Getting a sense of things in the garden

Yesterday, I planted the rest of the garlic, and the onions (not recommended for this time of year, I’ve read, as onion sets in winter will likely only yield green onions. Last year we planted them in the fall and lost the whole crop. this spring i planted seedlings and got 2 onions- the animals kept digging up the bed and eventually I wasn’t able to replant them all). Zak did some re-mowing in the garden. I picked some strawberries. I cut them up and froze them that night.

There were all these things that we would have done if the #norovirus hadn’t been in town.

I did make it out there at sunset. I picked some dino kale in case I can eat greens tomorrow morning, and picked what broccoli I was able to find in the older bed. I was second-guessing myself and wondering if some of those heads were actually collard greens. We need to come up with a better way of marking beds. The seedling labels tend to get moved around by our little assistant. Z was surprised when I told him tonight that I’d like to cut out the old broccoli plants – there’s a lot of leaf for not much broccoli. I tried to explain that it’s our first time growing it – and we’re experimenting with varieties, aren’t we? We planted De Cicco and Waltham varieties. Hopefully we’ll get bigger heads next time.

I also want to cut or pull out the corn. I keep finding bent-over plants and parts of ears on the ground. I doubt that the raccoons have left us much. Next year we need to plant corn much earlier (and more often, as this was our only planting). I think the nights this fall were too damp to be able to dry corn properly. I’d been fantasizing about grinding up the corn and making cornbread to share with family around Thanksgiving. Ha!

I think that our best crop of peas in what remains of this fall will be the first planting, the one that’s flowering now. Maybe we will even have some for Thanksgiving. The other plantings are too far from the newer trellis, and in some cases too wet.

The raccoons dug up a lot of the garlic last night. I think it’s because I put out fish meal in some places. Grrr! I think that next time we use it we have to leave the bed fallow for a bit so the raccoons can dig it up. Maybe I’ll do this with the corn bed, although I really want to get some cover crops planted…

The raccoons have gotten so big!

Raccoons hard at work
Digging up my pea bed! You can click on the image to make it bigger M2E1L0-11R350B300

My pea bed (on the south side of the garden; the tractor reflector is pretty bright here) looks like such a mess. I have to rebury seeds/seedlings every day. I’m a bit worried about the 2 sixpacks of plants that I transplanted today, on the far north east side. The collards are too leggy, and the kales look like they needed nutrients from the soil about 2 weeks ago. Noone had thinned the cells, so I had about 10 of each kind of plant. I really don’t know where all of my seedlings will end up. We needed to do so much work this weekend, and it didn’t happen 😦

I did pick 2 baskets of strawberries today. It’s amazing that they are still producing so well. The pests are just awful, though. I’m getting better at squishing cucumber beetles as soon as I spot them – they will fly away very quickly if I wait at all!

Pumpkin patch at school farm

Today we went to the annual pumpkin patch/fall open house at the farm at the junior college that I attended. It’s always interesting to see what changes and what stays the same. One student (I assume, he was in a shirt with the farm’s name on it, like all the volunteers and student workers), when I asked him who the current garden manager is, said that it was the farm manager. When I pressed further, he said that there were 4 or 5 students running it. Now I think that he misunderstood me, because another guy came up to the table and sent his tablemate on her break. So that was the “supervisor” and maybe the student didn’t understand all the crop planning and stuff that that person does.

