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Farm Update, October 13

Every step sends a borage of grasshoppers leaping into the husks of soybeans now brown and dry ready to be harvested. It takes me a moment to decipher the sound of maracas from the grasshoppers hitting the dry soy pods. I have just met with Godofredo to listen to his observations of the farm this week. Now I am making my way around the perimeter and through the aisles to see for myself what he was talking about. While walking down an aisle of sunflowers I nearly bump into a groundhog walking the other way. After nearly jumping out of my own skin about all we can do is stop and stare at each other for a moment then both go on our way. We both had a false sense of solitude.

There’s such an intimate interconnectedness with farming that makes you realize how every small decision can ultimately lead to great consequences. I remember reading Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder” which explores the idea of how the death of one butterfly can cause great impact over great periods of time. As Godofredo discusses the sudden appearance of the Mexican bean beetle which looks like a pale yellow ladybug, but leaves the swiss chard looking more like swiss cheese. The land we lease out surrounding our vegetable patch is planted in soy this season which has reached the end of its life cycle. The insects it hosted are seeking out new sources of food. We store this in our brains as another factor to consider when sharing production space with another farmer.

This week we are planting garlic where the tomatoes were this past season. First we are adding about 3000 lbs of lime to sweeten the soil. We believe the soil’s acidity is due to dropping the reject tomatoes in the field. We have plowed beds and received the garlic to get planted post haste. It will take about three loads to spread the lime with our new broadcast seeder. Then we will till and lay rows of plastic with drip. Last year the lime was applied by truck through a service with Southern States. This year should be more precise as we test the soil plot by plot and apply accordingly.

We are currently picking from a new patch of kale, chard and bok choy. Last year we planted all in the spring and harvested through the season. This year we planted half in April and the other half in late August. This has worked great for a couple reasons. First, what we are picking is younger and more healthy and tender. Second, as the aphids and whitefly have increased on the older patch we have been able to keep the newer ones undiscovered. Essentially since we are no longer harvesting the older plants they have become a trap crop for pests. We’ve been very pleased with the effectiveness of an organic application of Neem Oil on aphids and whitefly. Especially on the sunflowers.

Another observation of this week is that powdery mildew is developing in certain patches in the rows of squash. We are late into the season so this is not completely unexpected. To a certain extent the appearance of powdery mildew is somewhat unavoidable. However if there is anything that we can do to delay it, that’s great. We have noticed that it correlates with a certain round leafed weed which seems to get affected first then spreads to our crops. Like a conductor. Our thought is that if we control that weed it should help. If we can fill in the spaces with an intentional cover crop that is good for the soil and can choke out the weeds this might do the trick.

Those are the puzzles we are occupying ourselves with this week. The warmer weather has allowed us to pick plenty of squash, eggplant, beans, greens and drop dead gorgeous cauliflower. Have a great week everyone.

John Norman

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