A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time for unexpected frost, a time for nutsedge (apparently). A time to cast away weeds, a time to gather greens together.
It has been a busy several weeks since our last post. As with almost anything, and perhaps more than with most things, farming comes with the unexpected and obstacles will inevitably arise. Several weeks ago a two night cold snap damaged a significant portion of our plants in both our Spring field and our Baker Creek seed trial field despite row cover protection. Some of the cauliflower and other brassicas were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately the vast majority of our plants survived and have bounced back quite nicely.
The other major obstacle recently regards the return of the nutsedge in our Spring field. Last Spring the apprentices blogged about their nutsedge problem, and again, despite efforts to minimize the return of the invasive and pervasive weed, it is back with a vengeance. For those unfamiliar with nutsedge, on the surface it looks like a little innocent grass, but it does it’s devilish work beneath the soil. The grass-like sprouts grow up from tubers (or nutlets) that also have the ability to spew out rhizomes, which are underground stems capable of producing new shoots and roots. As a result of its sneaky attributes, nutsedge can and will spread like wildfire, and it has done just that in our Spring field. It is difficult enough to control with conventional methods, so organic control is beyond painstaking and involves attempting to pull the plants up by hand or hoe in the hopes that you get most of the nutlet/rhizome/root system.
Of course, in spite of (and due to) the aforementioned hurdles, the last few weeks have been loaded with productivity, learning, and fun. A couple of weeks ago we were able to attend a vegetable grafting workshop put on by CEFS, and even got to attempt some hands-on tomato grafting as well as watermelon to squash grafting. I thoroughly enjoyed the very educational workshop, and especially liked getting to try to do some grafting for my first time.
We also recently got the opportunity to attend a workshop and field day on organic certification presented by CCOF. This workshop was also incredibly well done and highly informative with excellent speakers. The field portion was a visit to Down 2 Earth Farms in Rougemont, NC for a tour and mock-inspection. For me personally, the most inspiring part of the day was visiting the farm as it was very much how I envision my own farm being someday.
There has certainly been plenty of work at our small farm unit as well. Beyond the daily duties, we have been doing a great deal of harvesting greens, lettuces, pak choy, and spinach from our cool-season high tunnel. I’ve always loved most vegetables, but I’m not sure I knew until recently how much I enjoy greens mixes and fresh spinach in particular.
Also, we recently prepped another one of our high tunnels for tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. That was a multi-step process that involved mowing the winter cover crop of oats, tilling the soil, laying plastic mulch, and putting up a trellising system.
Finally, after doing our rotations and getting to try out each of the units at CEFS, we each selected a unit to work with for the remainder of our apprenticeship. Jessica and Ray chose the Systems Unit, Justin chose the Swine Unit, and I chose the Beef Unit.
It has been a long week of pulling nutsedge, so for me it is now a time for peace and relaxation.
On that note, I won’t hog the blog anymore. Keep checking in, as there will be much more to come!