Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December Farms



Two Sundays back I threw business to the wind. I drove out to the farm, I spent the money, I saw what's what. The radar told me that, despite the clouds, rain would be limited at most, and the thermometer was nothing less than a balm. I was concerned about weather stations reporting a lack of rain; less than a 1/16th in over a month. I was troubled by my inaction as it came to mulching the rows. I had little purpose, but a desire to get out to the farm.


It had rained, and by my unofficial gauge (a mixing pail) it had rained nearly an inch. I was quite surprised by the puddles in the walking rows, too, as it reveals a soil less porous than expected. The tilled beds were quite well drained, however, and I will work to keep water moving in the wet rows.

My single bale of straw, provided gratis by Larry of J&L Nursery, had since Black Friday to prove its field worthiness. It failed. Light to moderate winds had scattered sixty percent of the straw. On my way out to the farm, I stopped at a roadside nursery, now briskly selling trees and wreaths, but had been scouted for straw bales in early October. I decided not to purchase any, as they appeared quite seedy, some sprouting grass, and the evidence in the field left me feeling vindicated.

Several 'Tuscan' bulbs had sprouted above soil. This isn't a surprise. Some were sprouting at planting time, one month ago, so they've just continued on given the mild temperatures. I worry that we'll have another winter like the last, a winter where cold tolerant plants simply continue to grow, then get shocked by sudden dips to 20 degrees. This farm location favors the warm-tolerant garlic varieties -Turban, Creole, Silverskin, Artichoke, yet I do hope we find a balanced winter, with enough freezing air masses moving over the area to treat the other varieties to some cold. My prediction? It's unlikely.


I had planted the French Grey shallots first, in early November. I checked them several times since, and was quite surprised to see a number of them poking out of the ground, including this one -completely out. Shallots are planted shallowly so that their tips align with the soil surface. Many had risen to half or more an inch above the soil. What was going on? A nosy fox or crow? Geese? I saw little in the way of foot prints. I walked the rows to ensure that each had enough soil to cover them.

Afterward, I took to my neighbor's field where I had witnessed him planting a crop of garlic the weekend before Thanksgiving. Many of his planted garlic were up above the soil line, as if planted carelessly. I wondered what had happened here -giant white cloves lay sideways along each row.

I had hoped, but was one week too late, that I would be able to cut some saffron to take home. Benefiting from the warm and moist days, Crocus sativus has had time to sprout leaves and grow roots despite having sprouted in the studio before setting roots in soil. This forty foot row of three hundred will be uprooted late next summer and replanted in a new location, all part of the circumstance of a small acre and required cover cropping.

After lunch, I had little left to do, but attach a few of my remaining row markers. I took advantage of this gracious lull by walking the acreage -something I had been timid about previously, but then, I was also so busy planting. The blue pipes are new, our future irrigation system, and I followed them across the acres. I was lucky- my acre cornered at one of these heads. 

There was much to see in the other farmer's fields -cover crops like oats, greens and kale, brussels and cabbages. My favorite were the corpses of gourds, shattered and filled with rain water.

My journey terminated here, where black compost met a new cover crop. As I approached the compost piles, a tractor made its way over to me. It was Scott, the farmer (and writer -new book just out) who manages the adjacent farm. We chatted about this and that, particularly the problem with his garlic. What's that? Whole rows of garlic have popped up from the soil? Apparently the roots grew so vigorously over the last month, with the soil dry and loose, that those roots pushed the lightweight cloves right out of the soil! 

I was lucky though, wasn't I, for planting more deeply than most. Only my shallow-planted shallots had come up. It's wise to roll the beds (if one has that equipment) so that it uniformly firms the soil over the clove. I do not have this equipment, and hope that my garlic stays put! It may be a while, too long really, before my next visit to the farm in late January.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for keeping us updated!! I've planted some Hudson Clove at the local community garden as the Asiatic I grew in my garden didn't store well.

    That compost makes me jealous!

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