The summer solstice has come and gone now, and things are still chugging along. Picking up steam, in fact. The first day of summer seems to be the pinnacle of plant (and weed) growth, but the work load on the farm peaks for us in the heady days of late July and early August. During these weeks we will be in full-on fruit harvesting mode, and it will take 1 or 2 full days of labor each week just to harvest tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, green beans, ground cherries, and okra. Yes I know these are typically thought of as vegetables, but technically they are fruit!
This year we have received feedback of so many kinds on the farm. Sometimes it is positive feedback and other times negative. When we started harvesting a new carrot variety called Nelson two weeks ago, we were super impressed by the long, straight roots, bright color, sweet taste, and crunchy texture. This was positive feedback for a small amount of experimentation with new varieties, and we got feedback from the marketplace when customers snatched them up at market.
However, the following week we received an intense rain storm, and many of those same carrots rotted in the ground because their roots were so deep. While the new variety is partly to blame, this event has given us new feedback about the layout of our garden. As many of you have seen, our garden beds are raised slightly and placed perpendicular to the slope, allowing us to capture all of the rain that falls on site. This is normally beneficial, but as we saw last week, it can be downright treacherous during extreme rainstorms.
Feedback is useless unless you are able to respond to it, and in the case of the rotten carrots, we will probably change the orientation of our garden beds so they can drain quickly and gently. A more vexing question right now is how to respond to the deer who have daily been getting into the garden and decimating our head lettuce, beets, and fruit trees. Our plastic fencing doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, and more effective permanent fencing is not in the budget. So for now we are playing the long and elaborate game of hide and seek that includes fence-patching, covering susceptible plants, and using electricity to deter them.
There is a saying that “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s footsteps,” and this seems to be true given our recent experiences. Staying aware, looking for feedback, and thinking critically about how to respond are crucial practices for our work.
Be well, Michael