Thou Shallot Not Kill

Another weekend has come and gone, and I’m reeling from information overload, lack of sleep, straight happiness and greens, greens, greens.

Friday was a day of weeding – hook and crooks, stirrup hoes and wheel hoes were out in full force as we traveled around the beds disturbing the soil around each plant and pulling out the bigger, nasty weeds. The onions and garlic down in the black dirt were an easy fix, and then we moved to the peas, lettuces and mesclun. On further inspection Matt and Jay realized that flea beetles have already begun to munch away at our dainty little Lacinato Dinosaur Kales and Arugalas over in the mesclun beds – and so the war against our insect enemies begins.

Our garlic bed will prove to be a daunting challenge throughout the year Some of the soil wasn’t turned as much as it could have been because of an onslaught of rain last fall that prevented too much tractor use, so there are patches of one of our garlic fields that is almost literally more weeds than garlic. We have already dedidcated hours to this fight as a team, and apparently Matt and Mateo had done the whole thing twice before the rest of us arrive. We arm ourselves with wheel hoes and dandelion weeders and hike on out past the compost piles for hours of weed thrashing. Canadian thistle and dandelions run rampant, and there roots are long and thick and a real pain to pull out from the bottom. Quack grass runs rampant between the rows – there are parts I can’t even push a wheel hoe through right now because the grass is so thick. But the garlic is our cash crop, and our babies need some TLC.

And if you’re still wondering what a wheel hoe is, hang on a little longer – we’ll take a tool tour later this week.

Friday afternoon presented itself with a tragic project- replanting shallots that didn’t make it through the first part of the week. I volunteered for this unsavory task before I realized the extent of the damage. I walked out to the bed behind the tunnel to find a massacre. Dozens of holes in the plastic where the shallot had literally been fried in the sun – after 48 hours, there was no sign of the little green shoot we had planted. This was a huge problem in the first band we had planted, apparently because we didn’t widen the holes in the plastic enough. We punctured the plastic with a trowel in four rows down the length of the black plastic, but if the plastic had some give around the hole edges and could move with the wind, it covered the shallot throughout the day and promptly toasted it.

I spent the afternoon sadly replacing our hundreds of fallen little guys, widening holes in plastic and putting rocks everywhere to prevent this mess from happening again. Though the task was sad, redundant as of Tuesday and a little frustrating, I think we all learned what not to do when planting this way.

We used stirrup hoes to work this bed of lettuces. Pretty, right?

The future bane of our existence – garlic fields. But look how nicely weeded this part is!

Throughout the day I scurried off to the greenhouse to water and check on our plants – on sunny warm days I could be over there every hour. Keith showed me how to pull out a plug from a random tray and test the soil to tell who needs more water when. The little cells need it more often because there’s no space for water. The tomatoes need to be watered heavily once a day in the morning, but the Mediterranean herbs prefer less water. Before I water the tomatoes, I take a broomstick handle and run it across the tops of the plants for a few minutes – this is called mechanical stimulation, and it simulates the feel the plant has in the wind outside. This makes for squatter plants instead of the leggy tomatoes that get a lot of length but not width. Pretty cool, right? This is what I’m learning. And I haven’t killed anything yet, which is also a good sign.

I left the guys this weekend and traveled down to my parents’ house for family times. My little sister is moving to California next week so we had a going away/graduation/Mother’s Day extravaganza. Nate bought my mother and me flowers and stole the show, as he does. My cousins all talked to me about the blog and asked me all sorts of questions about farming and living with smelly guys and commented on how happy I look. One of them gave me a stack of farm supply magazines and my dad and I almost convinced each other to drive up and look at an Allis G tractor an hour away. I am already excited to visit Jess out West when I’m unemployed in November. And I took stock of our own tool shed, and while it’s pretty empty comparatively, we are on the right track.

The Wagner Tool Shed.

We got tools! But need more. If you have some you don’t want holler at me.

Glenn Wagner manipulated our drainpipes into this band of four connected rain barrels with a spigot, because his mechanically-minded brain loves projects. It’s really cool.

I also got to tell some of my guy friends from home about my new adventure, which was fun and exciting and is totally off the wall from where they thought I would be. But they want to come visit, and that makes my day. And it didn’t hurt that throughout the weekend the farmers were sending me photos of their banjo-playing, town-wandering exploits and asking when I was coming back.

I’m eating a sweet potato for breakfast while Matt prices out heat mats and Jay ignores his wake up call for another few minutes. Matthew is home in Massachusetts for a few days and the house already feels emptier.

It feels good to be home.

-Farmer Liz



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