29 May 2011

It's Only Going to Get Busier

It was a wonderful week spent with my friend Beth.  She got along with the animals, except the Ram that I named Noodles cuz he keeps on Ramen me.  Beth also took lots of cool photos of various things posted on facebook.  Check it out!  She is a great photographer so check out some of her other albums as well.

This past week has involved discing and harrowing soil to prepare beds for the potatoes, winter squash, and onions.  I drove Millie and Karl(?) to do that.  Karl is out of shape and it was a hot day for once so he sweated up a storm.  Karl actually sweat so much that Millie was licking him for moisture and salt.  Sexxxy.  On a related note, the horses and sheep look much, much better after being put out on pasture.

One of these days I will take a picture of the pasture and how we graze them.  It's cool setting up fences and making daily decisions about how much pasture we will give them in order to graze the grass efficiently and evenly while not sacrificing the animals' nutrition.  Talk about intensive management.  Try managing how much an animal eats!

Other work included seeding tons of winter squash by hand and hand-transplanting about 50 trays of onions (about 30,000 individual onion plants).  It took the work of up to 4 people at a time over 3 days to finish the transplanting.  I did a quick calculation and it came out to around 50 hours of labor.  It would have been much longer if we hadn't used this system that Jeff found in a 1930's USDA publication about transplanting onions.  Basically we laid the seedlings in trenches made by a wheel hoe plow and plowed the soil back into the trenches after they were laid down.  As Jeff sang, "Wheel Hoe Power!"


Well, that's all she wrote for now.  I must be off to knit for a special someone who is coming to visit for a week in Maine this coming Thursday.  Real men knit. 

14 May 2011

We’re already a third through May!?!? Whoa.

As many may guess, it has been a busy month for me.  Needless to say, I am fully engrossed in agriculture of the sustainable variety.  I have learned a lot in the past few weeks about agricultural concepts in general, how hectic farm life can be, and that no matter how happy you are, seasonal allergies don’t give lick.
About 2 weeks ago, Jeff and I took many, many soil samples to send to Cooperative Extension.  This task is so complicated that I will put it in list form:
1.     Use a shovel to dig a profile of the soil 6-8 inches deep.
2.     Dump said profile into a bucket.
3.     Mix this soil with other soil from the same field.
4.     Walk in a zig zag pattern while repeating steps 1-3 until the field is covered.
5.     Put well-mixed soil in a baggie/extension box.
It is actually very monotonous but important to test your soil to determine what nutrients, micronutrients, and minerals it may be lacking.  What is, or isn’t, in your soil can make or break whether you have a good crop or bad crop of any given veggie.  Furthermore, a plant lacking in some nutrients will be less healthy and therefore more susceptible to disease and pests; just like us! 
However monotonous soil testing may be, it did give me an opportunity to get to know the farm better.  I could see which fields and pastures were rocky, which were heavier (have more clay particles), which were lighter (sandier), and which had more or less weeds.  All the information about soil structure, its previous use, and slope will often strongly determine what you should plant in each bed since the character of the soil may suit one crop over another.  For example, you wouldn’t want to plant carrots in rocky soil because they will turn out all crooked and gnarly looking.  They may taste fine, but won’t be marketable.  As a matter of fact, carrots like “muck,” which is a finer soil that is very high in organic matter.
More exciting that soil are the 18 lambs we had born from 10 ewes within a week and a half of each other.  All 18 were born without trouble and are pretty darn cute.  Pictures will be up soon (probably will be up courtesy of my childhood friend Elizabeth who is coming up this weekend and is an excellent photographer).  There are plenty of booster shots, extra vitamins, and supplements that we feed them to make sure they are healthy.  I had the privilege of giving them some shots as well as giving them a single earring.  These earrings are tags we put on them so we can tell each lamb apart and identify them quickly should something happen.
Tomorrow we will be training the lambs to the electric fence so they don’t hurt themselves and shock to death if they get caught in it.  Sound terrible?  That’s why we are training them to a small section of fence and monitoring how they interact with it.  What with how they like to chase each other around and hop in the air, they could easily goof and get caught in the fence.
Jeff and I have also been using the horses to pretty regularly work the soil with either a disc or a harrow.  These implements loosen the top 6-8 inches of the soil while ripping up or pushing aside any weeds growing on the surface and exposing them to the air, stopping their growth and killing them (hopefully).  With this harrowed soil, it’s easy to rake out beds and either seed, or transplant veggies.  I will describe harrowing in greater detail next update.  My allergies are telling me to sleep so that I will do. 

Real Men Wear Suspenders

I’m sitting across the street of Reny’s at the Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta.  Reny’s is a sweet local department store that sells lots of random stuff including Carhartts.  I ended up not getting any pants, which I probably could use, but I did buy a pair of red Carhartt suspenders for myself and also for Jeff so that we can match.  They’re pretty sweet and practical; especially when you have to wear a belt all day and it gets uncomfortable and sweaty.  Plus you get more circulation in your undercarriage.  That is all.
 Update:  Jeff and I have worn our suspenders together on several occassions and people have commented on it.  I've begun the assembly of the official Buckwheat Blossom uniform.