Thursday, April 28, 2011

Firsties: Rondout Valley HS comes to SPSCF

We had our first youth visit yesterday in the form of five kids and a teacher from Rondout Valley High School. Not knowing quite what to expect in terms of everything - weather, demeanor, interest, knowledge, gum-chewing, eww-saying and whatnot, I set up all the components, from cut potatoes for planting to a picnic blanket for resting, way in advance and tried to mentally prepare myself for incoming young energy.

I always get a little nervous before working with youth groups. When adults come to the farm, they have made the conscious choice to be there. If there is too much mud or too many bugs, I can say to them as well as myself, "Well, what did you expect? Get over it and get your hands in the dirt!" But when kids come to the farm, even with a teacher or parent in tow, I feel like I have to straddle the thin line between giving them a good learning experience (get your hands in the dirt) and scaring them away (ewww, dirt). Usually the worrying is moot. I've found that people, even teenagers, like getting dirty even if they don't admit it. As long as they feel like they are doing something meaningful and purposeful, the dirt becomes an accessory to happiness and fulfillment and anyways, at the end of the day, they can always wash it off.

So without too much analyzing, I'll just say we all had fun. They: Wayne, Donny, Jordan, Hannah and Christine (aren't you impressed I remembered names?) did so many good things like plant all the potatoes and onions I had room for, seed the summer squash and zucchinis, put in herbs of all kinds and seed the next succession of spinach, that I was able to go home early and rest up after a super long day the day before. The really great thing is that they enjoyed themselves. Awesome questions like, "Where are the spinach seeds located on the spinach plant?" and, "How can you tell when onions are ready to harvest?" were asked. They are looking forward to coming back again, which I hope will be soon. I imagine the spinach and squash will be up and we'll get to plant the Three Sisters Garden, on special request. Thanks Guys! I'll see you soon!

planting parsley in the herb bed

Donny practicing the "squishy squishy, pull" technique of removing seedlings from the cell pack

I stole this idea from Liberty View Farm. Doesn't it just make you happy?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The farm: then, now, and super now

Remember when the South Pine lot looked like, well, just a lot? Ya, I don't either, but I do remember what it looked like when I got there. There was a community garden in place when I took it over and although I am usually a fan of community gardens, somehow this one didn't make the cut. Every once and a while I feel a small pang of guilt for completely re-making the place, but I do feel better knowing the neighbors approve of the change and the former gardeners have found another spot, right in front of The Queens Galley, as a matter of fact.
So here's a trio of pics. The first one is when I first worked on it last fall. The pile of debris is the ramshackle fence that I razed in favor of something more...well....fence-like. The second is the farm three days ago. The third is Daniel's 21st century version of the farm - design school style.

Baby Pictures

Now that all (and by "all", I mean "most of", there is still a small pile left that I'm not quite sure what to do with) the dirt is in the beds, it's time fore planting! Lots of veggies are going in this week, and sending all my little babies out there into the world is kind of like taking your kids to their first day at school. At least I can only guess that this is true, as I don't have any kids. But for right now, this is as close as I get. I've tried to raise them right, I hope that they don't get bullied by bigger, tougher weeds and I have to just prepare myself to let go and let nature take it's course. But not without a few pictures first.
If you look through all my farmy photos, you'll notice that every year they start to drop off right around when the first tomatoes get weeded. This is because after that time (say around June 1st) there is no time for anything beyond the basics: food, shower, sleep, farm. Sometimes I forget to do one of those items, except for the farming.
So enjoy these pictures while they last. Unless, of course, Leone or some other picture loving geek decides she wants to take over the photo logging for me.
Desiree Dwarf Blauschokker peas. Fancy name, diminutive plant. Eventually they will make blue-purple podded peas. Yes, fancy indeed.

A mix of Nabechan and Red Baron spring onions. I'm hoping the red and white will look good together in a bunch.

Surrey arugula in the front and Renegade spinach in the back. Remember when these were itty bitty? Well, now they are still small, but at least they have their first true leaves!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I have the best volunteers (and husband) ever!

Daniel made this video after our work party on Saturday. Look at them go! Thanks everybody!

From Tree to Shroom- the life of a mushroom project

the Limber Tree guys hard at work at another site. they are serious

Way back in January we had some folks from Limber Tree Services come in and trim the trees on the farm. They took out the white pine that was shading out a great deal of the garden area and also removed some limbs (some of which were diseased and weak) from the silver maple and the extremely tall cherry. They did an incredible and responsible job and left us with more light, two big piles of mulch and a collection of assorted logs. I originally thought the logs would be used as firewood but on another outing had the opportunity to sit in on a mushroom cultivation workshop. While sitting there I had a revelation. The logs we had were perfect for shitake mushroom cultivation and the hardwood mulch could foster a crop of wild winecap mushrooms.

