Making salad mix

Combining varieties of lettuce seed for salad mix

Adding a pinch (5g) of fairly pricey Rushmore (a beautifully deep-red oakleaf) to a batch of salad mix. This is the basic all-lettuce summer blend: seven varieties, selected mainly for color (greens to reds), texture (flat to frilly), and to some degree, seed cost (the price range of lettuce varieties is quite extreme). This inexpensive digital gram scale makes it easy to add relatively small quantities of certain varieties, and keep each batch consistent. Weigh out, shake up in bottle, ready to go. Here: 100g – that’s a lot of little lettuce!

Seed shopping

Newly arrived seed

[From 9 May 2015] More seed: Not by the 50 lb bag, but it still adds up. You find a balance between buying smaller quantities that are quickly used so that you always have fresh, vigorous seed that’s ready to pop up at the least sign of moisture and warmth, and the huge savings from the bag that’s two or three times bigger than what you need for the season, and may be around for an extra year or more. Shopping! It’s like a human condition you can’t escape.

Seed catalog, 2016

Seed catalog 2016

Here’s my main seed catalog for this year. Once again, unlike several seasons ago, when I’d receive a dozen catalogs, order from two main suppliers, and pick up a few things from two or three others, lately, I’ve simplified and get everything in one place. This year, though, and for the second year in a row, there was a crop failure on a variety of mustard that I grow, and no close substitute, so I had to look elsewhere. Which, of course, opened up a world I’d kinda forgotten, the wonderful world of price comparison shopping.

The puzzling thing about pricing is the seemingly bizarre differences in price for the same items between different sources (it’s the same in seed as everywhere else). Some suppliers are clearly overall more expensive than others, so if quality and service are fine, it’s easy to go with the savings. But then, on any one item, prices can vary quite dramatically either way.  For example, I found the same variety of mustard at $10 and $17 a pound, and something similar at $50, at three different places, and  that’s expected. Less so is that, for just one common variety of lettuce, it’s $33 at my usual place, where the same amount is only $19 at a usually more expensive other supplier.

Yep, I could’ve gone on and on like this, with multiple lists and endless tabs of online catalog pages, like a full-on coupon clipper, looking for the ultimate bottom line big score. Instead, though, I ordered my mustard and stopped! Maybe not the best every-last-penny business thinking for a tiny farm, and tiny farm definitely does not equal big budget, but sometimes at least, for a few bucks, life is too short! :)

Prepping and seeding…

Prepping and seeding beds

This is exactly what small-scale looks like. Prepping and seeding another 20 or so beds, a couple already seeded with salad greens, the rest with compost lightly scattered—maybe a little more spreading, then tilling, sectioning into 50′ or 100′ by 4 or 5′ beds, smoothing, and seeding with the Planet Jr. Sometimes this tiny farming feels to me like being in a little boat on a big, big ocean. Maybe not that dramatic, but I’m definitely adrift in a deep blue sea! Fun.

This year’s catalog!

Seed catalog 2013

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!