Monday, June 9, 2014

Well Begun is Half Done

Well Begun is Half Done
And so it is.  Well, begun.  And almost half done.  June 21.  The summer solstice. Half done but barely begun. Let me explain.

There are three really crazy (and critical) weeks of farming.  (At least in the North East).  From the last frost (did you even know, or care, that there are two different types of frost, advective and radiation?) usually around May 15 through the first week of June.  This is when all the tomato, pepper, tomatillo, eggplant and herb transplants need to be planted (by hand) along with planting the seeds for vegetables best grown from seed:  zucchini, cucumbers, sweet corn, popcorn and my favorite, winter squash (Anna Swartz, Thelma Sanders, Waltham Butternut, PA Dutch Crookneck, Spaghetti, Long Island Cheese, Tuffy Acorn Squash and Blue Hubbard, the old tried and true squash that lasts until the rest give up and serves as a "trap crop" (Mother anyone?) to catch the evil-doers, bugs, I mean. 

Of course, the "pumpkin planter" (it's actually a MX-12) that we had lent to someone last year was, unbeknownst to us, returned damaged. (Equipment failures and repairs are a big part of farming.  If you're not handy, buy a farm.  In one year you will either become handy or will be without a farm) So, we overnighted parts from Market Farm and Albert spent the day rebuilding the planter -- just in time to plant sweet corn and popcorn.  And this is the easy part. 

Meanwhile, we weed. And weed (cultivate is the correct term, but you know what I mean). The weed pressure in the Black Dirt is Intense.  (Yes, that's a capital eye).  Like everything, it's a double-edged sword. The Black Dirt is so fertile and so easy to grow on (all you have to do is drop a seed and bingo, it sprouts!)  I like to call it "Farming for Dummies."  But that also means that every little weed seed (and there are millions of them, literally) love to sprout in the Black Dirt. And they look so small and innocent.  Just a few leaves. And roots. But man, those roots are strong.  One time I pulled a little weed, just two-three inches. And the root was 15 inches long. Intact.  I was so impressed that I pressed that weed onto a piece of cardboard.  I like to show it off.  But I'm not sure many people really get it. How hard it really is.

Every row in the Black Dirt is weeded (and often planted) by hand at least once during the season.  And that includes even the mono-cropping onion fields. Just think of that.  As you drive by fields and fields and rows and rows of plants. Someone has been out there on their hands and knees pulling weeds. And planting.  Sometimes I'll drive by a field on my way to Shop Rite and see a team of people planting onion plants.  By the time I return, the field is green with plants. 

Well, I think, it's not only begun, it's half done.  And maybe, that's enough!

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