Saturday, May 1, 2010

Real Horsepower

What a week. It started off cold and wet, verging on downright freezing by Wednesday, but then slowly the temperature crept back up to the 70s by Friday. We tried to hide in the greenhouse as much as possible, transplanting and starting seedlings. Then we decided to clean out our seed storage area. Hundreds of dried Thai chilis, very pretty and ornamental, were lying on trays and on the floor. As we swept them up we inhaled a dust far worse than sniffing black pepper. A cacophony of sneezes could be heard around the room, like we were doing a round robin. We found dried lemon basil and lemon verbena leaves on drying racks, which I bagged up to bring home for a supper flavorful tea.

Tuesday we were still looking for tasks to do because of the rain we dare not step into the garden (and compact our soil). So, we played around with our big sprayer, which we pull through the garden with a tractor, trying to get it to work. This sprayer is NOT for chemicals, but for fish emulsion. Working on the farm has given me the ability to tolerate, sort of, all kinds of nasty smells. This smell in particular is akin to dead fish washed up on the shore baking in 90F sun for a few weeks. Fortunately, Dana is a real trooper and was the one to clean out the gunk. For the rest of the day we would get whiffs of fish coming from her.

On Wednesday we cleaned out the backpack sprayers and hand pump, so we could dole out fish emulsion to our plants also called foliar feeding. They love all the nitrogen and other goodies in there. The backpack sprayers really do make us look like the Ghostbusters. A definite perk. We did two rounds of spraying this week, the last application had an addition of boron. Boron is a restricted substance in Organic practices, meaning that you must have a proven soil deficiency in order to use it because it is made my synthetic means. We use it because it helps activate silica which in turn makes more Calcium available to plants.

Thursday I learned how to use a draft horse in the garden. Dave, head gardener, decided to dust off his draft horse, named Maggie, and get her into the field. She hadn't been in the garden since last June so we wanted to get her back into the swing of things. Dave put on her gear (I cannot for the life of me remember all the different parts of the horse equipment)and we hooked up the cultivator. The cultivator kind of looks like a chisel plow but is more shallow, it has four long and rounded implements that remind me of a back scratcher, used to loosen the soil and kill any weed seeds.
Dave held onto the reins and asked if I wanted to hold on to the handles of the cultivator. Sure, no problem I said. We ambled slowly over to the field. Dave gave Maggie the cue to start walking and she took off on a brisk trot. Piece of cake. Then as we turned around the corner she took off like a sling shot, I am holding on to the handles and immediately start running or face the consequences of a face full of dirt. "Jesus Christ" I exclaimed. I was not prepared for that, and my foot wear of choice, Crocs, are not really suited for running on clumps of dirt. In fact, I probably shouldn't be wearing them at all in the garden, but I wanted something waterproof and comfy, and rubber boots make me sweat too much. "Don't worry" Dave said, "she is just getting used to being back in the field again." The next few rounds went fine, but I braced myself every time we went around the corner, prepared to sprint at a moments notice.

We circled the field a few times and loosened the soil quite nicely. Maggie was pretty worn out but she did a great job. The field was then ready for the furrower. This awkward implement is used dig up trenches for our potatoes. The one line I did with the furrower was super crooked because I found it really hard to push.

Friday was potato planting day! Dave brought his little four year old girl in the garden to help us plant. She was very good at spacing the potatoes a foot apart. We put in over 200lbs of potatoes of five varieties. We put early, mid and late season potato varieties in so we could harvest them at different times throughout the season.

In the afternoon I had fun with the Bobcat. I got to turn the compost pile in the horse area. Only this time they took off the door in the cab, free air conditioning, which allowed manure to fly in my face if the wind was blowing my direction or I forgot to tilt the bucket down. Aside from that little bit of shit flying my way, I was really starting to get the hang of it.

I guess that's another thing I have built up a tolerance to, excrement and bodily fluids. A horse sneezed snot all over me Friday and I helped pull the sack of a newborn goat that morning. Hey, if this is not a free crash course in parenting, I don't know what is.

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