Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Once Again, From the Beginning......

Remember way back when we posted pics of our first big day of transplanting?

Here is that field a few days ago.......

I always chuckle a bit when I hear people report that "I planted the garden yesterday". Here, we start planting and transplanting the first good weather in March, and continue to plant right up until September 15th or so. Fast growing short season crops like arugula and cilantro are seeded every two weeks, things like lettuce and cabbage are transplanted on a three week schedule, and even corn is planted twice a year to maintain a steady supply of produce at its peak throughout the growing season.

How do we get all those seeds in the ground you might ask; well I'll tell ya. We favor outdated equipment made popular at a time when diversity and local markets where the norm in agriculture in this country. These are Planet Junior seeders. They are probably almost forty years old, and the design has changed little since the first one was made. They are simple, and allow us to use the same tool for almost every crop we plant simply by changing a set of plates located at the bottom of the hoppers. Here they are full of green beans, our third planting so far this year.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. For the first time in history I allowed someone else to run the seeders while I walked behind and made sure everything was coming out OK. Patrick did a great job despite my constant demand that he turn around and look at me while driving a straight row. Anyone can drive a straight line looking where they are going. In farming this has to be maintained while looking back at equipment. It is peoples inclination to turn the wheel slightly as they turn to look behind them. He did well, and if he had failed there is always the old adage, "you can fit more seeds in a crooked row".

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. After we plant and transplant if it gets warm, and it usually does. We have to irrigate. Ever notice that hot spell this time of year when temperatures seem to go from 50 to near 90 and stay that way for a week? We do. It means we have to set pumps and move pipe. We water primarily with three inch aluminum hand line, which is set in the field by hand from the back of a trailer and moved in increments of sixty feet at a time across the field. We have four different sites now and almost two hundred sticks of pipe which are moved twice a day until everything is watered. It is a job I really don't even like to talk about, especially with anyone who has not done it before. It is a job for which I pretend I work for someone else and "just get it done". It is a job that produces the kind of facial expression pictured here as Jordan gets the answer to the question "are we going to try to finish today?"

So Much Has Happened

Wow have we ever been busy. I apologize for the lag in posts but the weather broke and we have been going from daylight till dusk and beyond for weeks. The Home Fields are nearly all planted. We filled in some blanks with more lilies and perennial flowers yesterday, and the only ground left here to plant is being reserved for our next strawberries which are due to arrive any day now. This is a view from the north showing our shiny new barn roof, the green houses, and the fields north of the house. these are planted to perennial flowers and strawberries. (I have a pint On the desk right now and our CSA customers can look forward to them in the first delivery this coming Tuesday the 16th). Several flats headed north this morning to the Olympia Food Coops. The report came early that after directing the crew to run through them quickly and harvest what was ripe that they brought in eleven flats.

The fields to the south of the house have more perennials and our herb garden which we moved this spring. In the foreground are cabbages and kohlrabi.

When the weather turns in spring in the Boistfort Valley everything breaks loose. Tractors outnumber cars on the Boistfort Rd some mornings and any time of night or day you can find someone working. I must admit that I have always had a hard time on Memorial Day weekend watching the boats and barbecues roll by from the seat of a tractor. But I am in good company here. Several farmers whether commodities or hay are working as much or more than we do. It is strangely comforting when I have been working from 6am till dark or later and am heading home sweaty,dirty and sometimes wet from irrigation repairs, to pass Nil or Dave on the road or see Dan out there in the middle of the field running under lights from the tractor.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his "Notes on Virginia" that, "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds."

It is times like these when everyone here at the farm is stretching their boundaries of endurance and stamina that I often reflect on this. I am both groping for some sense of justice and hoping to make sense of the fact that I get up before my daughter is awake and get home after she is asleep. Here are facts as I see them; I like to work. I am from a solid blue collar family, my father was a stone mason, my brother is a stone mason, and most of my cousins and nephews are in the trades. My sense of value is based largely on what I produce. This, for better or worse.

Further, farmers do not have the luxury of setting their schedules. We are given a finite amount of time without knowing what that amount will be, when it will start, or when it will end. We answer straight to the top when it comes to scheduling; the very top, the powers that be.

Along with the sacrifice of keeping these hours, we as farmers, if we listen carefully, are granted insight into the workings of nature like no other people. We are tethered to the sun and the rain, to the soil and the river. Though I am not one to bask in the romance of this, nor certainly to take credit for it, it is a tangible and moving experience. I do hope that I can pass this experience on to my daughter, all or in part, and in so doing repay her for missing jammy time this time of year.

Dave Fenn is seeding corn here in this picture. He and his brother Dan may be the best farmers I know. They cover alot of ground and do it with sense and style. Their ability to conserve moisture before and after planting, and the shear volume of food they produce are praiseworthy. Though they are conventional farmers they have begun to dabble in organic production. For these guys dabbling means a few hundred acres of corn and beans. I also admire the fact that they are so diverse. They grow the usual corn and peas etc. but also produce seed crops and have grown winter squash on a large scale successfully in western Washington. This last fact alone makes them heroic in my book. Of course they not only grew the winter squash, they designed and fabricated, along with local genius Steve Vantuyl, a harvester for the squash made from an old combine. "The Squasher" made the pages of the Capitol Press, and was a real headturner.

These two brothers farm the hop yard down the road and I get to watch their progress there driving from field to field. I also pass Nil and Tom, see Joel at the store between bailing and irrigating, and pass several working dairies as I drive back and forth, or move equipment. It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when surrounded by such a cast of characters, many of them second or even third generation farmers.

Yes, I am in good company.