Working Horse, Hauling

Working Horse, Hauling . Kate Javens. I once lived nearly across the street from a library and a museum, and on the way back with my books, I would sometimes stop in to look at this painting. This past week I pulled a 150 pound lawn roller up and down the first 5 miles of the farm. Eventually it got too heavy, and so I saved the steepest section of the farm for the tractor … but not before, having strapped the roller to my old backpacking pack, my body remembered this painting.  I remembered the title and artist, and when I googled to see if there might be a copy online, I found one at the top of a collection of excerpts from Seneca. And so, an except from that excerpt:  “You would come to know a ship's pilot in a storm and a soldier in the line of battle. How can I know with what strength of mind you would face poverty, if you abound in wealth? … disaster is the opportunity for true worth.” Seneca, Essays, Volume 1.

Working Horse, Hauling. Kate Javens. I once lived nearly across the street from a library and a museum, and on the way back with my books, I would sometimes stop in to look at this painting. This past week I pulled a 150 pound lawn roller up and down the first 5 miles of the farm. Eventually it got too heavy, and so I saved the steepest section of the farm for the tractor … but not before, having strapped the roller to my old backpacking pack, my body remembered this painting.

I remembered the title and artist, and when I googled to see if there might be a copy online, I found one at the top of a collection of excerpts from Seneca. And so, an except from that excerpt:

“You would come to know a ship's pilot in a storm and a soldier in the line of battle. How can I know with what strength of mind you would face poverty, if you abound in wealth? … disaster is the opportunity for true worth.” Seneca, Essays, Volume 1.

Expected Harvest

Veggies
Beets
Carrots
Celeriac
Radish, Winter
Sunroot
Sweet Potatoes
Turnip, Winter

Fruit
Raspberries
Strawberries

Herbs
Ashwagandha
Dried Culinary Herbs
Garlic
Ginger
Hot Pepper
Turmeric
Winter Teas

Staples
Popcorn

Althea Bread

Winter CSA Dates

03/27/19, 04/10/19, 04/24/19, 05/08/19, 05/22/19

2019 Week 13, Winter CSA 9 of 12

Happy Spring everybody! It has been a busy time on the farm, which is really just to say that the farming year is here! Today was a beat-the-rain rush to get 600 feet of spring black and fall red raspberries into their new home. It doesn’t sound like much, and I suppose it wasn’t, but it took all day all the same. The black raspberries should mature in June, beginning next year; the red are a +50% continuation of last year’s middle-two varieties — Caroline and Heritage — which were the productivity winners over Joan J and Josephine. What happens with the latter two are up in the air, though I am leaning toward replacing ‘Joan J’ with some Justaberries — a Currant and Gooseberry cross — for a post-blackberry small fruit.

For a number of reasons, I did not run a true CSA this winter, as you know. One of those was the fact that I knew I would be tilling in the spinach early, in order to establish the new farm system. So, no more spinach for the winter. I was able to leave a strip of cilantro, though, which ought to be growing well as this weather warms. Not a greens replacement, but a nice thing nonetheless.

A hardy hearty reminder that we are still looking to sell the rest of the Summer CSA. If you know of anyone who might be interested, you can get 10% of every dollar they send our way, sent your way. What a deal! :) We have just a few more things to buy to finish-out the start of summer — some gravel for the entry walkway, and some wooden stakes and twine for the tomatoes, for example — but are cash short at present. The shares will sell in due time, but selling them sooner is so much better than later. :)

My best,
See you on the farm,
& Happy Spring, once more,
Austin

Just heading out with 60 pounds of living mulch seed to spread with the ‘belly rubber’ broadcast seeder. Spring sure is getting springy, here on the farm.

Just heading out with 60 pounds of living mulch seed to spread with the ‘belly rubber’ broadcast seeder. Spring sure is getting springy, here on the farm.

The black raspberry — ‘Jewel,’ in this case — ready for its new home. Here’s to an abundance of early summer — think June! — fruit; though we do have to wait an establishment year before we can indulge. :)

The black raspberry — ‘Jewel,’ in this case — ready for its new home. Here’s to an abundance of early summer — think June! — fruit; though we do have to wait an establishment year before we can indulge. :)

Part of the new row crop living mulch (RCLM) system involves sub-16” strips through a multi-species living mulch. Here is the tractor’s tiller pared way down to just a few tines to reach that goal. I haven’t tried it yet — Is the hood too close to the edges? Is there an imbalance to the tines which might cause it to rattle? — but I will the second the soil is dry enough. I’m super excited about this experiment, and hope it’s a lot more than that; not an experiment, but just the way we do things from now on.

