California has had a bunch of rain this month. And it’s taken a toll on our fields, especially the artichokes. Wet soil and wind combined to flatten many of the tall, in-full-production, gorgeous plants. I guess the weeds, mud compaction and cold hands are a small price to pay for the groundwater recharge. Onward!
Tag Archives: artichoke
Yes, celery root and parsnips are making an appearance on our table at the farmers’ market this week. We’re all longing for cooler, wet weather. Wandering around the fields this early evening, I am speechless for the beauty.
I am amazed I have not posted in such a long time. I am sorry to jump over months of farm activity.
This year, as always, we have much less produce coming out of the fields, than at other times of the year. We’re running into shortages at the market, running out of salad crops within an hour of the start. Beds in the field are damp and cold, not conducive to plant growth. But ground is drying and things are being planted. Our tables will again be full in a month or so. Let me catch you up, visually.
Rain is in the forecast, a novel situation for us in “Droughtville” (California). We’ve had a couple practice storms roll through, dropping an inch, more or less, just to tease us. But this week, we’ve heard up to 7 inches could fall. The whole community is excited, hoping this will open the storm door and eventually lead us out of the dry conditions we’ve experienced for several years now. The reservoirs are low and steps are being taken to monitor ground water supplies. We have two good wells on the property we use to irrigate year-round. And so far, that’s been enough. Paul has also switched most crops to drip lines for most of their life cycle, rather than overhead, sprinkler-type watering. We trade off using less water for more plastic and more labor.
The farm prepares for winter rains every year, whether they come or not. As the day length shortens and the nights cool, fields are cleared of finished tomatoes and eggplant, tilled until smooth and flat, composted and finally cover crop seed has been planted wherever we want to give the beds a carbon boost. Ditches are checked and regraded where necessary.
Hoops are set up over beds in case the rain becomes too much for small plants. Plastic covers can be pulled over the top of the hoops, if need be. We’re ready and waiting to have time in the shop, to clean and sharpen tools, to change the oil for the many machines, and to get to the projects that await, like the recently purchased cultivating tractor that needs a new front axle and for the whole under-belly apparatus to be rebuilt and mounted.
So we wait to see how much will fall.
Field restoration is in full swing. Organic farming, almost by definition, strives to improve the soils. Whether by adding organic matter through cover cropping, taking soil tests and boosting nutrients through application of whatever is needed or rock crushing!
Several of our fields are very rocky. Several years ago, Paul bought a rock crusher, which has been earning its keep this month. The rocky fields are slowly (driving as the crusher runs is very slow…15 minutes from one end of the 100 yard field to the other) becoming rock free.
Fields are drying quickly and the cover crop wants to be “harvested” and turned into the soil, creating an instant carbon boost helping with fertility and soil structure. Once mowed the debris from the crop digests for several weeks or until it’s structure is all but gone allowing the finished bed to be even and smooth.
Then the field will be rototilled. Sometimes when a field is tilled, the soil moisture is still too high to plant. To speed drying, furrows are made with shovels on the tractor.
Once a field is flat and weed-free, it’s ready to be planted. And there are many transplants lined up waiting for space.
The whole crew works the plantings. The irrigation has to be set up. Most everything is on drip lines which have to be pulled and hooked up to the water supply. Some crops require covers. For example, the first tomatoes and peppers (Padron) are in and covered.
Additionally, many things are being harvested at this time of year, adding to the day’s diversity and the community’s health. We are so happy to be able to grow this excellent food.
It’s a beautiful day. As Christmas approaches, we are collecting our thoughts and preparing to take a few days to devote to our family and friends. For me, that means baking cookies, planning menus and moping the floors.
For Paul, that means planting carrots.
We’re so excited to be hosting Christmas for the first time ever. Lots of my family are coming to town, spending time in Sonoma. We’re all avid cooks and this is certain to become a wonderful holiday to engage and enjoy each other. It’s sure to live on in my old memory bank as well.