We had a great weekend to work outdoors. The weather was unusually mild and best of all, it was dry enough to work in the fields. I was thinking about this today as I was weeding. Why is it that we now call ourselves farmers vs. gardeners which used to be our tag? The best thing that I can come up with is that we are now using heavy equipment to work our two vegetable fields, measuring 35′ X 75′, (not to mention the size of the orchard or the berry patches!) whereas the garden at our old house was at most a very productive 10′ by 30′.
The weather conditions restrict the tractor use unlike the same conditions a home gardener would face. So, case in point, my friend Joan recently sent me pics of the lovely cucumbers she had already picked from her home garden. They were gorgeous! We, however, were unable to get into our fields to plow and till the soil due to all the rain, so our cukes are well behind hers. We have blossoms and fruit set on but we are a couple of weeks short of picking that item and many others as well that fell into that same category. But, the last couple of days of dry weather has really helped our crops. There may be a point in time when we might install a smaller, kitchen garden for this contingency and other items that are not plow-able such as asparagus, rhubarb, etc., but for now, there is no time for this installation since it would be one more area to weed!
Back to the farmer vs. gardener analysis, we don’t fit into the farm operation category either when it comes to weeds. We are not using herbicide controls (or pesticides) of any kinds and it shows. We are basically sod busters who cleared the grass from large plots and plowed, tilled and planted. We have to constantly weed these areas since the grass and other unwelcome greenery is sometimes stronger than our plants! Kate calls the weeds ‘water hijackers’ and she is right. They take water and nutrients from the soil but some plants are not as weed friendly as others. Real farmers are not weeding with a hoe and trowel every day…but we are when we can!
Plants with surface roots tend to not do well when faced with invasive weeds and strawberries fall into this category. So this weekend we worked on the recommended ‘strawberry renovation’ process that is done directly after the harvest ends. This was not because the patch was overly weedy, but because the runners on the berries will choke out the patch unless you mow it down and remove some of the growth. So, our reading on this subject recommended mowing the patch with the mower at its highest blade level and collecting, if possible, all the clippings to discard to ward off disease, which we did. After spending the last season carefully tip toeing thru my dear strawberry patch, it was nearly traumatic to watch Dave push the hand mower thru it yesterday!
But, we know the patch will be better for it next year. So after mowing it down, making sure to leave the crown of the plants in tact, we will then re-create ‘aisles’ by taking our tiller thru and removing bunches of plants. If there are any readers who would like some free strawberry starts, this would be the time to show up at our door and start digging! I’m sooo serious! Strawberries are the easiest plants to grow if you have a sunny spot that is well drained, you cannot miss!
Other weeding this weekend was in the pepper, melon and cuke patches. They now look pretty good!
I also picked nearly another pound of blueberries yesterday and made netting repairs. I do so feel like a fisherman (woman) when I do this since the nets are expensive and yet take a bruising with the elements. The wind this past year whipped them around and stressed the nets but I also think when a bird finds an access point inside the netting – but is trapped and can’t find a way to get out – they peck at the net in such a way to create a hole. When I make repairs, I “sew” the net back together to prevent future intruders thru the holes. I actually use a heavy gauge thread (buttonhole thread) and one of my large eyed needles to make the repair in the field. I tried to take a couple of pics of this but it was difficult to get the focus on the netting since it is so small. Since you can’t see it, imagine me standing in the field in ungodly temps, with chiggers attacking my poor, old body, sewing up the netting seams! At one point yesterday, my needle dropped from the stitching thread and disappeared into the ground! The term “a needle in a haystack” was never more crystallized than at that moment! I wonder what my Hand Knitting Masters’ Program would think about my handiwork?!? (More on this subject this winter when I have time to knit again!)
Best of all was last night’s dinner which will reappear on the menu as a left over tonight. I made a pizza using the last jar of tomato sauce from the 2012 harvest, but included our current harvest of green peppers, cherry tomatoes and basil. Yum!
While eating some leftover pizza for tonight’s dinner, we will add our fresh green beans and a lettuce salad from our garden. One last thought….as I write about the events of our day/s here at the farm, I’m reminded that my father started writing his own version of a blog. He called it “Tales of Long Ago” and wrote about many episodes of his life, growing up on the family farm in Lexington, Missouri. He wrote them using his computer skills and ‘published’ them by printing and mailing them to his grandchildren. Each edition was a delightful chapter and peek into his life as a younger man. I hope my dad would appreciate my mission here to communicate with family and friends what is currently happening at Seven Oaks Farm and know that he would have enjoyed the read!