Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Feeling the green encroachment, then the light!

OK. This is a blogpost sans farm pictures. A few reasons. Our field looks like crap! I mean, really!! One of the things that Half Pint Farm tends to pride itself on is the tidiness of our farm. This year, all things are conspiring against us to make that tidiness a reality. First it was the rain. Next it was the rain. Then it was the belt on our mower going out - can't mow and keep tidy. Then it was the rain. Then it was the potato beetles thrashing our eggplants... Anyone with a garden can tell you - the rain makes weeds happen, and so....soon the weeds take over. They are like mighty genetically engineered machines - their only job is to find every space not inhabited by other green and take it over with their green. As we drive down to the Intervale everyday down that severely unmaintained road, we try to see the length of the road through the tunnel of green, and can't. The way is shut with green. 5 years ago, our good friend Art Escobado came to visit us during the waning days of July and he fairly unwillingly worked with us for one day on our farm (we had worked together on a farm in Colorado in college, and he vowed never to farm again - HA! Serves you right for maintaining long lasting meaningful relationships with farmers! Can't escape it Art, sorry!). As we bumped down the road to the farm in silence, thinking about the long day of weeding ahead, Art looked around and exclaimed, "So, who maintains the encroachment?" Well, our answer at the time was Mother Nature. Mother Nature maintains the encroachment of oppressive green foliage with frost in fall. Like a hacker with a select all and delete command, she selects all the broad leafed plants and deletes them with a below 32 degree night. BUT. During the season, technically, it is our job to maintain the encroachment. Daily we look at the green that mocks us - the crabgrass marching ever vigilantly towards the carrots, the galansoga that crops up with her multitudes and takes huge hunks of earth with her when you try to remove her from the baby salad mix, the fine grasses that so far have no scientific name in our minds, but show up they do when we least expect them in the paths (who would think that the paths - the places we trod upon most frequently - would be the weediest?) Well, they are, and that's just where it starts. If we don't get the path weeds, then that spells certain doom for the row crops, unless we simply do the deed, cast our pride from our shoulders, bend our knees and scoot along on all fours eliminating each weed, placing it in a bucket to haul it to the fringes of our farm (there they won't get us!) instead of allowing them to re-root themselves in the inviting moist soil. This, at least, feels like we're accomplishing something. Then the rain comes. Then the mosquitoes. Today, we must have killed millions as we harvested the haricot vert and the artichokes. Yes, us organic farmers even stooped to using insect repellent - not the organic kind either, mind you - we had to bring out the big guns; you see, our sanity was at stake. If you want to see semi-sane farmers at market handling your food, you, too, must praise the insect repellent. We promise that we wash our hands before handling your produce. Yes, the hands are one thing that is fair game for the mosquitoes - sacred to us - no DEET shall touch the hands.
SO. We try and beat back the green, we try and maintain sanity as mosquitoes enter ears, noses, throats and bite through three layers of insect-repellent-soaked shirts. We do this and realize: MAN! The plants sure do LOVE the rain!!! It has to be said, everything is growing like you wouldn't believe - the foliage on every crop is not to be imagined! The only thing seeemingly suffering is the turnips, radishes, arugula and lettuce crops - they simply melt in all this humidity. The broccoli, too, is fairly deficient in nutrient uptake (sandy soils can't hold too many nutrients with all this leaching rain!). However, get a load of everything else! This is a BUMPER crop year for baby artichokes, haricot vert, and carrots, carrots, carrots! The onions (though harvested early) are big and wonderful! The peppers and cukes are abundant and the tomatoes are plentiful - with a little more sun, they will ripen and then we can all revel in the bounty of summer! This, my friends, is the light through the green filter - this is why we endure the encroachment everyday.
It is times like this that we need to realize that the weakest link here is our will to persevere in the presence of potential flooding, endless demoralizing days in the rain, the fog of whining and biting mosquitoes, and the persistent weeds and pests (might be a shorter eggplant season than anticipated - potato beetles be vanquished!!!). We must remember that we are the weakest link - the truth is that the plants LOVE the rain, and they will march on in the presence of free water and do their best for us. We must be there to meet the challenge and harvest all they offer us. The season is already too short up here in the north - we will do what we have to do to - make the most of it, manage the encroachment as best we can, and bring the best possible produce to market in spite of it all. Happy August!!! May the next blogpost be riddled with pictures of beautiful produce!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

YES! YES! YES! Absolutely a beautiful "picture" of the farmer. Here, here, for the month of August! You both have my complete sympathy. By the way, Purple Martins are the answer to your mosquito problem. Well worth putting up a Purple Martin condo, or use gourds.

Jane said...

Thanks, Mara and Spencer, for enduring the mosquitoes - or, as a friend who once lived in Anchorage called them, "The state bird of Alaska." :)

By the way, the artichokes were absolutely decadent - par-boiled and sauteed just as you suggested with some olive oil and garlic. Our guests LOVED them!