farm journal

Week Twenty-Five – Planting, planting, planting!

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The solstice approaches.

Week Twenty-Two : Lavender Pilgrimage!

We took off Wednesday on our annual whirlwind road trip up to Palisades to buy more lavender plants from Sage Creations. We spent the morning frantically watering everything and hoping it could hang on in our absence. Kemper started a huge area of buffalo & blue grama grass between the house and the lavender field and is working constantly to keep it wet enough to get established. The lovely and amazing Callan agreed to farm-sit while we were gone but we tried to make it manageable for her… The grant check arrived the morning we were leaving so we deposited it on our way through town (phew!) and hustled up to Dolores where we bought a huge bag of clover from Southwest Seed and got a tour of their processing facilities and lots of insight into the seed saving world. Next stop was Paola’s for our plants, which–as usual–we hadn’t properly calculated the space for, so we were squishing and packing and re-packing and stuffing camping gear in any remaining vacant spot between trays. But we did it! And then camped overnight at the gorgeous Colorado National Monument before high-tailing it back to Peralta in time for the kids to get dropped off and harvest for the next morning’s market.

We discovered a desert king snake living in the hole in the unfinished slab. Supposedly they’re great mousers and are so beneficial many ranchers breed them. I feel rather honored to have it here.

Week Twenty-Three : Putting plants in the ground. (Where they belong.)

We finally started filling in the new rows on the west end of the garden. Lots of happy pairs of companions which we hope will keep the plants happy and the bugs in balance. We put zinnias, nasturtiums, calendula, and marigolds in with cabbage, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers.

The HARDEST part of getting it all going this year BY FAR has been deciding what to put where. Kemper and I do battle back and forth every day, hashing out what little knowledge we each have and trying to decide what will work best with our limited resources but still make sense in the long term. Every tiny decision feels like a monumental commitment and I feel like we know nothing! We have so much to learn.

We started getting snap peas—they’re delicious and it’s so much fun to eat them right off the vine. But man, that’s a lot of work for a little handful of peas! Next year I hope we can get them started earlier and space them much closer together. They’re also really leaning where they’re close to the apple tree. They must not appreciate that much shade.

Week Twenty-Four : Ohmygod Callan is gone, what do we do?

Callan left on tour with Arroyo Deathmatch and we are lost and forlorn. We did manage to take some greens to market (and gave most of them away.)

We have made major progress on the grant, however. We tracked down the remaining seeds for our grant trials (after hours of phone calls and being referred in circles ’til I was dizzy.) The purple poppy mallows just arrived and the prairie zinnia we had to order by the packet, but a whole bunch of them are on their way. We also picked up a huge load of five-gallon pots from Ross, and got a load of compost from Soilutions, where Kemper designed a custom mix for the lavender and had it delivered. He staged an area with weed-cloth and started transplanting from the tiny pots up to those monsters. It’s going to be 1,000 sq-ft of pots when they’re all done. He also tilled the area just south of the garden to be the home of our test plots.

I also started a whole bunch of native trees and shrubs (from seed.) It will take forever, but I’m so so so excited about investing in the sorts of plants that we can get established and then just enjoy for decades. I am so in love with our patch of happy yerba mansa and our cottonwood tree… I can’t wait to create more and more spaces of native perennials to feed us and the birds and the bees.

Week Twenty-Five : Rain slowing and heat rising.

Planting continues into the garden, where Kemper has built up each row with perfect, neat mounds after seeing Uncle Jake’s straight manicured rows. He also spread clover seed throughout the whole garden, which we hope we can keep happy and healthy year after year as a nitrogen-fixing, weed-battling, moisture-retaining ally.

The blue grama is looking fantastic and will be ready to step down to a less-intensive watering regime any second now… At first all the thin grass-looking blades that came up in that whole area were just cruel, deceitful salsify, which is the name of that dandelion-like weed that I was struggling to identify. Supposedly its long tap-roots taste like oysters. And it does bloom, but only for a short while in the cool mornings. I’ve made a little progress identifying some other weeds including lambs quarters (aka quelites) and desert globe mallow. There are still so many to decipher!

This has been a tumultuous couple weeks in the war of the cucurbits. After reading up on squash bugs I became convinced that pumpkins and winter squashes are the worst, and that summer squash, melons, and cucumbers are what we most want to grow. But we have thousands of pumpkins popping up all over as a result of the old pumpkins Kemper spread out there last fall. We finally decided to get rid of them and try to save the few cucumbers, melons, and squashes I started from seed. Kemper relocated a few pumpkins to the lavender field, and I put my starts in the garden. And lo and behold, we’ve hardly found any squash bugs but we have a zillion cucumber bugs. Time will tell what we actually get to harvest. I really hope I didn’t conspire to commit mass pumpkin-cide for nothing.

The lavender harvesting has started! We have our first bundle hanging in the kitchen to dry and it smells so amazing. It will be so rewarding to see the bundles start to pile up.

Week Twenty-One – Learning Weeds ( & Pulling Them )

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PART ONE : In which so much water falls from the sky!

Week Nineteen : Field Trip!

We took Callan with us to help our neighbor Lauren at her place, In the Weeds. She has what looks to me like an inspiring, humbling, beautiful abundant operation going on. And she of course thinks the same when she visits other farms. So I had to take a moment to be grateful for what we have and remember that we’re always growing. And it will be so gratifying to look back and how much we’ve done.