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It was amazing to see what’s different between that garden and ours. The garden looks so clean- nary a weed in site, except maybe in the pumpkins. They have raised beds – they have a bed shaper, iirc, and a lot of other implements. Their strawberries, at least the Seascapes, don’t have runners. Their San Andreas plants look newer and do have runners. They look like it’s the beginning of their season, but I would guess that it’s the end (#winteriscoming). Z thought that they didn’t have many berries per bed foot compared to us, but then again, people had been picking berries for over 3 hours by the time we went to that area (I found only 2 ripe strawberries. there were a lot of overripe ones in the San Andreas section). They use landscape fabric to cover the strawberry beds- we didn’t use anything to cover the ground (and the skunks or raccoons dug the hell out of my plants and I had to replant a dozen every day for several weeks). Sure, we had weeds, but there aren’t many now. I find that they tend to provide places for the pests to hide (that said, I keep having to pull out dried grass at the edges of the bed, because the runners keep spreading so far. sadly, pulling the grass tends to also pull out the little plants whose roots have been taking refuge in the shade provided by the grass). Their greens were planted closer together (but in the case of kale, at least, they harvest more often. I wonder about their cabbage plants that seem to be only a foot apart. Maybe they are trying to grow smaller, personal-size cabbages, which makes sense to me.

The farm doesn’t have any chickens right now. I was part of the group that got the farm’s first-ever laying hens. The mobile coop that we built sat empty, with its doors open so people could see inside. I hope they park it out of the weather so it will last longer. I kind of wonder if they will sell it if it doesn’t get occupied within a certain number of years…

There used to be a hedgerow that was filled with native plants. It was a bit overgrown my first year, and the garden manager cut it way back my second year (iirc it may have been hosting chicken predators). It hasn’t really grown back. There was a huge, tall pile of what was obviously a Sonoma Compost product (we will miss you, Sonoma Compost!). One of that company’s owners is an adjunct instructor and board member for the Sustainable Ag program, so I almost wonder if it was donated. Oh, I had an interesting conversation with a woman from a local environmental nonprofit about folks who are trying to start up smaller local composting operations. She said that our compost likely does not go to Marin County, but rather even farther away to Solano County (this will increase our garbage fees). I need something to grind up my big pieces of food and crop “waste” so I don’t have to have my stuff shipped that far.

There were several familiar student faces (Albert, Ken, the guy with the mutton chops), including someone who lived at the intentional community I lived at when I first moved here. Two of my former instructors were there, and I passed by the farm manager at one point. He didn’t seem to see me. I have so many questions for him- what thickness drip tape do they use, where does he get those connectors that he uses between the oval hose and the drip tape, what is the tape that they use to cover up some holes, etc…

One of the strangest things to me was that, prominently featured in the parking lot, was the Tiny House Club’s workspace. Apparently that club works out of the farm- they are actually milling their own lumber from wood from the forest that is on the farm property. Sonoma County seems to be a hub for the tiny house movement – in fact, several people were building or living in tiny houses at the intentional community I lived at. Tiny houses are seen as an important way to house young farmers. I have some “issues” with the idea. Here are some of them: 1. they are expensive. even with the wood coming for free, and the school providing tools, what about a bed? will it have its own kitchen and bathroom, as they usually do? all of those things, plus the electrical, cost money. 2. I suppose that people are correct to say that young folks tend to not have a lot of stuff, but I’ve observed that my friends who live tiny (and this was true for me when I lived in a bus for 4 months at the i.c.) tend to need additional storage. 3. Zoning. There is an Event about zoning for Tiny Houses in Sonoma County coming up, but really, as a rural landowner of acreage, I have to say that we’d be concerned about having to provide hookups to our septic system, water, and electric system (and the tiny house’s drain on those systems), and insurance – what if something happened to that tiny house dweller, or the tiny house, while that person was living on our property? Also, what kind of rent would one charge? 3. It can be really isolating and make one feel claustrophobic to be stuck in a small unit during, for instance, an El Niño winter (as I was) – in that case (or when one needs to do laundry), one will likely need access to the primary dwelling or some other space. I do think that this is a better way to do the Tiny House thing- in community with friends

We went on a tour of the forest – it was just a tiny section that used to take me 15 minutes to walk, while my whole hike took an hour to 75 minutes. I walked really fast then, too. I miss that forest SO much. It’s not open to the public, and it’s 30 minutes from our place with no traffic. I even visualize it sometimes to help me sleep! Our tired kid seemed to enjoy it, too, although his dad had to do a lot of hiking while holding him! They provided water and a pumpkin bread snack at the end. It was neat to hear students and what appeared to be the main instructor who uses the farm as his class laboratory talk about some aspects of managing the forest.

