A couple weeks ago a woman from the Young Farmers' Coalition asked me a for a photo of Cara and me farming together. Photos of us together are pretty rare, and finding one of us farming together is even rarer. Somehow, in the insanity that is summer on a vegetable farm, there's just not many pictures taken.
While searching, though, I found just such a photo from our first year at Roxbury--it was early fall and I'd decided to carry a camera for a couple days. I don't recall what I'd been up to here at Quincy Farm the day that I was looking back at that photo, but I was beat and demoralized... it just kind of happens sometimes when you work as hard and long as you can every single day, and never quite reach your expectations. Anyway, in this photo from four seasons ago, everyone looks like they're having so much fun! I thought, man, working for someone else (provided it's the right someone else of course) is such a good time, everybody's laughing and enjoying themselves. Starting out on your own is just masochistic.
Cara, Jody, and Justin picking sweet corn at Roxbury in 2008.
Mixed in with the flooding and failures and challenges, of course, there's moments of satisfaction--peeling back row cover to find huge healthy cucumber plants, finally getting an improvised equipment solution to work great, talking to people at market who are thrilled to get such great produce. And sometimes, there's fun. Just plain old little kid style fun.
Tonight the sun was setting through the trees as we finished up our task down below, and we whistled the dog in out of the river. Next thing you know, there's a full tilt game of dog tag going on, and all three of us are panting and grinning (maybe the dog always grins? Hard to tell). It didn't matter that I'd been up since 4:30, or that if this were last year, I'd already be showered, fed, and enjoying a cold beer by 8pm. We were filthy, exhausted, and behind schedule... and having a damn good time.
We created these raised beds by carefully misusing our tandem disc, then following with a modified flat-bed mulch layer (we removed a bunch of stuff and used some new brackets and spacers to hold the shovels backwards and outside the machine). Pretty good for not having the right tools for the job!
One of the many challenges of this year has been finding ways to do what we want to do when we're lacking the "right" tools for the job--how to stale seedbed efficiently, how to set up a good wash station without a fixed water supply in the barn, how to run irrigation up a hill without a high-powered pump. One of these struggles has been how to form nice, clean raised beds to seed and transplant onto. With soil like ours, raised beds can really be the difference between a good crop and a mess--they allow heavy rainfall to gather somewhere other than right around the plants' roots. The soil right around the plants stays moist but rarely saturated, so even heavier ground performs nicely. But we don't have a bed former. So instead we've been trying to misuse other tools into forming beds for us.
Today, at last, I think we've hit upon success: We misadjusted the disc and then carried it through the field very crooked so it formed long lumps of beds ("rough forming" them). Then we took our plastic mulch layer, removed a bunch of stuff, and used some purchased brackets and scraps of wood to mount the shovels backwards out where they're not meant to be. We'd used a similar combo earlier to force our flat-bed mulch layer to lay raised beds of plastic, but it wasn't quite working for forming dirt beds. Today we got the tweaks just right and it worked! With this rig and very careful use of the tractor's draft control (usually used for plowing) we were able to form pretty decent beds! It's nice when things work out like that...
We meant to use this blog primarily to post pictures to keep our fans, friends, and members up to date on things here at Quincy Farm. The combination of a slow internet connection and a (predictably) hectic work load has made that sort of hard, though. So, in no particular order, here's three weeks:
*We were featured in the Post Star
(FRONT PAGE!) and The American Prospect
. The Post Star article got some of the numbers a little upside-down (they reported we bought the farm for $95k, which is insane! I'd cut off my pinky to get this farm for that little... and they also said Luke is driving to NYC three times a week to work in film production--that's over 1,200 miles of driving each week?! Three times a month
is a little more accurate...)
*We bought and erected a used walk-in cooler. We'd originally planned to buy a used truck reefer body and mount it outside the north wall of the barn, but we needed a very particular size and couldn't find it. I suspect the cooler might be a better plan, anyway, and the price was right.
Our "new" walk-in. Putting one of these together brand-new must be a piece of cake. When they're old and in a pile and you don't know what goes where or if the cams are going to work or not, it's a little more fun.
*Even though we haven't had any normal rain in almost 2 weeks now, we did get nailed with hail last week. We were cleaning out the hay mow (so we could put away all the stuff we displaced when we cleaned out the lower barn and shed) and heard what sounded like a small war going off on the roof of the adjoining pole barn. We immediately rushed outside and frantically dragged in as many of our tender transplants (who were all outside hardening off in anticipation of transplanting) as we could. We somehow escaped with reasonably minimal damage despite the pretty good sized chunks of ice pelting down. The dog, Tucker, was thrilled--he likes to eat ice, so this was like snacks from Heaven.
What the hail?!
*It's finally drying out down below, we've got all our plastic laid, and are getting cover crops in to build the soil for next spring and beyond. We've got the first planting of tomatoes staked and trellised, and are on to our second planting of tomatoes and squash. Also fennel, tons of lettuce, chard, kales, esacarole, basil, parsley, multiple rounds of scallions, onion, and a bunch more. We lost a bunch of cabbage, but the squash is squashing, the broccoli is brocc'ing, the tomatoes are tomating, and things are going well. As the days get longer and longer we're struggling to keep on top of the weeds (aka, sod) in our newly plowed upper ground while still moving forward with the planting/seeding/harvesting, but have only written a couple of small spots off as terminal.
*The upper field is a total sandbox now, which we're battling with nearly a thousand feet of layflat laid up a hill, through a culvert, and up more hill. The nearly 50' of lift is more than our little pump (bought used and intended to only work on the flats for now) is up for, so we have to move the gun twice as often for half as much irrigated ground... but it's working. Temps in the upper 90's are keeping us sweating, but we'd much rather have too dry than too wet.
*We did our first two markets. We had less product than we would have liked, but the product was beautiful, we got a ton of positive feedback, and nearly sold out both days. We're really excited to be a part of the Glens Falls and Schenectady markets, and look forward to attending Ballston Spa soon.
*We continue to bust our humps to bring you the very best naturally-grown veggies!