[From 4-May-2013] Toothpick timekeeping system. Two toothpicks means two days hardening off in the sun. Simple and, I suspect, sustainabls – a single box of toothpicks could probably be made to last a lifetime. For when you’re not doing everything at once…
Tiny farming: Tools
These TFB posts all deal in some way with tools, machinery and materials for small-scale farming. The equipment used in large-scale agriculture is simply too big, and most of the gear used in home gardens is too small or lightweight… Tiny farming (and really big gardening) requires its own special tools…
[From 15-Apr-2013] Tape time again, measuring out this year’s market garden. I’ve come up with various schemes to do away with this step as an annual thing, but end up wanting to move things around, or accidentally tilling under a critical stake or two left from the year before. The method is pretty primitive: walk around with a 200′ reel tape measure, trying to keep things square (the 3-4-5 trick!), staking an outline that can be used later to easily line up smaller sections as needed. That’s Rochelle at the other end, doing this two-person is the preferred way to go. The eventual result: a new garden map.
Picked up a small shipment of new plug sheets and webbed trays at the post office. I really stretch ‘em out, have some going for years—they’re reusable, but not incredibly tough, especially when you take them into the field for transplanting. Handle with care and all that, and replace as needed! These are 72-cell sheets, my basic standby. Bigger is generally better here (my other standby is 38-cells), but there’s only so much room under the lights: if you keep the timing tight, don’t leave things in there too long, they’re fine for just about any small seed. Waste no space!
Yep, the refractometer has arrived by mail! It’s quite exciting. This one is calibrated for the Brix scale—it indicates the amount of sugar and other dissolved solids in water. Drip a couple of drops of juice from the veg of your choice onto the screen, point at light, and peer through eyepiece to find out how nutrient-dense it really is (it’s a tool to see if we can measure results from this season’s remineralization plans). As easy and meaningful as it sounds? Well, we’ll see!
[From 1-March-2013] Checking in on the winter greens mini-experiment. These guys have been through six weeks of up and down weather, balmy days well above zero (reaching 60-70°F/15-20°C on a sunny day in the hoophouse) , and many extreme freezing nights. So, how did it all do? The Bloomsdale spinach, uncovered (above), is fine, although after all that freezing and thawing, the taste and texture changes (good to eat, but probably wouldn’t sell). It wasn’t the plan, but this spinach can be trimmed back to see how new growth does in spring. The other beds, all brassicas (tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, mustards), left half uncovered, are completely toasted. Meanwhile, under a single layer of medium-weight row cover, arugula (below) is good, perky and quite tasty. Not the most extensive and scientific testing plan, but combined with the experience of harvesting through December and in mid-January, it’s a solid starting point for next winter’s goal of full-on, unheated winter greens production!
For the record, this year’s seed catalog! It arrived in late December, and I’ve been thumbing through, but it’s still not well-worn—I pretty much know what I’m ordering. It’s as exciting as always to get the new catalogs, but a bit more symbolic now, start of a new season and all that, than it used to be at the beginning, when I pored over it for hours. Like anything else, do it for a while and it becomes…easier. Also once again for recent years, almost all of my seed will come from just this one place, William Dam, a family owned company not too far from here, that carries only untreated seed. Selection does the trick, service is great, and I like talking to them on the phone. High Mowing and, of course, Johnny’s, both relatively close (Maine and Vermont, to my Ontario), have a lot more in general, and High Mowing is 100% organic seed, but at the moment, I’m fine with Dam! Everyone’s farming has its flow!