Before we bought our farm last year, it was a hayfield for as long as anyone can remember. As a result we have deep, rich topsoil that has accumulated over the years of perennial growth and decomposition. It also means that our field is compacted – the result of years of machines driving over it to cut and bale hay.
Compaction makes it difficult for plants to get all the nutrition and water available underground, and can cause drainage problems in the spring. This year we bought a broadfork – a 5 foot tall fork with five, 14-inch blades for tines. By forking the majority of our field with this tool, we’ve managed to break through a lot of the compacted sub-soil. A carrot we pulled yesterday (photo above) is evidence that all that effort is paying off. That taproot is almost 2 feet long!
Here is an article on pollinators from one of our favorite winter-time reads, the FedCo tree catalog:
“We owe thanks to our pollinators for giving us food to eat and seeds to grow. Bees, birds, bats, moths, flies and butterflies gather protein-rich pollen and sugary nectar from flower to flower while cross-pollinating our food crops and almost every plant we see.
Yet many of our pollinator species are threatened, endangered or extinct from widespread chemical use on farms and gardens, genetically modified crops, and loss of habitat due to development. Bees are considered a “keystone” species, meaning that many other species depend on them for survival. Their extinction means our extinction. So why do we continue to harm them while at the same time demanding so much?
We can begin to help our pollinators by incorporating native plants back into our landscape and creating forage in places where it’s lacking. We can make our gardens a natural habitat for insects rather than a toxic place that only exists for our enjoyment. It’s a critical time to create gardens that mimic the native environment and help our suburbias (and farms!) be a little more natural.
Over millions of years, plants and pollinating insects have evolved together. Certain pollinators favor certain flowers depending on which colors they can see or which shapes their mouthparts fit into.”
Visit their website for a giant list of pollinator-friendly plants, trees, and shrubs to get your garden buzzing.
Look in any direction on a farm and there is a new opportunity to worry.
Are those brown leaves at the base of my tomato plants the dreaded late blight? Those potato plants look great, but are there actually any potatoes under there? Will the cucumbers set fruit before there are so many cucumber beetles that each fruit will be damaged by one of their curly-cue drawings on its skin?
It’s a feast for the neurotic and over-anxious out there in the field. It comes with the territory of diversification. We plant over __ varieties of vegetables in order to spread our risk each season. But each of these cultivars comes with its own schedule and particularities, making it a logistical whirlwind to keep our field full, productive and healthy.
Time management fits neatly into the equation as well. Once harvest begins in earnest, there is precious little time left after picking, washing, packing, and marketing, to do other farm tasks.
Should we stake the peppers, weed the onions, or seed more lettuce mix? Mowing the lawn seems overly aesthetic compared to the rest of the to-do list, but the grass is so long that the neighbors are wondering if we’re cutting hay off it. Is the weather good for foliar feeding the kale? I don’t know. Didn’t you just check the weather? Yeah, but I already can’t remember what it said.
And so you have to stop worrying. More out of self-preservation than anything else. You can only spin in so many circles, looking at all the work to be done, before you get dizzy. Jonathan made a list this spring that is still on the refrigerator. It is an epic list of all the building projects we are trying to get done on the farm and inside the house. In a few spots, snuck in between the to-do’s, he wrote “smile”. Silly as it sounds, just reading the word makes me smile, which is usually accompanied by a deep breath. And breathing is as good a first step as any toward doing something.
by Phillip Larkin
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
by D.H. Lawrence
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
This week’s harvest:
Tuesdays | 4 – 7 PM
Farmington Ave. btw Woodland and Owen
Saturdays | 3 – 6 PM
Mansfield Town Hall Lawn