A Very Hot Day for Farming
Working on the farm this week was especially challenging considering that the temperatures were in the 90s. Not surprisingly, this blistering heat resulted in quite a shortage of volunteers. Those who did show up were rewarded with a glistening coat of sweat. Despite the weather, everyone worked hard and happily for hours and I was able to learn a number of new farming techniques.
We began the day with more weeding. This time we were instructed to focus specifically on galinsoga, a very prevalent weed that was beginning to take over the bean and carrot patches. In the bean patches, we had to clip the galinsoga from the base of the stem instead of pulling it out roots and all. This is because the bean plants have a very shallow root structure and they can accidentally be pulled right out along with the weeds if you aren’t careful. Caution was also advised when weeding the carrot patches since carrots also pull up quite easily. After some time, the patches were cleared of galinsoga and I forgivingly rewarded myself by eating some of the carrots I had pulled up by mistake.
Next up: Weaving cucumber plants into pyramid trellises. First, we had to wrap a layer of string around the same type of pyramid structured trellises that I mentioned in my previous post. The string provides more surface for the cucumber vines to attach themselves to. Once the trellises were completed, we picked up the cucumber vines that had been growing along the ground and did our best to weave them into the trellises.
The farmers are hoping to plant a new bed of peppers next week. In preparation for this, we needed to weed one of the empty beds and mix compost into the soil. There are 3 different compost crates, so we had to dig around in all 3 of them to determine which one was the ripest. Usually, the top layer of compost has yet to decay since the things on top were most recently added. We had to dig underneath the top layer to get at the ripened soil. The ripe compost still has large wood chips and other debris that need to be removed. We did this by using a heavy-duty metal screen to sift the compost as it was shoveled into a wheelbarrow. Once we had two wheelbarrows full, we hauled them over to the empty bed and began to mix the compost into the soil.
The last task of the day was planting more bean seeds. The bean beds were covered with a layer of black plastic that the farm uses as a weed suppressant. We had to poke holes in the plastic to create space for the seeds to sprout. The bean seeds had been soaking in water since 10 AM. I was told that it is easier for the seeds to germinate if they are soaked before they are planted. We were also told that the amount of soil placed on top of the seed should be roughly the same as the width of the seed itself. In other words, seeds usually should be planted closer to the surface than you might think.
It was a long sweaty and muddy day but, in the end, I felt very satisfied. Before I left the farm, I noticed that there was a book for sale in the market. It was a book on growing a sustainable business written by one of the Brooklyn Grange founders. I promptly bought a copy. After all, money spent on a good book is money well spent. I’ll be sure to share all of my learnings from the book here on this blog as soon as I get time to read the thing.
As I was leaving, I happily admired all of the blooming flowers that are planted at the end of the crop patches to attract bees and other desirable insects. I felt very grateful for the farmers who are sharing this beautiful place with me.