Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A non-farm ramble

I know some of you probably don't give a flying fuck about the details of our farming operation, which is cool. I get it. Nobody farms. It's long removed from what matters in our society. Who needs food anyway, right? Really, I'm not trying to be a dick when I say that. Just a smart ass. I'm like that sometimes. It might make you hate me.

But seriously, as an alternative to droning on about seeding and transplanting and all that, some might wonder what life is like after two weeks of Southern mountain living for a couple of TV news anchor-sounding (not really, but close), Midwestern flatlanders.

I would say that I'm loving it, if McDonald's didn't co-opt that fucking phrase and put it in the most ridiculous commercials ever made. But yeah, it's been great. Don't know what made me pick this farm initially, but I've been looking at it for nearly a year now, and it looks like it was the right intuition.

And as far as McDonald's commercials go, I haven't seen one in more than two weeks, nor any other commercials. No TV means no garbage. It also means doing without a few cool things, like The Office and opening day of baseball season, but these are small sacrifices. Now we read, or watch the occasional movie, or hike the mountains, or drink some homebrew and shoot the shit. And the few radio stations we get in are good.

Occasionally we head out of the cove and venture into general population. And that's cool too. It's just far.

So far, it seems the local breweries have good beer. A bonus. Most other Southern beers I've had previously were subpar. But the Asheville area loves its beer. I've heard it's been declared Beer City, USA by some website or something. I'm looking forward to drinking them all.

The air smells great here. I can't get over how warm it feels already. I can't get over the creek in our yard.

And then there's the tales and the sups. People are very welcoming here. I feel at home.

But, you know, I don't forget my roots. Just today I was boasting about Midwest sweetcorn. Represent! Let's hope I'm right about this. Who wants to back me up?

Anyway, it's been a long day. Tomorrow might be a short one, capped with a homemade IPA or wine. The rest of the week calls for rain (we'll take it while we can get it), but the weekend is supposed to be beautiful. We're probably gonna meet some neighboring farmers and their interns. And maybe we'll be checkin' out Max Patch.

How's everyone out there?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rain and white lightning

It's been rainy here, but warm (to me at least). We've been doin lots of seeding and transplanting. But it ain't all business.

So, you know the greenhouse where we're propagating; well, half of it was planted in a cover crop of mustard greens, like so:

We tilled these mustards in as a green manure to add organic matter and help combat what we believe to be some sort of pathogen in this particular soil. After a few days of watering and waiting for the greens to break down, we transplanted these cukes:

So far, so good (we only lost one of the transplants). As you can see, the cukes are gonna be growing up those cattle panels we installed. And let me tell you, it took some major pounding, grunts, and sweat to get those t-posts in.

Our first seedlings have germinated well. Not sure if this is a picture of the kohlrabi or one of the other brassicas. This is a shot taken three days after seeding:

And here's a pic of one of the other greenhouses, where we planted those greens I talked about in a previous post. I think that's arugula poking out (you might also see that we have lots of weeding to do already). Photo was taken on 3/27, 10 days after seeding.

Here are lots of flats of potted up flowers, herbs, and veggies sitting on pallets next to the beds of cukes. We're running out of table space.

And then some extra-curriculars. We caught these trout:

In these ponds:

Then we cleaned 'em and ate 'em immediately. Best fish I've ever had.
And then there was happy hour. All I'll say is that it was so smooth and would be one hell of a drink on a cold night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seeding "precisely"

Yesterday we spent most of our day out in the field direct seeding various greens and roots using what our neighbor over the mountain calls the "stupid fucking plastic thing." Yes, it is stupid, and plastic, and makes you want to fucking swear at it. And we enjoy it so much we had to add "piece of shit" to its name. This ain't an exact replica of our model, but here's what it pretty much looks like, courtesy of Tiny Farm Blog.