We helped her build a pyramid of cinderblocks and palettes to shelve her many many trays of starts in her hoop house, planted some kale starts, and harvested some lettuce and spinach. I was pretty intrigued by her magical drip-line-end-wrap technique she learned at Chispas and her beautiful soil-blocked trays of happy starts.

Week Twenty : Mulch makes everything better.

The kale in the orchard was finally big enough to mulch around it without getting covered, so we pulled a million weeds in the mud and spread the mulch around and suddenly it’s transformed into a beautiful, lush, neat little space.

We started a few new trays of flowers and transplanted the lettuce, spinach and cabbage from tiny seedling trays into little pots so they can survive until we’re ready with the new rows in the garden expansion quadrant in the northwest corner.

All our rain has been waking up the lavender, which is slowly starting to look reassuring and less dead and scary. I’m concerned we’re erring on the side of too little water. We’ll see how it progresses over the next few weeks.

Saturday we braved the market in the wind and rain and hardly made any money but felt assured that being there and establishing our presence is going to build tremendous value throughout the season.

Week Twenty-One : Garden Expansion

Callan and I planted scarlet runner beans along the fence and started digging rows for the newest area of the garden under the big cottonwoods. We’re going to try Tiana’s suggestion of building furrows but planting in the bottoms and letting the raised areas be the walkways. That soil looks much healthier and I’m excited to see how things do!

I’m also on a mission to learn all our weeds and am being stumped by several. There’s one that looks similar to Oregano but with pointier leaves that I can’t seem to figure out, and one that puts up flowers that look just like dandelions gone to seed, but they never go though the flowery part. I am determined to find out what they are!

Update: the dandelion-ish one is Salsify and it does have a short-lived bright, almost neon flower. And supposedly you can eat the roots, but I agree with Kemper’s assessment that they taste like poison, not oysters.

Week Eighteen – Everything is happening at once!

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Where do we start?

Some quick catchup… Weeks 16–17

Continued planting more kale & sugar snap peas in the garden, and worked on weeding and weeding. All the mulch turned out to be a little too soon, as someone (chickens?) got in and scratched it around and covered and killed several of the baby kales. Must wait ’til they are bigger before mulching in the future.

And we did the first DOWNTOWN GROWERS’ MARKET! We had a sweet little display of lavender bundles, adorable potted starts, laser-cut stakes, and notecards, along with Gillian’s fantastic bracelets. We even made a tiny bit of money after paying for all our registration, licensing, and market fees. New goal is not to attend a market without at least a thousand bucks-worth of merch. But I did finally buy a fig tree!!! So excited!

Then we did the Nob Hill Earth Fest the very next day (without a babysitter!) and it went pretty well…

And then because we weren’t exhausted enough, we did the UNM Sustainability Fair on Tuesday. Sigh. But Callan helped and it was lovely to bask in her company and see so many friends.

Then in order to save us from having to decide whether to do another market, we got one gigantic order from out Etsy shop that wiped out the rest of our stock of dried lavender.

Meanwhile, the trellises for the peas went up and we planted carrot starts between garlic in one of the rows in the garden. Kemper also started more garlic in the west half of the garden.

And now for this week!

Still no improvements to the chicken coop, but the baby chicks are free-ranging during the day and are starting to finally getting some space from the overly-curious dogs, who in turn are finally realizing they’re just like the other chickens. I must admit though, that I am loving the devotion to the chickens, having to put them up at night and release them in the morning. They’re getting almost cuddly. It’s the sweetest.

Kemper & Jack built a magical little shade palace and mini row cover to keep our starts out in the garden at a happy temperature.

We transplanted some lettuce and chard into the west rows of the garden today and started seeds for lots more little plants—lots of herbs and perennials that I’m excited to plan spaces for! Spending the morning in the warm spring air, playing in the dirt and blessed seeds in the shade… That is the recipe for happiness.

The peas have grabbed on to their trellises and will be huge and fruitful any second now, I’m sure of it.

Kemper has been feeding fish emulsion to all the plants and treated lots of the newly transplanted starts with Sulfur! We shall see how they do!

This is definitely the life.

Week Fifteen – Babies Everywhere!

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Beginning a new project: Weekly Farm Journal!

Hopefully this will serve as a resource to us in future years when we can look back on our humble beginnings and smile with satisfaction at how far we’ve come.

All our dino kale starts are in the ground (with the exception of one, which is just beside me in a pot in the window.) We ran new drip lines and planted them all in the plot around the fruit trees. We’re hoping their season will be extended by the shade… and not stunted by it!

With Callan’s help, we weeded nearly the whole garden and applied a nice fat layer of alfalfa mulch. And it’s only a matter of seconds, I’m sure, before the bindweed starts sprouting right up through it.

We’ve got squash, lettuce, carrots, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, bell peppers, and some herbs still in trays… moving in and out from the floor of the greenhouse/office every day. (MUST have greenhouse by next winter!!!)

Our baby chicks are spending each day outside in the old hog cage and are getting more and more awkward by the day. We have work to do still to finish up the coop so the chickens are happy in their roosting spots.

Had our conference call with Western SARE about the grant today and are excited to get started with that project!

The peach tree is happy and pregnant and the apple tree is filled with the sounds of happy buzzing bees.