Part of the new row crop living mulch (RCLM) system involves sub-16” strips through a multi-species living mulch. Here is the tractor’s tiller pared way down to just a few tines to reach that goal. I haven’t tried it yet — Is the hood too close to the edges? Is there an imbalance to the tines which might cause it to rattle? — but I will the second the soil is dry enough. I’m super excited about this experiment, and hope it’s a lot more than that; not an experiment, but just the way we do things from now on.

Lawn roller and ‘lawn.’ Where I haven’t rolled is where the crops grow. Where I have, is where the pathway mix lives.

Lawn roller and ‘lawn.’ Where I haven’t rolled is where the crops grow. Where I have, is where the pathway mix lives.

Myrmecochory. Back in 2010, I think, we were having a terrible time getting tomatoes to germinate at the farm I was on in Pennsylvania. We’d seed, the germination would be bad, and we’d seed again. At a certain point we saw that some of the seeds were actually missing, so we set mouse traps. But we caught no mice, and the seeds kept going on walk-about.  Finally, we found the answer. Myrmecochory, or seed dispersal by ants. Ants and seeds have a mutualistic relationship, where the seed gives good things to the ant, who takes the seed home, which is likely a place the seed wants to be.  I was getting stumped as to why I was seeing so many odd seeds germinating in our potting mix this spring. At first I thought that the new potting mix source had unclean material. But then I saw this shiso — which looks just like basil, but obviously smells differently — germinating in the kohlrabi. I very certainly did not rattle a wand of shiso seed pods over the tray, but it sure looked like I had. Seeing this, I knew almost immediately that it was ants. Not stealing, like they had before, but adulterating our beautiful kohlrabi, kale, and cabbage flats. Pretty interesting, and just a little annoying. :)

Myrmecochory. Back in 2010, I think, we were having a terrible time getting tomatoes to germinate at the farm I was on in Pennsylvania. We’d seed, the germination would be bad, and we’d seed again. At a certain point we saw that some of the seeds were actually missing, so we set mouse traps. But we caught no mice, and the seeds kept going on walk-about.

Finally, we found the answer. Myrmecochory, or seed dispersal by ants. Ants and seeds have a mutualistic relationship, where the seed gives good things to the ant, who takes the seed home, which is likely a place the seed wants to be.

I was getting stumped as to why I was seeing so many odd seeds germinating in our potting mix this spring. At first I thought that the new potting mix source had unclean material. But then I saw this shiso — which looks just like basil, but obviously smells differently — germinating in the kohlrabi. I very certainly did not rattle a wand of shiso seed pods over the tray, but it sure looked like I had. Seeing this, I knew almost immediately that it was ants. Not stealing, like they had before, but adulterating our beautiful kohlrabi, kale, and cabbage flats. Pretty interesting, and just a little annoying. :)

