Archive | June, 2013

Farm Reports are Generally Stupid and Other Observations

24 Jun

Why do I bother getting the farm reports every day? Here, let me save myself 1 minute of time every morning for the rest of my life.

Temp: too hot
Precipitation: dream on, but if it happens, it’ll be quarter-size hail for five minutes tops 
Soil: very dry
Wind: 5,000,000 mph, in random gusts
Hourly:
6am-12pm- plant stuff the flea beetles like
12pm-5pm- don’t work, spend whole time looking for beer and a place to swim before you get sunstroke.
5pm-930pm- realize you have to weed, but you ran the irrigation to set the new transplants earlier in the day. Muck around in ankle-deep mud until you’re frustrated and realize it’s too late to make dinner.
930pm-midnight- dream about farm equipment and buildings and animals you can’t afford yet. keep the dogs from running to make “friends” with the coyotes cackling in the creek bed. 
midnight-6am- pass out from the two benadryl you took earlier, ’cause you’re allergic to some shit or all shit and you need to breathe in the morning (usually).

 

If you’d like a farm report of your own, please email me and I can provide you with Colorado weather conditions free of charge. I’ll also let you know what to do if you live in an RV on the top of a hill in case of a tornado warning. (Hint: Nothing. Unless you want to play it Twister 2 style, then you find some pipe stuck in the ground, leather straps, and helmets and hold on for dear life.)

I didn’t choose the farming life, the farming life chose me. 

On a lighter note (by the way, I’m joking, not bitching. I love my new life. But seriously, those farming reports are ridiculous.), we got all of our tomato transplants out and they look great. They’re really being troopers despite the hail and the harsh sun and all that has been plaguing us this week. Our brassicas (which I know we’re a lot late at putting out) didn’t fair so well. I think we’ll be really lucky to get anything out of them with the heat, and the fleas, and their rough transition out. There is something wrong with almost every set of plant. I’m unsure if I’ll find it worth it to plant many next year, to be honest- at least until I learn a little more and can be certain we won’t have such a late spring. (Certainty- HA!)

Also, I wasn’t going to plant any starters of melons and eggplants and such in the greenhouse because everywhere I read said that they get really pissed when you disturb their roots at transplant time. However, I’m really glad that I did. I direct-seeded some a couple weeks ago and haven’t heard a peep from them, but those that came from the g-house (as I will now forever call it because apparently you can’t take the city life out of a girl) are so pumped to be alive and producing. The eggplant especially- I haven’t seen a plant look so sexy after the stress of transplant like that yet. So, I guess the moral of the story is that you really have to take your own farm and experiences into account when learning “HOW TO” grow things. I’ve done so much textbook “wrong,” but those are sometimes the things that surprise you.

A thought on peas: They are beautiful, lush, grand plants. You’ll look at them crawling up your trellis’ and think, “Yeah, FOOD. Pretty food.” But they are not very prolific and they are a pain in the ass to pick. I’ll pick for an hour and look at what I have in my basket and be generally morose for the rest of the day. I will still grow them next year (I planted them in March and when they finally made it up in May, it was awesome. If I can do that all the time, peas and I can be friends), but I will probably triple the amount of seeds/space that I give to them. Also, I’ll probably skip the snow peas and stick with snap peas. The snow peas are even less productive, and I just don’t think they’re that delicious or nice to look at. So sue me. 

As you might see, I’m becoming even pickier as time goes on as to what I want to grow next year. I don’t care. After all this work, I’m not wasting my time trying to make unlikely magic with what I’ve got. If something doesn’t take to our land or our climate, it’s out. We’ll just make super excellent tomatoes or onions or whatever won’t kill us trying to grow. I’m all for a less intrusive work-smarter-not-harder approach. I want to work with the land and this place of ours, not against it. I feel myself getting a little esoteric for one blog post, so I’m going to leave it at that, but know that there is something a bit spiritual that I want for myself and this world- and choosing what to grow is something that is a surprisingly large part of that.

We planted organic onion sets that my dad picked up for us…. somewhere. THEY ARE THE BEST THING. I’ve never grown onions before in my life. They are awesome. They need nothing. That’s all.

Also, for all the farmie types out there. We did something strange that I think you might find interesting. We ran out of our biodegradable black plastic mulch pretty early on (I ordered like 50 feet instead of 500 like a dummy and now we’re out of money), but we had feet and feet of Agribon row cover (because I ordered that correctly) left over. SO we did something a little crazy, I think, and used the Agribon as a mulch. It’s too soon to tell you if there’s any difference/help/hinderance, but I’m throwing it out there that we did it. I’m sure someone agri-science-y is freaking out ’cause that is SO WRONG and here are the agri-science-y calculations why, but we went for it. We’ll keep you updated on how that goes!

