by Abbey Daniel
It is the third week of May and we frequently say now, “Look, it’s a farm, it’s a real farm.” In the last 8 weeks since I started the 2016 season with Annie and Sean as their new Assistant Manager, we have seeded countless flats of lettuce and spinach, beets and Bok Choy. We have seeded, then potted up, then potted up again, and finally planted out what seems like endless tomatoes. These once small and seemingly fragile ‘maters are now the big guys and gals of the farm and are showing signs of their first tiny fruits. The peppers are getting bigger every day in our new greenhouses. They reside alongside their smaller, more fragile friends, the cucumbers, and now eggplant as well.
Last week we had the first dry and briefly warm and sunny days in quite some time. The unremitting rain that brought in the month of May made field work and general spring farm tasks a little more challenging—such work had to be completed with rain suits donned and mud splashes as our most prominent fashion patterns. To honor such an exciting recent respite in the rain, we laid down a new experimental kind of weed deterrent…paper mulch! This planting paper comes on rolls and boasts an ability to reduce weeds while being completely natural and biodegradable. We loaded many rolls up on the wagon of the tractor and began to unroll them in what will be our solanaceous field (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). The material was curious; strong, yet clearly more delicate than thick and almost indestructible landscape fabric, but stretchy and flexible, almost like cloth. Best of all, one side of the paper is pink and the other, lavender. At lunch as we stared out at the fields, we admired how pretty the paper mulch looks from afar, a block of alternating pink and purple hues, separated by dark reddish brown earth pathways.
We planted out all our peppers and eggplant into this experimental new planting material and seeded clover in the pathways.
To finish out the first day of that warmer week, we took advantage yet again of the dry conditions and weeded…everything we could get our hands and hoes on. We weeded the onions, the lettuces, the spinach, the carrots, and the beets. We used collinear hoes, and wheel hoes, and, at times, our hands when certain thick clumps of chickweed proved relentlessly stubborn. Due to the still-damp soils, shortly after passing the wheel hoes through the pathways, I noticed the beauty that was unfolding. I was seeing the contrast between the lighter un-hoed soils, the darker, freshly uncovered damp earth, and the rich dark and light greens of the lettuces, spinach, and beets. Even weeding brings a certain kind of joy.
Finally, as the day came to a close, we checked on our sheep friends. Our final two expecting ewes gave birth during the past week, one to a ram lamb and the other a single ewe lamb. The births of the season have mostly been happy and healthy. We did however, have one lamb, whom we nicknamed Brown Tips for his brown-tipped ears, that needed to be bottle fed for a week and another big single ram lamb, Rhubarb, who was having some serious misgivings about leaving his mama’s warm, familiar belly. In the end, he needed a little pull to make his way into the world, but is now, arguably, one of the cutest of the bunch.
Within a week or two, our fully blossomed strawberries will begin heavily yielding sweet fruits (which we can finally add to the rhubarb we've been harvesting). Summer will soon be swiftly upon us to bring another season of good food and good memories.