Tiny farming: Fieldwork

Shrouded against the cold

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[From 11-May-2013] Shrouded against the cold: Not much to look at, but nice for the tomatoes, peppers and other seedlings on the tables underneath. It’s a double layer of medium weight floating row cover, tried and true, a familiar spring sight in the unheated greenhouse, good for a few degrees of protection in the forecast overnight near-freeze. Three days of chilly nights, they say.

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Your basic hand weeding

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[From 21-Jun-2012] Hand weeding, what can I say, the cornerstone task on a tiny farm. Mel dives in (that’s beets in there, and volunteer tomatoes as weeds). This section has been unusually neglected, and still it’s really not as bad as it might look: in ideal start-of-summer conditions, what a difference just a few days can make, but it’s not too dense or deeply rooted, and a couple of hours of quick hand movements can cover a lot of area. We’ll also wheel hoe down the outside edges of the beds and down the paths, which is at least five times as fast! Give weeds too much of a head start, though, and Hand vs Weed is not a fair fight. Timing!

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CPBs

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[From 4-Aug-2012] Pre-squish: Brand new Colorado potato beetle, larva about the size of a match head, on eggplant. Around the leaf edge, older damage done by bigger CPBs. Recently, for whatever reason, they’ve been around but not in numbers enough to be a big problem. The crazily erratic weather of the last few fears seems to have obliterated regular pest cycles, so we just see ‘em and pick ‘em…whenever.

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When the well runs dry

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[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.

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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!

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Rock, pebble, stone

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[From 8-May-2013] Imagine a world of soil without stones… In the three farming locations I’ve fully worked, they’ve been everywhere and in all sizes. You get used to them: collecting heavier, smoother specimens for weighting row cover, moving even bigger ones to avoid breaking tines on the rototillers, piling up the grapefruit and orange-sized rocks by the tractor bucket load, and raking the smallest out of the way of the seeders. I have experimented a bit with how much I can leave and still have the seeders not bounce around and lay down seed unevenly. Raking as the last step of bed preparation is still the way we go.

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TFB & the Web

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