What makes a log good for mushroom cultivation? It depends on the species you are trying to grow, but in the case of shitakes, a hardwood such as oak or maple is best and a late winter cutting is perfect in that the log has some time to degrade all the enzymes and chemicals that would normally prohibit the growth of mushrooms on a healthy living tree, but it still has enough moisture and nutrients available to feed the developing mycelium. The smaller logs are best - the ones with a diameter less than 14 inches and if you can see small cracks radiating from the core, your log is ready. This should all coincide with early spring, warmer temperatures and enough time for the mushroom to grow and settle in before the next winter.

Through the magic of the internet (and a reference from the workshop) I was able to order what are called mushroom spawn plugs. They are basically short wooden dowels with grooved sides and mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom) already growing within them. These little chunks serve as an innoculant and by drilling holes in the log and then tapping in the plugs you can give the mushroom a head start in colonizing the logs, thereby taking it over before any other fungus has a chance.

I, as well as volunteers (my parents-in-law included) finally began drilling and plugging over the weekend and we finished up a couple of days ago. Now all we have to do is keep the logs in the shade and hope for some rain now and then (that's the ray of sunshine in today's rain). We can help things along by spraying them with a hose every now and then and also by covering with a breathable tarp made from heavy burlap or some such thing. I took the quick and dirty route by not covering each individual hole with a layer of wax after the plug went in, and during the workshop it was mentioned that this is not necessary.

The winecap mushroom "growing" is almost an afterthought. The spores are in the air and supposedly all I have to do is spread out the hardwood mulch, keep it moist and wait.
The waiting is almost, almost as hard as any other type of cultivation. I have to resign myself to just letting the the fungus do its thing. Not disturbing it, not worrying about...a very difficult thing to do. We'll see.

plugs in t
he log. they are in a diamond pattern for maximum colonization potential

A bit about my experience with Limber Tree Service: While I was considering bids for the tree work, a friend of my husband happen to hear about the farm and suggested I use these guys. During my meeting with Erik, one of the certified arborists from the company, he was very considerate, not only of me but also of the trees' health and their future. They did not have to bring in any cherry pickers or heavy machinery, just the chipper to break down the smaller branches. On the day of the job they we there in the light rain/snow and graciously separated the mulch piles into hardwoods and softwoods and cut all the logs into people-moveable pieces. On the invoice they kept their word on the estimated price, even though I had asked them to do extra work during the day, essentially donating $500 to our project. In two words, they were professional and generous and the garden would not be the same this year without them. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trials, tribulations and redemption

But first, an ode to filling beds with soil:
shovel, shovel, shovel
shovel, shovel, shovel
shovel, shovel, shovel
huff, puff
shovel, shovel, shovel

The rest of the soil came yesterday and I filled three beds before I realized that I was tired and I should probably go home. That was at about 6pm. By 8pm I was out on the couch. And that's how farming should be.
there are crocuses from some other time and some other's garden. but I get to enjoy them

sticky sap oozing out of the cut pine

In between the rain drops and brisk breezes I have fit the work of getting in a garden. The seedlings get potted up in the basement, the soggy brush gets tossed in the truck, I'll build a cold frame in the two hours it does not rain tomorrow morning. My brain is screaming, "get it done, get it done!" But the cold weather says, "relax, I'm not finished yet." I don't know whom to believe, but I do know this happens every year, so I should be used to it. When it is July and everything is growing like crazy, I will wish the ball would stop rolling, forgetting all the while how hard I pushed it in the first place.

Something must have happened during the week of 3/14 (or maybe the week after?). Everything I sowed that week has just struggled for some reason. Even the same varieties that I had sown two weeks earlier look healthier. Maybe it was the cold and breezy weather? Maybe it got too hot in the greenhouse? Maybe a bad batch of soil? I have found that I needed to resow just about everything from that week and I am not too happy about it because the beds are scheduled so tightly. C'est la vie I guess. I've written it here for posterity and in my seeding scheduler for record keeping. Everybody, cross your fingers for this week's seeding.

On a happier note, some of the other seedlings are doing quite well, like the herbs. I mostly potted up herbs today and I have quite a bit of parsley, thyme and sorrel leftover if anyone is interested in them. Perhaps I will pot them up and give them to volunteers for this weekend's work party. The artichokes are also looking pretty good. Two more days outside and in the fridge and we should be set.
goodnight plants, goodnight dogs

Monday, April 4, 2011

Work Party Number Two: Veggie Garden Installation Complete?

Come one, COME ALL, to the second work party of the season! Second load of dirt, second chance for mushroom cultivation. I am sick of looking at those wooden plugs make their own mushrooms in my fridge. Let's make them do some work! (You probably don't know what I'm talking about and that's OK. Just come TO THE WORK PARTY and you'll fine out).
Meet me at the FARM, SATURDAY APRIL 9th. We'll start at 10AM and finish when we finish or sometime around 2PM. By the way, we're at 27 South Pine Street in Kingston.
As always, light lunch and snackies with be provided. Unless there's steady rain we'll be out there, so dress appropriately, especially with layers and work gloves.
Maybe the peas will be up by then? Maybe you'll get to plant some more peas. Yum. Maybe I'll even show you about growing pea shoots and sunflower sprouts, the first crops of this season, albeit grown in the basement of my house.