Well, I think that’s enough for one day. Please, leave me comments and notes and tell me how your gardens/farms are fairing right now! Also, we’ll take any tips or tricks that you know for growing your favorites. This is our year to experiment, play around, and find out what works. Have you used anything weird as mulch and loved it? What are your deepest feelings about peas? I’m kind of joking, but not really. I want to know!

Until next time!

 

Taking the long way around

11 Jun

“Men were notched and comfortable in the present, hard and unfruitful as it was, but only as a doorstep into a fantastic future. Rarely did two men meet, or three stand in a bar, or a dozen gnaw tough venison in camp, that the valley’s future, paralyzing in its grandeur, did not come up, not as conjecture but as a certainty.

‘It’ll be—who knows? maybe in our lifetime,’ the said.

And people found happiness in the future according to their present lack.”

-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our dreams and other people’s dreams seem so beautiful and lush. It’s like certain people I am friends with on Facebook- what I see of their lives seems so perfect, so hip, and so fun that I can’t help but want to be them sometimes. When I set my mind to it, my own farm has trees, a lake, a cute farmhouse with a quaint kitchen, an herb garden with little benches and a trail. No crop gets eaten by those pesky fleas or goes to seed as soon as june hits. This is what I want everyone to think my life is like now; adventurous, quiet, and simple. But honestly, our farm is nothing like this. We live in an RV with no electricity, running water, and air conditioning. We got such a late start because of the snow we havent made it to market yet. Our RV that is our home has broken down in so many ways we can’t even name them, starting with mechanically, now we have lived without a stove for a week (a lot of sandwiches are being consumed), and it was 97 degrees yesterday and we didn’t have a fan, electricity, or an a/c. In a lot of ways, it seems like we are failing. Some nights I lay awake with that observation. But I know in my heart I am not- I don’t feel like I am in any way. I am just living the dream now instead of dreaming it.

Eastern Colorado to most Coloradans is a big question mark- towns are unknown and unnoticed, and if anything is thought of it at all, it is that it is in the opposite direction of where anybody wants to go in the state.

They are right. Our farm is dry, unbearably hot, and the closest trees to the entrance are about 8 acres away. Water is scarce and becoming moreso (I’ll give my full opinion on fracking in the area later). The creekbed cutting across the property has been dry since before my parents were born. Flies remind me of the Borg in Star Trek- resistance is futile. All in all, you can’t drive an hour east of Denver and find yourself on top of a mountain with a gushing waterfall, eating fine cheese and meat and enjoying cool breezes, like you can to the west. I get it. Some of my days here I have been in such agony from either wind, or sun, or bugs that I wonder who I thought I was kidding.

Our only tourist destination is a wildlife conservatory. When people ask if they can visit and I turn them down, it is not out of shame or doubt. It’s because it isn’t the mecca of a homestead that you’d find outside of Lyons or even in the nearer Brighton- here, we are truly at the mercy of the earth when it is most unintentionally cruel, and if you’re looking for a fun escape to pick vegetables and eat strawberries under the shade and not literally work to keep from pain, you will be disappointed.

But when the air dies down and the sun has not murdered you, and the grace of a single cloud floats right over where you are standing, and the hills before you fall and stretch and topple over each other in play, and a bird balances intself upon a single strand of wheat, and the well pumps water not born of you down the rows of your labor, you become sweet with thanks and humility. You taste of salt and you are alone for the hundreds of miles you can see before you. It is not easy to forget that you don’t matter except for what wills you to stay and toil- that success is simply surviving in a place that will not bend in order for you to do so. Everything has gone according to plan, but it was never according to our own timeline. Eastern Colorado is a complete compromise of self.

I can’t lie and tell you that I understood the difficulty of starting a brand new life I was completely unfamiliar with all this time. But having an idea of what something is like and actually living it are very different. I think we could all use this lesson- we can intellectually understand difficulty and hard work and getting beat up, but it cannot and will never be the same as experiencing it first hand. I’m shoulder-deep in a new world that is always confusing, always ridden with my own mistakes and bad decisions, and daily I am faced with things that, in the moment, I almost feel like I can’t live through. This isn’t an exaggeration. I had no idea how often I’d be crossing my fingers- and how often expecting the worse is actually expecting the reality. It isnt pessimism- it is knowing your flaws in and out and never feeling that you simply “deserve” good luck. Here, you literally reap what you sow. It is shaping me into a truly mindful being.

You would think itd be easy for me to forget what this harsh land offers me on the bad days, but I still haven’t forgotten. Though I am constantly reminded that I am small, I am also offered a chance to build a life from scratch that I can eventually deem personally meaningful, and perhaps that is what we’re all trying to do. I accepted a deal with existence in which the challenges are great, and the potential rewards the same. Do I have a homestead suitable for life and peace and relaxation? Is it anyone else’s ideal for a life? No, not yet. But I can have that. And I accepted the calling. I will accept all that I am given with grace, because here, i am learning, there is no other way.