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Brassica greens galore

 //attack 41,685 war1 a:90000,wo:2000,w:2000,s:4000,t:2k // 1.41 miles, 12m:34

Brassica greens in perfect, flea beetle hole-free shape, thanks to good weather and…floating row cover. Rochelle is cutting mizuna—in the pic, there’s green and purple mustards, mizuna and tatsoi. Our extra focus on salad mixes this season continues to go over well, with a Mild Mix, Zesty Mix, and Mix of the Week, plus everything bagged individually. To fill the line-up, we have our own lettuce blend, the brassicas just mentioned plus arugula, all grown separately and as a mustards-mizuna-tatsoi mix (the tatsoi tends to be too small to easily cut in, so that’ll be out next round), spinach, and chard and beet greens (both grown tightly spaced). The greens harvest bin of choice this season is bushel baskets lined with a new clear bag each time (easy to toss into, hold a lot, the bags stay put even in wind and can be easily lifted out). Will be fun to expand the greens line-up and tweak the planting and harvest next year!

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Praying mantis visit

Praying mantis

It came with the greens. A praying mantis perched on the edge of a lettuce mix harvest basket and took the ride in. Kool kat, with a wraparound look. Friendly, too, if insects can be, calm at least, let it walk on my hand to transfer it to a fence post. Don’t see them often, so I looked ‘em up and…yikes! “Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” Kinky and kinda brutal. But reading on, it seems this behavior may be induced by the distractions of being constantly observed in the lab, and not a normal practice. There we go again, messin’ with stuff. Well, this one got away. In the wild, it’s considered a beneficial insect for the veg patch, a massive hunter that eats “most pest insects, mites, eggs, or any insect in reach.” Nice. And it’s apparently the only insect to hunt moths at night, and the only one fast enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. Go, mantis!

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Saved by the barrel

Water barrels

No luck with the dug well—at this point, the standing level has dropped around 10 ft. since spring, and the replenish rate is barely a foot in 24 hours—so it’s on to other water sources and delivery methods. As with most things on this tiny farm, the ultimate fallback tends to be something really labor-intensive. (Hahahahaha. I have to laugh.) In this case: WATER BARRELS. In a thankfully typical seek-and-ye-shall-find situation, there is a supplier of used barrels just down the road. Who’d have thought! These are standard 55 gallon, available in steel or plastic, and only about $10 a pop, with optional lids for a couple bucks more. Of course, they’re food-grade, which means, coated on the inside and used only for food, with those weathered white labels telling the story: pickles, perhaps. Strategically located around newly seeded beds, the barrels are filled from the house well (via the former dead well pipe) and then, 2-gallon watering cans do the final job. We still need rain as things grow, but this will work for germination and seedlings. Whatever it takes!

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Rain watch begins

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The season’s weekly rain watch begins. Weeks start on Monday. The big 25 on the rain gauge is the magic 25mm/1″ mark, the rule-of-thumb ideal for a week—an inch of slow and steady rain over a few hours, and of course all the rest, sunshine, that’s just…beautiful. A 1/2″ is an OK minimum for a bit. More than an inch a week ongoing for a while can be troublesome, depending on the crop and stage its—disease, small seed washed out, bigger seed rotting, whatnot, it is all possible :)—and it does occasionally happen. So far this week, 18mm here and 20mm total, so, doing fine!

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Rock garden

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Rocks, rocks, as far as the eye can see. This is how the market garden field looks, before the post-winter work up. Months of snow and rain, have washed the surface rocks clean, so it looks worse than it is. Still, a lotta rocks, pushing up fresh each year.

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Bare-root transplant

Bare-root tomato transplant

It’s out of the moist paper germination environment, and into the wilder world of the cellpak. This is a baby golden cherry tomato—can’t you tell?!—going into standard sterile seedling mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. As long as the root hasn’t gotten too long, I just plunk ‘em down, cover and water in, letting the roots find their own way down (a few years back, I probably would have made tiny holes and painstakingly inserted each one, but really, they seem to do that work a lot more efficiently). On a side note, I think I heard that perlite or vermiculite (maybe both) have made it into some people’s not-so-environmentally correct category, along with peat. So complicated—I will look into that. :)

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