It seems it worked for Let It Grow this year, and Tiny Farm Blog finds it to be a good tool for the price, but here in our rocky soil, the Earthway was anything but precise. While I was fighting with it up the rows I multiple times mumbled angrily, "I"ll show you precision!" along with some random expletives. Beet and spinach seeds didn't really work with the provided plates for beet and spinach seeding. Any lingering cover crop or vegetative matter laying in the soil would get caught by the shoe and hinder the "precision" of my seeding. Sometimes seeds would drop out sporadically or in bunches. The thing has no heft, so it isn't really drivable in less than Plato's ideal of soil. I could go on.

But hey, it apparently worked well at the farm I was at last year (though I never got the opportunity to use it there). And really, it is in a price range all its own (less than $100 compared with $300). And I'm just a rookie with it, so I may not know what I'm talking about. Nonetheless, we're looking to find a different seeder.

In other news:
  • you should see the rocks out here 
  • put trellis up for the peas (seeding today)
  • mid-60s here all this week
  • the eggs are delicious and plentiful
  • the brassicas we seeded in flats in the greenhouse are germinating nicely
  • the greenhouse direct-seeded greens are germinating as well

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We're rural

It takes a long time to get anywhere from where we live. Twenty minutes gets you to the closest population center (about 900 people). Then it's another 20 minutes or so to find a regular grocery store. Another 20 minutes gets you to Asheville.

We went to Asheville for the first time yesterday to pick up some odds and ends. Spent a little time downtown and ate lunch at the Early Girl Eatery. For a small- to medium-sized city, Asheville sure has lots going on. The food we ate was delicious (and mostly locally sourced and/or naturally raised), the streets seemed full of energy (not in the New Age sense--just the energy of activity and purpose), and the scenery was about as good as it gets inside a city (Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains). People were playing chess on the sidewalks and musicians were strumming on the corner with their cases open for donation. I wouldn't want to live in the city proper, but it seems like a great place to visit.

Other than that trip, we've spent almost all our time on the farm. It was a great first week, aside from the death of the dog who guarded the goats. We seeded lots of flats and a whole greenhouse. We started direct seeding in the field, but the rain stopped us. Now I look forward to seeing what we've planted germinate.

We also spent some time hiking the 130 acres that we live on. It was a nice vigorous hike up the ridge overlooking our cove. The land around us has lots of remnants of previous lives, including a cabin originally built in the late 1700s and an old springhouse (both of which are on the neighbors property, but you can glimpse them from our trails). The views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking at this time of year because of the relatively bare tree canopy. But even when the leaves spring, beauty will still remain. I can't wait to see the rhododendrons pop.

Next week brings the building of a greenhouse, more seeding, maybe some repair work, and who knows what else. One of the neighbors brought us down a bag of frozen ramps and morels from last year's foraging, which we plan on eating this week for lunch. I really can't wait to try 'em. Ramp and morel season is close upon us here, and I hope to go out and gather my own.

So, it's never dull.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Super seeder

We did lots of seeding today, and look at this badass toy.

And then:

Those are 128 cell flats. It takes just a few minutes to seed one flat once you get the hang of this thing. It uses a standard compressor hose attached to a simple PVC contraption and some needle-like suction tubes to accomplish the task. You dip your wand of needles (each set of needles sized for a general seed type, and the number of needles is adjustable depending on the cell quantity of your flats) into a tube full of seeds while holding your thumb over an air hole. It does a fairly good job of picking up one seed per needle. Then you place the needles at the appropriate spot, take your thumb off the hole, and, voila! the seeds are in the soil. Fast and easy, and a rather simple solution to a common small farm problem.

For those who aren't familiar with the process, this saves a whole lot of time and frustration when compared with seeding your plants by rolling seeds out of your hand or by using those shitty little plastic seed dispensers. The contraption is a bit pricey (in the neighborhood of $300), but might be worth the expense for a decent-sized propagation operation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A few pics of our new home

Just a brief post to give a quick picture of the place. You can see our home on the right with the red roof. And of course the beautiful foggy ridgeline in the background. It was overcast, humid and relatively warm our first couple days here. It's been a bit of a process for my cold bones to adjust. But I love being smack in the middle of spring right now.

