My Favorite Farm Tool

A diversified farm needs diversified equipment. With so many specialty crops and each needing its own tool, I feel very lucky to have one piece of equipment that -- with just a little alteration and imagination -- can do most jobs.

I picked this up a few years ago. I'd been admiring it since I was a kid on the farm and finally, I grabbed it. The last few weeks, I got to put it into action.

First, it was a manure spreader, shoveling manure out of the pickup as I drove across the field.

Then, later, it was a bed maker:

Look at the great beds it makes! It even plants them! Get ready for beets and carrots!

It digs ditches!

And, if you didn't think it was versatile enough, it's also a record-keeping system!

Most of all, "it" is a great husband.

Someday, we'll be able to afford a manure spreader, a bed maker and a ditch witch. But, for now, as is the case with most small farmers, all we have are strong backs and tough hands. That's enough for now.

Progress, and the Long View of Farming

I'm always amazed at how quickly they grow up. In the last few weeks, we've gone from this:

to this:

We're having some problems with spotty germination (I know, sounds like a personal problem) but other than that, our little greenhouse in our *actual* house is working thus far.

Today, I moved a handful of these flats out to the real greenhouse, where we'll still have to use some additional heat, but we're nearing the day when all these little ones can be in the greenhouse without worry of frost. (Fingers crossed.)

We're T-minus six weeks from the first farmers' market, CSA delivery and hopefully, last frost. That means the seeding is in overdrive around here as we scramble to get everything started on time.

I have a love/hate relationship with the discipline that all of this necessitates. One the one hand, no one is here telling Jacob and I what to do. Our farm time is ours and that's one of the reasons we do this. (Both of us have always been keen on working for ourselves.) But, on the other hand, these little plants and the unforgiving schedule of a farm can end up being more of a heavy-handed boss than either of us have ever known.

I could take a break from planting, for instance, but that would mean one less harvest of lettuce or basil come June. We could skip that late night planting spinach, but then, it wouldn't get in before the snow and that would mean less spinach to harvest for that first CSA delivery in June.

As a modern society, we are so used to the immediate. For me personally, in my online work, every action has an immediate reaction. It's easy to get accustomed to that kind of immediate gratification or dissatisfaction.

But in farming, what you do right now does not have consequences tomorrow or next week. It has consequences three months from now. And, while that can be a somewhat difficult concept to grasp, it's a valuable exercise. It teaches us patience and perseverance, two qualities we don't take enough time anymore to foster.

So with that, I'll plant another flat of basil, that isn't likely to germinate for a few weeks and which I won't likely enjoy until the end of June. But I'll be dreaming of that pizza with every seed.


Mocho de Espiga Quadrada

I'm often struck by how beautiful what we grow is. I don't mean what we here at Prairie Heritage Farm grow, necessarily. I mean what we small, diversified farmers who take the time to notice, grow. The way a leaf is shaped to draw water down its stem to its roots. How a seed straps on a parachute to carry itself far and wide. This is a photograph of a heritage wheat variety called Mocho de Espiga Quadrada from Portugal, one of the heritage grains we trialed last year. Why eat anything ugly?

Our New Greenhouse!

So we totally splurged and bought a ready-to-plant-in greenhouse. It was delivered yesterday and we were in it and planting right away. It's really pretty:

Inside of the greenhouse.

Outside of the greenhouse.

Okay, so that's not true. This is a beautiful church in New York City. I was visiting my good friend Kevin a couple weeks ago and his apartment overlooks the Trinity Church and its cemetery. Alexander Hamilton is buried there.

Here is our "new" greenhouse, sans stained glass:

Since we've run out of room in our sunroom, we recently moved our onions and scallions out to the farm and put them under these hoops and row cover in the existing, unheated greenhouse. There's a space heater on the end of each hoop structure so when it's 15 degrees outside at night, it stays a cozy 40 degrees under the hoops. We peel back the row cover during the day so the little seedlings get lots of good light. It's a few extra steps but it's what we have to do and it works.

I ran the tractor over our vegetable field with the disk last weekend and it looks so nice and soft. I want to plant myself in that field.

The field.
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