My motto this year and mantra on the tough days is, you win some, you lose some.
For example, I've been struggling to understand why my flint corn is so sad looking.
That's mid-summer corn?
I was so excited when I planted it with the 4-row corn planter. I cultivated it with the tractor thinking I'd just saved myself a bunch of hand weeding. Not so. A duckfoot plow is very different from an actual row crop set-up. I couldn't get too near the plants otherwise I'd tear them out or bury them (which I did on some). Row crop cultivators have shields around them to protect the plants. And you can get really close to the crop. So, I still had a ton of hand weeding to do (and still do) and of course, got to it late (and am still getting to it), and couldn't find any help (and still can't).
So for a long time I thought the weed pressure was causing my corn to suffer. But, the milk thistle next door, also row-cropped, didn't seem to be too bothered by the weeds. Then I thought it was the fact that despite the wet spring, there just wasn't enough water in the soil for the plants. But that didn't explain the decent looking corn on the north end of the field.
Finally I dug up a stressed plant and discovered the roots running laterally across the block of soil rather than down. That probably means they couldn't get through a hard pan of soil, so instead traveled across those first couple inches looking for water where there was none. So the plants on the north end were able to push through the soil down into where the moisture is. As for why there is a hard pan to begin with, I'm not entirely sure. It certainly has something to do with our clay-clay loam soils, and it might have something to do with timing of plowing or method of plowing (I used something called a rod weeder at one point).
Corn roots looking for water.
All of this to say that I'm not sure I'll win with the corn this year. But I will with the milk thistle.
Flower head forming.
And the garlic.
A gorgeous garlic scape.
And the black chickpeas (hopefully).
And the buckwheat (also hopefully - both were planted late).
Whenever I get down on myself for some disaster, I stop to remind myself of what is going well. I also remind myself that though there is work for 4 or more people, we're pulling it off with 1 1/4 people. You win some, you lose some.
The business of farming, and in particular the business of being a greenhorn agriculturalist, is awfully tiring and can get discouraging with your head in the weeds day after day. Days like last weekend wash away the worry, the frustration, the questioning (why are we doing this?). Four of our good friends - Bryan, Genevieve, Kiki, and Sarah - paid a visit. On Saturday, we attended the first annual Timeless Festival at the Timeless Seeds cleaning facility in Ulm, near Great Falls. Lots of familiar faces were there. We ate food like pulled pork and Indian corn casserole, local beef hamburger and lentil burgers. We drank things like Jamaican lemonade, iced coffee, and organic pale ale.
In the evening, our Conrad rock star friends fired up the amps and got everybody on their feet dancing while a storm rolled in from the southwest. We all helped get all the music equipment into one of the large buildings before the deluge of rain. It passed and the band plugged back in and kept going.
Then, just to top it off, a giant puppet showed up to the party.
That guy sure is tall.
On Sunday, back in Conrad, it was an appropriately slow start for the crew. But they had vowed to put in some work before they headed home, and work they did. We knocked out a couple rows of milk thistle and it made me very happy. I cannot fully express how their support, both physical and verbal, emboldens me, so I'll just leave it at that.
Weeding very long rows.
Baby on the back.
Some worked more than others.
at 6:02 AM
When we're in the kitchen, Willa loves to crawl around and dig stuff out of the cupboards. One of her favorite things to do is to open the bread box (which is admittedly, not well positioned right at her level) and pulling everything out of it. Today, her Nana and I found her with half a loaf of Jacob's Farmer Bread (which we make from our Sonora wheat and sell as part of our Bread CSA). By the time we caught her, she had managed to gnaw half of it down with her two bottom teeth. Daddy's bread is that good.
at 5:21 PM