One year since the fires started

KQED radio is airing some coverage of the anniversary of last year’s fires (today’s the anniversary). Here’s a California Report piece that I just heard: https://www.kqed.org/science/1932387/should-californians-be-rebuilding-homes-in-a-fire-zone and there are some other pieces at https://www.kqed.org/news/

I wish I had the time to write a longer thing about new housing that I see going up around the city and its outskirts (often displacing homeless people who camped in beautiful empty lots), and about how upset survivors are about disaster tourism (Especially when people walk around their properties! ugh), and how there are a lot of different art projects that are exhibiting right around now. I met an 8ish year-old girl last week who was a very angry and bitter fire victim. Can you imagine how hard it is to come home to live in a trailer where her family’s house once stood?

If I had a podcast, one of the people I would interview is one of our local farmers whose whole property burned down, and some who lost only small parts of their properties, and learn how the fire affected their operations, their land, their customer base… Sigh. Back to breakfast. Have to pick strawberries.

Many of us have been on edge this weekend because of the hot, dry north wind that creates the perfect condition for fire to spread…

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Workshops… tempting…

I get so frustrated with all the questions I have and the lack of people to ask… I need mentors. In the meantime, I keep hearing about all these workshops that I wouldn’t really have time to go to, like locally at Singing Frogs Farm this fall and The Gardener’s Workshop (online) with the author of the book Cool Flowers. I just don’t know…

The garden looks pretty darn good, but I have no idea what to do with my gorgeous, big purple, pink, and white zinnias. Do I sell them one at a time? In bouquets of 4? And um who do I sell them to? I was thinking of selling thru a local buyers’ club but someone sold like a $20+ bouquet at $5 each (with like 5 focal flowers, smaller flowers, and foliage and other fillers) and I’m like… peace! I’m not about to way underprice my flowers just to bring in a couple of bucks. And yes, I am pretty sure that the other grower, like me, has a partner who has a pretty good-paying job. That doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve to cover the expenses and labor incurred in growing the flowers, though!

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“Catch up” time

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view of new greenhouse as of 5/3/18. There’s room on the shelves for about 4 more trays.

Ha! There is no catching up! I’ve been starting seeds, mostly when the Gardening by the Moon calendar recommends, and today I did some potting up (potting-on for you Brits and um Canadians?) of most of my dahlias (started from seed) and some red cabbages and broccoli. I am torn between using 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch pots. The plants are small, but their roots do fill the sixpacks. This means that the 3.5 inche(r)s are better. I think I got a whole case of them! I do have small-seeded things that I started in 128 and 200ish cell trays last week that I need to pot up, so I guess I should save the rest of the 2.5 inch ones for those (and order a case). I have a lot of kales to pot up, too :/. Almost everything looks stunted (I could just start new dino kale, broccoli and cabbage, I guess, but I’m a bit concerned about space.) I think I will get some short metal shelving units for the wooden greenhouse. I am a bit concerned about getting mice in there, which is why I use the old plastic greenhouse for most germination.

I was hoping to have seedlings for a benefit auction/sale that benefits my kid’s preschool later this month, but my tomatoes haven’t even emerged! I could probably have some nice tomatillos and thumbelina zinnias, and even orange marigolds… I guess it’d be worth potting up a few for that… Despite what the lunar calendar/astrology says, I’m going to need to reseed tomatoes (plus now I have more varieties of seeds!), California Giants zinnias, the bell peppers I was unable to locate last time I started seeds, etc. The nights have been in the 40’s and even the low 50’s a few times. Anything that’s above 39 is good by me (strawberry fruit gets very unhappy below 41 or so). On the subject of strawberries: OMG what am I going to do? I’ve had whole days go by on which I didn’t work on them. I’m trying to get the old debris and fruit mummies cleared out so there’s less habitat for pests. Speaking of pests, from time to time I read that Shasta daisies host pests, but in my project for the IPM class I took at the junior college, I learned that they help repel Lygus bugs. I find a few of those bugs each year, and it would be nice to have one less source of catfacing on my berries (and weird marks on peas). It’s a mess under those daisies – dead leaves and buried strawberry plants lol. I had no idea that those plants would be so big – why did I plant so many so close together? The berries that I  planted this spring have to be constantly monitored so I can pull the flowers off to promote growth of the plant. I hoed the bed today- we had lots of pigweed, lambsquarters, bindweed, and purslane. I need to hoe that grass that’s to the right of the bed that I planted last year (see green grass below). I guess it really liked all that compost that I put down last summer (and this winter?).

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view of the garden from the edge near the center of the southeast strawberry bed. Z mowed the yellow areas with the tractor this week.

Oh, on to the subject of space – we put a silage tarp on an area where I could put 3 or 4 beds of greens (well, the left-most one actually had a mustard cover crop and flea beetles, so that could be a bad idea). The rightmost bed had greens in winter 2015-16, and I am wondering if it’s too soon. I could probably put some kind of flowers there… I need space for kale, hopefully collards, and chard (gotta pot those ones up asap), as well as for the shorter-season crops like the pak choy that T and I started, cabbage, and broccoli.

As you can see from my writing, I am having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts. Planning where crops will go is mostly beyond my capability these days. I need to go see an ADD doctor (I was treated for it in the past).

Reportback of sorts about the produce testing project

Just what is the effect of ash from the #NorthBayFires landing on plants in our gardens? Is the food we’ve grown safe to eat?

Today I went to an event about the “Citizen Science” produce sampling project. Here’s a link to an original invitation for sites to get involved. It was really good but I can’t type up all my notes. Basically, very little is known about the effects of fires on garden/farm produce. A graduate student was “voluntold” by a produce project founder to look into air quality issues from the time of the fires so that any toxins in samples could be compared to the air quality during that time. The samples are from a nice smattering of places around Sonoma County (and, I’m sure, beyond). There is a basic list of things that are common chemicals in houses, furniture, clothes, etc, and there is a list of things they’ll test for. I seem to remember lead, PAH’s, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt. PS, more research is needed about the effects of flame retardants and the Phos-Chek that was applied.