Back at home this evening, Z picked a basket of strawberries, T picked pieces of greens, and I hoed the empty part of the east greens bed so I can try to get those poor seedlings into the ground. The tall collards look very unhappy and need to get transplanted!!!

Oh, there’s a path there!

Last night we had one of our larger recent harvests. I picked a gorgeous basket of strawberries and Zak picked some others, as well as cherry tomatoes and beans.

Sept 30, 2015 harvest
Sept 30, 2015 harvest

Talk about over doing it, though – this morning I tried hoeing. We have a whole row of greens that never gets visited because there hasn’t been much of a path due to all the weeds. I think the last time I  hoed here, I had to just focus on the pigweed. There was plenty of that, and the grass is tall, so eventually when my sprained hand started hurting, I switched to just focusing on the pigweed.

Path between the east bed of greens and the
There’s a path!
Z walks between the 2 beds while T picks a cabbage leaf on the other side of the bed of greens
Z walking down the “new” path

After I took these pictures, I did some more hand-weeding around the individual plants to the right of Z. Then I planted some more peas (maybe 15 row feet?), since they’d been in T’s bucket for 2 days. T started digging up the whole area of the garden bed and was eventually taken inside. They were the Green Arrow shelling peas. My hand hurts. I spent a lot of the day without my ace bandage, since it was drying on the clothesline while I was hoeing, and I take it off to wash dishes and bathe. Tomorrow is another day.

Productive garden day

This morning I picked about a basket of strawberries. Then I spent about 45 minutes weeding and setting up the drip tape for the next section of peas. This evening I planted a packet each of Oregon Sugar Pod II and of Sugar Snap peas. T
“planted” a packet of Sugar Snap peas (I had 2 packets, total) somewhere. When we went in to get more seeds, I got him some of the Green Arrow shelling peas from my 1/2-pound bag. He mostly didn’t try to plant them. I also tried to plant some old Scarlet Nantes carrot seed, but it’s hard to see what you’re doing with about 20 carrot seeds on an extremely muddy hand.

This thing of buying single seed packets needs to stop. It’s too much money for too few seeds. That said, one can’t always find the seeds that one wants in larger quantities, or from the vendor from whom one wants to get them…

I need to be hoeing instead of doing all that ridiculous hand/Cobra weeding. The thing is, there are all these perennial weeds, so a scuffle hoe’s not quite going to do it. A sharp hoe can’t be used along the drip tape without cutting it at least once. So what to do? Keep weeding by hand and trying to not use my sprained hand!

Z checked out the sprayer and it worked fine for him and T. At least it’s been rinsed now.

It’s amazing how different the afternoon light is now – it has really changed to fall in the last 2 weeks.

Tuesday’s report

Getting anything done in the garden takes multiple days. On Tuesday morning I was going to plant two six-packs of greens (one is dino kale, the other a red cabbage). I spent an hour hoeing and straightening out the drip tape, hoed out a few extra pigweed plants, and then it was time to get ready to pick the kidlet up from preschool. He goes to school 2 mornings a week, which affords me about 3 extra hours of garden time per week – I can do things like fertilize (I alternate btw a fish/seaweed mix and Biomin 153, which supplies some minerals that our soil is lacking), harvest, etc.

That evening, I picked beans- we still  had a few purple beans, a lot of yellow ones, and some new green pole beans. I also picked ~2 baskets of strawberries. I think we got 1 basket of good ones, and 1 basket of damaged berries. I either eat the damaged ones, or we freeze them for blended juice some evening.

I hadn’t had a chance to rake off the weeds I’d hoed, so I’m a bit nervous to go out there and see what kind of a mess is out there. Plus it’s still really wet from yesterday’s ~0.4 inch of rain, and I don’t want to leave too many sinking footprints…

Hm, I need to find an extra $99 to get rid of the ads below, don’t I? :/