As the weather heats up and nature swings back into high gear, so does the work on the small farm unit. We arrived on the farm Monday to find that our steers were not in their designated pasture and began a brief, but frantic search. They turned up on the far side of our lower fields, standing in the shade, eating dew soaked grass.
Marisa and I flanked them from either side and corralled them toward the pasture, while Phillip rode ahead on the gator in case they made a run for it.
We moved them back across the fields and into their pasture without incident, then worked on our electric fence for a bit to make sure it would be more persuasive, should they try to escape again.
Although it is early in the season, we have also been doing a lot of harvesting in our high tunnels. This week alone we produced enough lettuce and spinach to fill the bed of our farm truck (In sanitary boxes of course).
Our produce is primarily donated to a local soup kitchen with a wonderful chef, who finds creative ways to use whatever we have in season. We also donate to the nearby neurological center and various non profits in Goldsboro.
In the past couple of weeks the weather has finally begun allowing us to move our transplants out of the cold frames and into the fields.
This brings me to the theme of this weeks post, nutsedge. Nutsedge is a perennial weed that resembles grass and persists in frequently disturbed soils by storing starches in its roots. It is considered a noxious weed by the USDA and it is the bane of my existence. We spent in the neighborhood of 5 hours this week exclusively on our hands and knees digging nutsedge our of our rows and if we look away for a minute, it seems as if it grows right back.
The above picture shows the vegetative portion of the plant, as well as the starch filled root.
My favorite part of this week was learning how to do a field calculation to estimate the amount of nitrogen per acre that your cover crop provides. After a lesson on variable nitrogen content and decomposition of organic matter Evan Taylor, our resident research specialist, brought us out to show us first hand.
We randomly selected two points in the field to place a small PVC square and cut all of the vegetation within its boundary.
We then weighed the cover crop and used previously collected data to estimate the amount of nitrogen per pound and therefore estimate how much was in our field.
Finally, this week I began my community work with Ms. Gladys McClary at the WA Foster center. We will be using an existing garden to plant vegetables and fruit with the help of our enthusiastic junior gardeners and the surrounding community.
If you would like to catch up with our former apprentice Carolina Hampton and read about her latest farming venture at the Octopus Garden in Valle Crucis, NC, you can do so here: http://rodaleinstitute.org/jumping-in-heart-first/.