Friday, May 31, 2013

Weeder In Chief

If I didn't live in the city I'd probably see the garden in the earliest morning light more often, but then I wouldn't see this city garden, would I. The sun now rises at 5:27 am, and this scene is an hour later.

Despite the holiday there was very little traffic, maybe because of the rainy and cool weather the two days prior. We had made such good time I detoured to Agway in Riverhead to pick up another 10 bags of dolomitic lime (I need 65 bags). We drove through the Hampton villages before the Memorial parades began, but as men in uniform assembled, and were on farm by just after nine. Betsy came along, her first trip to the farm since we first visited after the land trust had accepted my proposal. That was April, 2012. This time she and I will be weeding. 

Garlic must be weeded. I've only had to do a little this spring, which has been quite a boon, but now the warm weather weeds: crabgrass, pigweed, lamb's quarters, and an unknown plant with basal rosette are really taking off. Our sharp hoes and, at close quarters, our fingers set the weeds back another two weeks. It's all one can really do, disturb them by disturbing the soil. Some will continue to grow, only slowed down by our actions, and new weed seeds will be exposed to light, heat, and moisture enough to sprout. All we are doing is buying time, enough time to allow the garlic to perform its best without the competition.

Around 3 in the afternoon, Betsy asked for coffee. I also filled the thermos of another farmer out on his field. Is it only in the Hamptons do farmers drink fair trade, organic coffee?

I didn't have time last visit to deal with the Colorado Potato Beetle. My two rows of potatoes are not a priority, but this time I took forty five minutes to pluck them off the tater leaves. Of course they're mating now and it's the young that can really do in the crop.

With the sun raking across the field, it wasn't too hard to spot the bright orange eggs. On the green leaves they jump out, but I also found them on nearby pieces of dead grass and the undersides of weed leaves. You can see the eggs through the leaves with the sun hitting this way -the dark spot on the semi-translucent leaf gives them away. I'm sure I missed many, but the less there are, the less damage to the young plants. Lady bugs and other predatory creatures will also hunt for the young beetle larvae. There are no organic pesticides worth trying (and very few conventional poisons as well).

Nearing sundown, the critters crawl into any nook or cranny they can find.  I cannot determine if this is creepy or cute. 

After 9 hours of weeding, two hours of liquid fertilizing and beetle picking, our next task was harvest. We harvested one row of pea greens, leaving the other for a neighbor farmer to sell at market. We also clipped spinach, arugula, pac choi, mizuna, and baby kale. Highly dependent on rainfall, and lacking organic matter, our greens crop quality is limited.  I pay for irrigation, but the system is unwieldy and not built around the needs of my operation. There are flea beetles in this field (they make little holes in the leaves of greens, peas excepted). All said, given that we missed spring planting at the beach farm, it is sweet to have these greens to eat and they are quite tasty if not perfectly tender and attractive.

I try take some time to look things over at the end of the day's work, to soak up the atmosphere, to see something unseen. It doesn't always work.

Betsy decided to pick some kale flowers. They've been pretty popular with the other farmers, each coming by to harvest for their markets.

We left near dark, the summer glow in the sky long after the sun had set. The traffic was moving along until we arrived near the intersection of Montauk Highway and the Southhampton Bypass. We decided to stop at the poor, but convenient Princess Diner for a late meal. By the time we left the diner, the traffic was moving along again. Nearing midnight, I stopped at the only highway pull-off on the LIE, just past the Sagtikos Parkway, for a few minutes rest. Ten or fifteen minutes with eyes closed will do to regain my focus on driving, but this time I didn't want to wake up and we stayed there until after one. I had to force myself up, which I did, and we sped on the nearly empty highway back to Brooklyn.

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