Breaking New Ground II: Sweating for our little plants
Ever wondered where your vegetables come from, or what it’s like working on a local farm? At this very moment La Maison Verte worker-member Jessica Vihvelin is
learning the hard way by doing it herself. This spring she and three
friends started up an organic farm that will deliver Community
Supported Agriculture (CSA) baskets to 30 members and two markets in
the Ottawa valley. Check Eco Logic often to read her stories and find
out how things are cultivating!
End of May
It's a humid, rainy Saturday. And unlike the weekends of my childhood, and most of my life, I am quietly thrilled with the pitter-patter of the rain hitting the porch and roof on this weekend day. My back still carries the heat of previous days, a new sunburn is radiating on my back and down my shoulder blades. I feel accomplished and exhausted, having hauled through several 12-hour workdays.
This week has been filled to the brim with weeding, cultivating, tilling, raking, preparing beds and planting. The garden is looking good, especially when the row cover gets pulled off the rows, for weeding, and we can actually see the green lines of foliage snaking along. One month into the season working together, and the onions, beets, carrots, lettuces, cilantro, chard, and, as of Friday, transplanted peppers and tomato plants, march solidly down their rows, nestled in their beds. The look healthy and well; and although the forecast looks good, warm and wet for the most part, I can't help but pray against a frost.
This has been one of our busiest weeks yet. I started out with a full day working at a nearby nursery, where all of our tomato, pepper, and eggplants had been started by Kylah's uncle. In exchange for the (literally) thousands of plants that he started for us, months ago, we owe him many hours of labour. There I weeded the strawberry bed, picked cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse and watered geraniums. We are back to basics; trading sweat for our little plants.
Weeding is a task that is relatively easy, but harder to execute in combination with speed; it’s all too easy to hoe quickly and accidentally take out a plant. This week we tackled all the rows of onions, beets, carrots, lettuce and chard. I enjoy this particular job. I move steadily, hoeing out all the tiny little green shoots that don't belong; lamb's quarters, purslain, quack grass, moving down the bed first with a hoe, then down on my knees to work by hand to weed more closely to the plants. Eliminating these little invaders as young as possible is a proactive move- they now have no chance to grow or send on down their seeds and their generations of weeds later in the season. It's also a task that is much easier when they are so small and cling just lightly to the soil.
Back at the farm (Kylah's dad is renting out the land and work spaces to us, also in exchange for labour and vegetables) Robin and Zach were busy going over a big part of the garden that was, until this year, pasture for cattle, while Kylah seeded more trays of lettuce. I am always amazed at the transformation: from pasture to garden. The transformation wasn't an easy one though. For my part, I've never raked so much in my life. The grass was killed with a big piece of black plastic cutting off the source of life and proliferation—sunlight—in combination with time. Once we pulled off the plastic, Robin cultivated then disked the area with the tractor, and then the raking commenced. All the old grass and roots had to be raked off the field.
The second half of the week was spent preparing the beds of soil to plant tomato and pepper plants into. Liberating those plants from their containers and seeing our progress marked by the plants lining the beds was a thoroughly satisfying endeavour. I think we all feel more confident about the season ahead when looking out at the rows and rows of vegetables before our eyes. Slowly but surely, we are figuring out how to balance the need to talk about the day/week plan and issues that arise, with the reality of the work before our eyes and the consequential desire to just DO, as quickly as possible. And that feels just about as good as seeing new growth and watching the transplants take root, and settle into the garden.