When the well runs dry


[From 2-Jul-2012] End of the line: what it looks like when your well bottoms out and the water stops flowing. Just like a power failure… We’ve  been watching the level in the dug well we’re using, and the refresh rate is pretty dismal. Today, while watering in newly seeded beds, the water finally stopped. After last fall’s failed well drilling, figuring out short and longer term water solution is big here now. The water will come back eventually in this well, but the water table drops as the winter reserves go, and at this point, the well won’t refill high enough or quickly enough to be useful even for seedlings. Water barrels filled from the house well and distributed by watering can is a possible labor-intensive emergency measure. And of course, there is always…rain.

50 Things I’ve Learned from Tiny Farming: #38 Use a pencil

50 Things I've Leaned from Tiny Farming: #38

See the growing list of 50 Things I’ve Learned from Tiny Farming:

#38 – Use a pencil: You can find no finer quick-planning and sketching technology than the PENCIL, used with a crisp sheet of paper, a supporting clipboard, and a quality white eraser. There is a curious kind of commitment only a pencil can bring to the start of something. The impermanence, the erasability, the chance to begin now but make sweeping changes later, is the cool thing. Pencils are perfect for roughing out garden maps, preliminarily filling in tricky forms, and sketching all sorts of construction and fabrication projects, mobile chicken coops to better farm stand shelving (even crudely done, a picture is worth…a lot). Forget digital—lappies, tablets, smartphones, batteries, cables, software, formats and files—there’s nothing like good old straightforward no-frills paper and pencil (traditional or mechanical) for freeing you up to think!

Good gloves

Good gloves for fall fieldwork

Used right, these gloves are quite fantastic. The different brands I’ve tried have all been pretty much the same: fairly heavy stretch fabric for warmth and a snug fit, and a rough-textured latex coating for waterproof protection and a good grip. Perfect for fall field work, when the temperature is around zero, and everything tends to be damp and cold. They’re close-fitting and not too thick, so the touch is sensitive enough for hand-harvesting of root crops in moist soil when you have to feel around, coiling muddy hoses, picking up various field debris. They’re also tough enough to use as work gloves, to move stuff like damp wood and metal. The trick is that they’re waterproof, and they also breathe, so your hands don’t sweat and freeze they way they would if they were completely waterproofed, but the tradeoff is, you can’t use them in water, only to grip wet things, the minute the fabric gets soaked, well, the fun is over. Most of the time, I choose bare hands: getting nicked, freezing, whatever, it’s usually worth it for that direct contact, and gloves are one less thing to keep track of. When I do decide to use gloves, having the right ones for the job is a little pleasure, and these guys have their place. Nice!

Cold-grown salad


[From 20-Nov-2013] Cold-grown: Tiny lettuce leaves, crisp, fresh and delicious…and grown oh so slowly, without cover, in the unheated greenhouse, through many freezing nights, some down to -15C. Still a while till it’s big enough to harvest, and it was seeded way back at the beginning of October: that’s already 50 days compared to the usual spring/summer 25-35 days for baby lettuce mix). Also, the cold effect gets trickier as the leaves get bigger. All in all, though, seeing food grow in the cold with a minimum of help is quite fantastic.

Farmers’ market tool

Last One sign: farmers' market stand

Blogged about before, still in service (no dirt streaks or coffee spills so far), it’s the original, the very first Last One sign (I’m pretty sure it is), brilliant sales tool (nearly 100% successful!), now part of the Almost Gone collection, Last 1-2-3-4-5 and Not Many Left. This one is on some near-perfect unheated greenhouse spinach. Fun with signage at the winter farmers’ market.

Empty shelves


[From 26-May-2012] OK, so it’s only the result of a really good price on rice cakes, and emptied shelves aren’t unusual during sales. Still, this time, standing in from of them, I suddenly imagined how fast ALL the shelves could empty, and wonder what we’d do right after that happened. Not an everyday cheery thought (I hope; it’s not for me)…and it quickly passed! Anyhow, I do have lettuce.