There is at least one group doing bioremediation by putting (mushroom) inoculated straw wattles in/around streams. There will also be a project that will do soil sampling (I think they said it will be linked to the results of the produce test? or at sites that were sampled?). It sounds like sites that had more than one type of greens, ie lettuce and kale, will be prioritized. Someone from UC Davis has already collected ash from impacted sites to examine with mass spectrometry. “Science is amazing!” as the kids from the Pokemon cartoon TV show said.

I still need wood chips. Now I’m nervous about sources (were the trees from burned areas? was phos-chek dropped on them? etc) and about my compost in the future- are people bringing fire-damaged plant materials to the big composting sites? Should that stuff go to a toxic waste disposal site? It was mentioned that adding organic material to the soil is a key way to mitigate the effects of, or even basically break down some of the bad compounds into things that are not as bad. So I need to keep covering my soil 🙂

Funding for the produce project is yet to come. They figured out that each site’s produce testing will cost some $2000. There is a Giving Tuesday campaign to raise money for the produce testing project (although the project is not mentioned on the link I’m including?). The goal for this Tuesday is $2000 to be able to get one site’s samples tested, but I would like to think they will raise more. They will also be requesting grant money. Please help support the project if you can. Please comment here or contact the folks in the first link to find out more about the project.

Meanwhile, in my garden…

there are a few ripe strawberries!
there are still some strawberries!

 

…and the garden got frosted-out

Yesterday afternoon I found out that the temp overnight was going to be 34, or maybe 37. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to water, and I’m not sure if it would have made a difference to my poor, belated zinnias. I think I will leave the ones that aren’t touching the kale, in case there are butterfly eggs (?) on them. Why, oh why didn’t I pick some yesterday? Because I picked tomatoes and strawberries.

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Zinnias that were killed by frost

I also lost my basil. I did pick a little bit of it yesterday. And tomatillos.

Today I did some hoeing in preparation for planting garlic. And I watered for like half an hour this evening, as I picked a couple of gallons of tomatoes, a few peas (the snow peas don’t seem to like frost, hm), some stock flowers, and a few marigolds.

Still planting my summer garden

Well, I finally finished transplanting the watermelons I started and the tomatoes that I bought around 4th of July… things are coming along very slowly. I have come to a lot of realizations about how in order to really produce much, I need labor-saving devices. Or I would at least need clean, tilled, shaped beds. I don’t have all that equipment, so I did individual planting holes. Sometimes the area hasn’t received much water, so I have to do a lot of tiresome handwatering. After planting, I keep handwatering once or twice a day to make sure that the plants get a good start. It’s a lot of work!! Carrying the 2-gallon watering can all the time is really hurting my elbow. Not sure if that’s the bursitis, or something else. I’m getting ready to plant my 4th planting of green,  yellow, and purple beans. It’s been 2 weeks since the last one went in…

We’re still not getting very many strawberries. They taste very good, but the pests are starting to get going again. I’ve been lucky about the taste, considering it’s been quite some time since I last fertilized.

I still can’t get much done when T is there in the garden with me. I actually have to redo some things, like how he put about a dozen sunflower seeds in a few different spots. I transplanted a few of them to other spots in the bed the other day. I’m really working at garden-scale, and farm-scale (especially in terms of having space for trays of seedlings) seems very far off. That reminds me, I need to plant the sunflowers that are best for cut flowers really soon! The cucumber beetles will kick their butts, though. This morning I killed the most I’ve ever done in one visit to the garden (7ish). I could be misremembering, because we grew a lot of sorghum-sudangrass (it makes so much biomass!!!) two years ago, and the cucumber beetles just loved it.

 

Plant/harvest, repeat

I haven’t been harvesting the peas – it’s time to get them out of there before the bugs decide to migrate to the strawberries. Ok, they’ll do that either way. They’ve reached the stage where every pea is trying to be a seed.

T and I started some seeds tonight – things like tomatoes, etc that most people would have been planting almost 2 months ago. I’m just kind of on my own late timeline. Someday I need to write something up about our cheapo starter greenhouse, but not today. Let’s just say that I take the trays out and leave them on a table in the sun because it’s too hot in there in the daytime. Tonight when I was putting trays away, I broke the clothespin that was holding the bird netting over the door. Sigh! At least the heat wave is ending.

Today Z mowed the area where I want to put the summer crops. First I need to deal with the pea bed and the Chesnok Red garlic. I can’t tell if it’s ready to pull or not. Most people either pull theirs or use a pitchfork. My soil is so hard that I have to dig with a shovel. I dig all around the plant and still usually end up cutting the bulb. Need to develop a better technique. Need to improve the soil!

The strawberries need fertilizing. I didn’t mulch them because 1. I never had the time, and 2. I wanted to compare the sow bug presence when there’s no compost on the ground. It’s a lot better, but the berries are VERY thirsty. They got 1.5 hours of water (through drip tape) yesterday and were dry today. I’m trying to go back to every other day watering as we come out of this heat wave. Gotta let those roots spread.

The cabbage and broccoli (or whatever) that I transplanted this week have had all but one leaf eaten off of them. There’s a thick layer of compost on the ground in that bed.

I did a bit of mowing along the blackberry patch that borders our driveway to make access this summer a bit easier. And, of course, also to check if they’re ripening. They usually start in the first few days of July, but… I harvested and ate 3! I need to figure out a way to hang the harvest bucket around my neck so I can use both hands.

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