeping the field clean and trimmed. They were given an enormous head start, of course, by Kemper, the mower, and the weed-whacker, but as things are greening up there are hardly any weeds creeping their way into the plants. I’ve sworn for the past two years that we’d do a good hand-weeding right before harvest so we don’t have to pick out as much from the lavender once it’s cut. And it looks like that might actually be manageable now! And *knock on wood* the salsify hasn’t had a chance to come up out there meaning we hopefully won’t be picking those fluffy little seeds out of each bundle!

We DESPERATELY need more secure fencing. And a better layout. Right now the alpacas’ favorite place to hang out (and poop) is the small courtyard area right outside our front door. And while it’s hilarious to wake up in the morning and see them chilling right out the window, it’s not so awesome that they’ve eaten every green thing there down to nothing, and the poo pile… well. So we need a fence that keeps them just a hair further from the house, and also a more secure one around the back. An alpaca-proof, dog-proof, giant-steer-proof, non-chemical-leeching fence! Trouble is, that will cost thousands of dollars. Cue the NRCS funding to support our rotational alpaca grazing. And then cue the news that our amazing, super representative at the local NRCS office is gone. We were supposed to get contracts and be able to start work in April. It’s now June. We have a meeting next week. Fingers crossed we can get rolling after that. We also desperately need the micro-sprinkler system!

Still waiting on the shearer. Hoping he can make it this coming weekend. These boys look hot! They spend a lot of the afternoon loafin’ in the shade.

The rye in the garden rapidly got taller and thicker and started going to seed. Kemper mowed it but it was impossible to get around the corners of the beds and between the garlic that’s still all over the place, so there are some place we’re still taking it down by hand. He wishes we’d done clover only. Hopefully in the long run it helps the clover get established better and we won’t spend the rest of forever fighting rye grass in the garden.

The baby chicks are roaming free and their travel is growing day by day. I’ve been trying to put them in the new coop when it’s just dark enough that they won’t try to relocate themselves. No idea how long (or even if) it’ll take to get them to go there on their own. But I do enjoy tucking them in at night.

A week ago we planted the tomatillo, eggplant, and tomato starts into the bed that the sweet peppers were massacred in. Must have been too cool, because everything in there now is happy! A bit disorganized, though, since I was planting around the mysteriously-still-green stems of the peppers hoping they might somehow make a miraculous comeback. We also decided this time to leave the mulch off so that the dark soil can absorb the sun and stay warm. Who knows if that would have made enough difference for the first batch. Been debating naming that bed Pepper Deathwatch or Winter Wasteland instead of whatever crappy subdivision name it was destined for before. Sunset Gardens? Orchard Park South?

This past weekend (Memorial Day) we got a few more beds broad-forked, added magic alpaca beans, threw a layer of the Soilutions mix (compost, wood chips, sand, and perlite) on top and planted lots of the remaining transplants—green chile, Jack and Evie’s flowers, and cabbages which will likely just bolt since it’s so late and hot but I put them between a trellis of peas and a row of garlic so they might have a chance with a little shade and mulched them to try to keep the soil temp down.

Then we put up another row of trellising and planted Scarlet Runner Beans (my first saved seed!) and I broadcast the onion seed I never started in the bed beside them. I have severe doubts that I’ll get even a single onion, but the seed doesn’t store well, so there’s really nothing to lose!

I also planted new carrot seed in between the beets that are almost ready!

I’m daydreaming of a plan that lays out how often to plant a new section of something based on the season and how much we can eat at a time and also magically considers good companions and times when overlap like that with the beets and carrots would be beneficial. With as much space as we have out there we could be growing a TON of food. We just have a lot of kinks to work out on our way.

Week Sixteen – Holy Earth Day

By | farm journal

Back to Back Festivals!

The madness started Thursday with the UNM Sustainability Expo, which meant we were running around all day and night on Wednesday trying to get ready and remember how to pack up for outdoor events. I worked for hours on sewing little pouches stuffed with lavender from our feed and seed sacks, but didn’t get enough done to take them. We bundled up the last of the 2015 lavender harvest that had been carefully boxed away and took that along with all the plant markers and some notecards. Double-tabling for BlueFly and the Community Farm worked pretty well. We had another event for RGCF at Civic Plaza Friday evening (which was nearly rained out) and the Coop’s Earth Fest with both tables again on Sunday. The plant markers were a big hit everywhere and we sold all but three bundles of lavender.

Sunday our table was next to Mandy’s Farm selling their eggs, vermi-compost (with my logo—yay!) and Alpaca Beans!

Harvested the first few radishes from the garden! There were so bright and beautiful and juicy and yummy! And they grew SO FAST! Definitely going to plant more! And the peas are finally grabbing onto the trellises after a few weeks of hanging out at the same height. And while we were out there checking on all the plants we discovered raccoon prints in the mud. I didn’t think they were still getting in (thank you dogs and alpacas) but I can’t argue with a fresh footprint.

Saturday we got all the sweet and poblano peppers transplanted in the garden. There are so many more than what I originally drew in my plan, but I also had them drawn a little too far apart. So there are nearly 96 plants in one 4′ by 22′ bed. I broad-forked it to loosen it, then Kemper added another layer of alpaca beans (he had added and turned in lots of them a few months ago before we covered the bed with a thick layer of alfalfa mulch) and then a layer of our Soilutions mix on top. It has a little sand, some partially composted wood chips, some compost, and some perlite. We mulched back over the top after all the peppers went in, and it looks gorgeous.