Below is Meadow Fork, which runs through our "front yard" and makes that soothing rushing river sound that I just can't get enough of.

The propagation room. That there is lots of onions growing in the schizophrenic heat of the springtime greenhouse. They got a few weeks to go before moving on out. Today we transplanted hundreds of tomatoes, peppers, chard, and eggplant from smaller to larger cells (or, as we say here, we potted 'em up). Further to the back you can see the shiny insulation that cuts the greenhouse in half. The other side is filled with a cover crop of mustard greens and doesn't need the heat that these seedlings crave.

Goats! They're friendly and one of 'em likes to escape.

One of many views from outside our apartment. I think the peak on the left is Bluff Mountain; but I'm still getting my bearings and landmarks down.

Direct seeded this greenhouse the other day with salad crops (lettuces, spinach, arugula).

Our cats being naughty on the table. They're adjusting pretty well.

So much is not pictured here. Strawberry plants are growing. Garlic is poking up out of the soil. Daffodils are blooming. Trees are budding. Horses and chickens are roaming the slopes. Coyotes are yelping in the night (so I'm told). Frogs are making weird high-pitched sounds I've never heard before. The air smells sweet. The neighbors are super friendly. The food is delicious. And the roads are always twisty.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We're here

Our new home is gorgeous. It's really unbelievable. The farmers we're learning from are amazing people. Pictures and other info to come soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting there

Well, we're almost moved out. There's about a carload (hopefully just one more) left of stuff to remove from the apartment, which I'll be doing tomorrow.

The last few days have been busy, and it doesn't look like it's letting up anytime soon. It might be that the next time I post, it will be from North Carolina. If you see some psycho driving an obviously undersized-for-the-task vehicle eastward on the highway with a beat up old car topper on the roof and something resembling a bike rack lashed to the trunk, you might want to keep your distance--ya know, just to be safe.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The home stretch

Moving time is approaching. This week is going to be unfun. We hope to have everything pretty much packed and done in the next seven or eight days or so.

I read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy last week. Damn. Breezed through it in about two days. If you thought the movie was good, read the book. And I thought the movie was superb. But the book is even better (though they are pretty much true to the original in the movie, but you can't get it all on film). McCarthy has a way of expressing profound things without being preachy or one-sided. I mean, in general, it's pretty bleak with him (the novels set in the American West at least--I haven't gotten to his earlier works yet), but he always gives you a taste of hope somewhere along the line. But really, I think McCarthy is gifted like few others. You can read him and, if you have a bit of patience, you will find something that strikes you deeply, no matter your worldview. He's a living master.

In other news, packing sucks. I went through a box of stuff filled with crap from my youth and beyond. Bad poetry, old letters, random trinkets with vague significance. Funny: I found a high school report that I wrote on a typewriter. Damn, does that make me old, or what? Well, not really, and no offense to anyone else. But it's a revelation to me. A typewriter. I still remember typing on that thing, using those shitty little whiteout tabs to erase mistyped letters. Oh, delete key, how I love thee. But despite the shittyness of the stuff I found, I had a real hard time getting rid of most of it. The sentimental value of some things still holds strong. Even some of the garbage poetry: it reminds me of my disposition during those years of angst, and helps me remember how I got from there to here--which has some interest to me, though a significant part of me doubts it has any real personal value. But here it is, going back into the box, and I likely won't see it again until the next substantial move, which will be who knows when. Do I really need to recall the terrible poetry written in my freshman year of high school or even the terrible poetry written post-high school? Do I need to keep the letters I received from my first serious girlfriend? I don't know if I do. But I'm keeping them for now.

Moving makes you think; at least it's got that going for it.