Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dark and stormy week

The weather has been unseasonally cold and wet for a while, but this week has been the hardest to deal with. Everyone felt cold and damp much of the time, and I felt hungrier than usual, probably because more calories were being burned to stay warm. Dave and I were working on moving irrigation hoses and kept talking about chocolate bars and not being able to get a snack since we were at the vegetable field which is about a kilometre away from Everdale. Eventually, Andrew went back to get the truck and he brought us back bananas and dried fruit. Bananas are such great fruits for energy. I definitely have no problem with having them imported! My chocolate bar craving from this week prompted me to get my sister to buy me a box of Mr. Big bars from Costco, so I'll be sure to have some on me in the field this next week :)

There was a violent hail storm on Monday afternoon that did some damage to the leafy vegetables, setting them back by about a week or two. We were working outside, unpacking and cleaning beets, and had to run indoors when the storm hit. The hail itself looked like crushed ice and came down with enough force to make standing out in it quite painful. It crushed a lot of the vegetation in the area so that there was a heady fragrance of herbs in the air. Specifically, there was a fresh, pineapple fruity smell in the air, which I suspect came from the wormwood which grows a lot in the area, and is apparently the plant used to make absinthe.

In general, the constantly wet weather has made it harder to get work done on the farm. The tractor can't go on the field when it's too wet, so tractor-tine weeding can't happen, and neither can transplanting. So we did a lot of weeding with hand hoes, and the wheel hoe. When you've got good soil and rotate your crops, the bane of organic farming doesn't seem to be bug pests, but rather, weeds. If you stay on top of weeding until the plants have established themselves, then you ensure healthy plants producing more fruit, and also make harvesting easier. Gavin constantly checks the fields to determine which ones need to be weeded, using which method, and ultimately, has to decide if a row has so little vegetable germination and so much weed growth, that it should just be plowed under and new plantings made. So far this has been done for 2 rows of seeded carrots. Two others are being kept and will be mown at a higher level to see how the carrots grow if weeds are controlled by mowing instead of by removal.

And continuing in the spirit of experimentation which is alive and well at Everdale, we prepared and planted 6 trial plots in different varieties of switch grass. Switch grass is a fuel crop, not for liquid fuels but as solid mass for burning. It apparently has one of the most efficient input to energy output ratios of any planted crop. This set of trial plots will be watched for 3-5 years as switch grass takes a few seasons to really establish itself. The planting process was quite fun as it involved sowing the seed by hand and then having to stomp all over the plots to make sure the seed was well pressed into the ground. This happened on Thursday, the first day that the farm store was open to harvest share members, so a lot of families went by us wondering why we seemed to be dancing all over the plots. One family of girls came and joined us in the stomping fun. It was quite interesting to see the steady stream of harvest share members coming in to the farm to get their produce. These are the kinds of people who care about their food and also the farmers that produce it. Harris and Mark had driven a big truck of produce into Toronto that afternoon too for the CSA (customer supported agriculture) pickup in the Annex.

The week wasn't only about the plants and weather though. Aly had her twin male goats on Monday, and 3 new lambs were born this week. One of them looks like a cow, all black with white spots all over. Lynn got a new set of pigs this week and I'm very thankful that they haven't been testing out their electric fence boundary too much as they squeal very loudly, which would make sleeping difficult since they aren't too far from my tent! At the end of the day, I make my rounds to the various animal pens to see how the babies are doing.

I also worked with some motorized engines this week. I took the electric mower out for a spin to clear up the space around the solar panels for the solar showers (not that there's been enough sun to heat any water with this past week!). And I learned how to pump gasoline from a big tank into a small container in which I mixed about 4 litres of 40:1 two-stroke fuel. Hopefully the whipper snipper will now work, though that remains to be seen. Perhaps someone will have gotten it started while I've been gone as I had to return to Toronto midday on Friday this week.

Coming back into the city this weekend has been a bit of a culture shock. I was at Square One for a dentist appointment on Friday afternoon and walked in the door to a group of mall rats, who generally spook me even when I am in the city all the time. Then I walked through Wal-Mart as my dentist office is located in there (from pre-Wal-Mart days). It was a bit too much suburban mall crowding for me after the relative peace and quiet of Everdale. I spent that evening at Roy Thomson Hall for a TSO concert of Star Trek music, then Saturday afternoon at the Big on Bloor festival helping out with my sister's booth, and finally was at the Petite Fashionista event at a bar called Proof on Sunday afternoon and evening, again helping my sister, where I got my nails painted bright fuschia. I'm sure I'll get comments on my bright nail colour when I get back to the farm on Monday ;P I'm somewhat curious as to how they'll hold up to digging in the dirt!


Sam said...

Hey Brenda...thanks for letting me in on your blog. Quite the adventure thus far! I hope to be able to come and visit and really see what you've been talking about. Keep it up and looking forward to your postings.

mare said...

hello! i just got a chance to catch up reading your blog. it sounds like a fabulous start to your agriculture adventure! can you post some pics, or do you not get a chance to take some pictures? would love to see what the area is like, b/c i doubt i will be able to visit.

C F said...

Hi Brenda,
This is great. I enjoy reading about your "other life".

Save a Mr. Big for me!