Life has been insanely busy, as anyone who knows anything about farming would imagine. There was a point in mid-June when it occurred to me that eventually the days would start getting shorter, and we’d *have* to work a little less. I don’t know why I thought that, since we were working much longer than daylight hours back in March, but I did. Now, though, I feel like the shrinking days are a noose around my neck—a few weeks ago, it was totally light at 5am. Now the horizon’s just lightening… and while before I could work in the field til 9:30 or even 10, now it’s too dark to do much after 8:30. Yes, it’s forcing us to work a little less, but at the cost of getting less done. Kind of a lame trade-off… and the couple weeks of scorching weather we got in exchange wiped out any relief there may have been.
In the spring, when it was constantly cold and rainy, I wondered what in the world we’d been thinking to spend a squillion dollars on the Frankenstein patchwork irrigation scheme we have. We put together something in between hard-set and a traveling gun-- we have a massive run of 3” layflat with camlock joints every 100’. We have a single tripod with a gun on it, and we run it an hour at the end of the line, stop, move it down to the next joint, hook it up, run it an hour, stop, etc. I was supposed to build a pallet-mounted reel to hold the hose so we could move the system from one field to another efficiently, but it never happened. It’s a nuisance compared to a spendy traveling gun, but it’s saved our butts, and it lets us get away with a tiny little pump.
Learning new ground is not just learning new soil, but also flora and fauna. We’ve been greeted by the usual cast of vegetable weeds (purslane, chickweed, pigweed, lambs’ quarter, weirdly small and sporadic bursts of galinzoga, velvet leaf, bind weed, wild mustards and radish, etc). Bind weed, which we have some experience with, is rampant here. It regenerates when its roots are cut by cultivation, and it climbs neighboring plants, making it hard to pull. It's in close competetion for Public Enemy #1. We also have some new weeds, the chief of which is dog fennel:
This guy looks like the Christmas tree from a Charlie Brown special, and grows up and down with uncomfortable speed. The Christmas tree part outcompetes crops, and when it’s small cuts easily along with salad mix, where it is thin and hard to see and fish out. The tap root makes it a pain to pull out of the beds and impossible to effectively hoe. I hate you, Dog Fennel.
(EDIT: While trying to identify a new, different weed, I discovered this thing is actually Field Horsetail. Worse name, and worse plant, as it turns out. Also, famously resistant to nearly every herbicide in current use, which explains why it's rampant in our previously conventionally-farmed fields. So, now: I hate you, Field Horseweed. More.)
We also have a crazy menagerie of wildlife. The pond is packed with frogs (as are both the upper and lower fields—don’t they need to be near water? What the heck?) and we have more different songbirds that you can shake a stick at, perhaps because of the river. It’s nice right now, but when we one day grow sweet corn I expect to loathe them. We also have the usual boring mammals. The cold-blooded guys are the stars, though—one day there were several huge snapping turtles sunning themselves on our black mulch… or so I thought, until Cara saw one of them lay an egg! We left that bed be for a while, so hopefully Turtle Jr. got off to a safe start. When we went to turn on the irrigation, though, we saw the hell Momma had wrought:
Another cold-blooded guy we met was a squiggly little fellow the dog turned up. He didn’t seem interested in playing with Tucker, maybe for the best. I didn’t know we had these up here!
Otherwise things are great here at Quincy Farm. We’re feeling the effects of the fields’ not being limed last fall (there was standing corn into late fall, and standing water into early summer) which is having textbook effects on some crops, especially cucurbits. While it’s a bummer to see the plants struggling, we’re still managing to get enough harvest out for market… we just don’t expect each planting to produce as long as we’d want. Other crops are thriving despite the low pH and calcium issues, though, and we keep getting great feedback at market. We're burning the wick at both ends, and in the middle for good measure, but it's almost August, which means it's almost Sepetmber, too. Weeds are growing more slowly, but they're setting seed, so it's still a war out there.
In the flats, we have a mix of sunn hemp and sudex growing as soil-building summer covers in what will be our mid-season ground next year. The dry weather gave us a window to use a neighbor's subsoiler ahead of a broad swath of red and yellow clover, which will go in shortly.
The upper fields have buckwheat that’s about to plow down in preparation for oats and peas for the fall. The last of the upper ground that isn’t yet plowed has just been limed and will be broken in anticipation of sweet clover shortly. I keep saying this, but I really mean it—if we can just get on top of the weeds right now, I think we can hang on through the end of the summer. Honestly, though, for a first-year I think we’re doing alright.