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.
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!!!