A new 13HP Honda on the Grillo, having swapped out the old Subaru-Robin 14HP engine. As it turns out, Subaru got out of the power equipment business a year or two ago, so there wasn’t even a replacement for the old one.  While our little tractor was out of commission, I rented a four-wheel tractor to prepare the farm. This is something we ideally do just once, and though we did it at the start of the farm, 2019 is a bit of an exciting re-start, and so I did it again. Renting the larger tractor had me think of fossil fuels, and so I went back and looked: In 2018 we used about 1 gallon of gasoline per member. In the future, production efficiencies should drop that to about 1/2 a gallon, and farm practices should drop that to about 1/6 to 1/3 gallon per member per year. Even at this point, though, the total amount of gasoline used on the farm for the tractor (per member) over the course of a year doesn’t drive the average member’s car to the farm and back on a single pick-up day.  For all my desire for a quiet, solar-charged electric engine on my walk-behind Grillo — because, how dreamy — it’s interesting to see how long the carbon emissions from the current set-up would take to equal the total emissions from mining, production, and shipping … even before it reached the farm for its first engine hour. And how those emissions would still be embedded in an electric engine and battery. Which is why biology and technique interest me so much.  Making omelettes and breaking eggs, the goal here is to establish a system that is principally to totally biological / ecological in practice, where one uses fuel to establish a system that doesn’t; or, one net-emits carbon to establish a system that net-absorbs it. This is a matter of design, from a farm and tool perspective. Though we lack on both fronts, every year shows more and more movement from more and more people. And this gets me so excited. Anyone want to build a recumbent pedal-powered flywheel-driven sickle bar mower with independent gearing for the drive and PTO shafts? The orchard and walkways would love one of those. Though, who’s to say a scythe wouldn’t work just as well.  And do note that engine fossil fuel use is just one source — sink, really — of power on the farm. There are the spring greenhouse’s heat mats and the walk-in fridge, which both run on electric power — Rappahannock at present, though I have been talking with a few solar install companies. Those are both heating and cooling, done electrically. Solar — and electricity, for that matter — does motion and light well, but heating and cooling are really its efficiency nemeses. I have plans in my mind for a passive solar hydronic heating system in the greenhouse, though it would probably require supplemental heat, and the literature is full of the system-efficiency downsides of supplemental energy. Though hot beds — think biological carbon + nitrogen + biology = thermophillic stage compost heat output — could be a homegrown solution. And, as for that, radiative fins at the top of the greenhouse, with a lightweight pump to cycle water, could possibly make that water hot enough. On the food storage front, a root cellar with a not-very-efficient-in-Virginia evaporative cooling system could work … though, being as we can only do so much, that is on the long-term if-some-funding-source-wanted-to-see-that-happen-here list, and not really on the do-this plan.  Which is all to say. We have a new engine. It runs on a gas. But we’re not the end, we’re the evolving way, and also part of a larger system / context … so I guess that’s okay for now. :)

A new 13HP Honda on the Grillo, having swapped out the old Subaru-Robin 14HP engine. As it turns out, Subaru got out of the power equipment business a year or two ago, so there wasn’t even a replacement for the old one.

While our little tractor was out of commission, I rented a four-wheel tractor to prepare the farm. This is something we ideally do just once, and though we did it at the start of the farm, 2019 is a bit of an exciting re-start, and so I did it again. Renting the larger tractor had me think of fossil fuels, and so I went back and looked: In 2018 we used about 1 gallon of gasoline per member. In the future, production efficiencies should drop that to about 1/2 a gallon, and farm practices should drop that to about 1/6 to 1/3 gallon per member per year. Even at this point, though, the total amount of gasoline used on the farm for the tractor (per member) over the course of a year doesn’t drive the average member’s car to the farm and back on a single pick-up day.

For all my desire for a quiet, solar-charged electric engine on my walk-behind Grillo — because, how dreamy — it’s interesting to see how long the carbon emissions from the current set-up would take to equal the total emissions from mining, production, and shipping … even before it reached the farm for its first engine hour. And how those emissions would still be embedded in an electric engine and battery. Which is why biology and technique interest me so much.

Making omelettes and breaking eggs, the goal here is to establish a system that is principally to totally biological / ecological in practice, where one uses fuel to establish a system that doesn’t; or, one net-emits carbon to establish a system that net-absorbs it. This is a matter of design, from a farm and tool perspective. Though we lack on both fronts, every year shows more and more movement from more and more people. And this gets me so excited. Anyone want to build a recumbent pedal-powered flywheel-driven sickle bar mower with independent gearing for the drive and PTO shafts? The orchard and walkways would love one of those. Though, who’s to say a scythe wouldn’t work just as well.

And do note that engine fossil fuel use is just one source — sink, really — of power on the farm. There are the spring greenhouse’s heat mats and the walk-in fridge, which both run on electric power — Rappahannock at present, though I have been talking with a few solar install companies. Those are both heating and cooling, done electrically. Solar — and electricity, for that matter — does motion and light well, but heating and cooling are really its efficiency nemeses. I have plans in my mind for a passive solar hydronic heating system in the greenhouse, though it would probably require supplemental heat, and the literature is full of the system-efficiency downsides of supplemental energy. Though hot beds — think biological carbon + nitrogen + biology = thermophillic stage compost heat output — could be a homegrown solution. And, as for that, radiative fins at the top of the greenhouse, with a lightweight pump to cycle water, could possibly make that water hot enough. On the food storage front, a root cellar with a not-very-efficient-in-Virginia evaporative cooling system could work … though, being as we can only do so much, that is on the long-term if-some-funding-source-wanted-to-see-that-happen-here list, and not really on the do-this plan.

Which is all to say. We have a new engine. It runs on a gas. But we’re not the end, we’re the evolving way, and also part of a larger system / context … so I guess that’s okay for now. :)