Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'll bet you didn't know

...lots of the random information that I'm about to share with you.

1. Lots of people learn in elementary school that lady bugs (which are actually beetles, not bugs) are good because they eat aphids. But, did you know that lady bug larvae look like alligators?! Seriously, they're awesome and crawling all over our crops right now.

2. Harlequin bugs (Murgantia histrionica) are not our friends, as they like to eat cabbage, kale, collards, etc. - but they look pretty cool, and their eggs are even cooler. Check it out.

har·le·quin: a comic character in commedia dell'arte and the harlequinade, usually masked, dressed in multicolored, diamond-patterned tights, and carrying a wooden sword or magic wand.

los huevos del bug harlequin

3. There are a multitude of weeds out there that are not only edible, but more nutritional than most "conventional" greens. This evening, my salad consisted of some volunteer lettuce, violet leaves, and lamb's quarters. Yes, those pretty little purple (roses are red, violets are...?) flowers are a weed. I've pulled up more of them in the past three weeks than I'd like to remember. But, they're also pretty high in vitamin C. Lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album, for you science-folks) are a summer weed that are COVERING the farm right now (hooray for weeding... ugh), but have lots of vitamin A, C, iron, and even some protein.

go eat some lamb's quarters!

4. Picking strawberries suckssss. I am 100% over strawberries now. We're picking about 60 pounds every other day and it's back-breaking work. They're delicious and beautiful, but I'm over it.

5. The town that has become my new stomping ground (when not on the farm) is the coolest. This video proves and explains it:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's spring, just in case you haven't noticed

Everyone seems to love spring. I think spring is pretty nice, but frankly, I've always been more of a summer person. This is continuing to provide true in my farm-world, as my impatience for new crops to be ready for harvest is growing. Why why why aren't peppers and onions and beans and squash ready for my consumption right now?! Oh right, it's just spring.

But! There is hope. This week, we transplanted all of our little eggplants and even gotten some of the tomatoes in the ground. Some of the crops are starting to look lovely and delicious (although anything besides kale, collards, or swiss chard sounds pretty fantastic right now - even lettuce).

a few of our little tomato plants in rows

I had a special treat today for dinner - asparagus from the garden. Now, I say "garden" rather than "farm" here because we only grow enough for ourselves to eat. I am 100% okay with not sharing our asparagus with the CSA members or farmer's market customers, as it is one of my favorites. Now, if you're one of those people who only thinks about that thing when it comes to asparagus, just read the wikipedia article and keep to yourself.

Tofu scramble with a side of asparagus! Everything seen here, minus the tofu and carrots, came from the farm (asparagus, swiss chard, garlic scapes, green onions). If you haven't tried asparagus fresh from the field, you've never tasted asparagus. Seriously.

Finally, a glimpse of some of the exciting things to come.

beautiful lettuces

more beautiful lettuces

...y mas lechuga bonita

Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Each morning after breakfast this week, I've been taking a stroll up to the rows of strawberries and selecting two red, juicy, delicious ones for my post-breakfast dessert. Today, we harvested some to take to the farmer's market on Saturday. We were told that there would probably be only enough ripe ones for us to harvest 3-6 pounds. That was quite the underestimation, as we harvested about 11 pounds. Huzzah! I'm hoping this means that our strawberry rows will be fruitful and I can eat more than two per day.

I'm pretty sure this song has nothing to do with strawberries, but I'm going to share it with you anyway. Deal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Yesterday, I had the bloodshed of thousands of poor, innocent chickens on my hands.

No - our farm doesn't have any of the feathered beasts (gracias por dios), but apparently vegetables like to eat pulverized chickens. Who knew?

We put different things in the soil to make the plants happy. After tilling and before planting, we'll generally apply a hefty portion of compost. Certain vegetables (salad greens, in this case) really like nitrogen, so we needed to add something nitrogen-rich to the soil to make them happy.

That's where the feather meal comes in. According to wikipedia, feather meal is, "made from poultry feathers by partially hydrolyzing under elevated heat and pressure and then grinding." We were told it was just ground feathers from chickens and didn't think too much of it. As we (another intern and I) started sprinkling the powdery mix over the earth, we got to thinking.

Are vegetables that get nutrients from dead chickens vegan (or vegetarian) friendly? Hmm.

As we started to feel weirder and weirder about the task at hand, we caught sight of the "ingredients" list on the side of the feather meal bag. Not only did it include ground feathers, but other fun things like bones and blood. Awesome.

I mean, if thousands and thousands of chickens are going to be slaughtered, we might as well put the refuse to good use, right? The alternatives to feather meal include soybean and alfalfa meal. Farms that try to be organic tend to avoid soybean meal, since some 95% of soybeans grown in our country are genetically modified (GMO), thus making them not organic (and super creepy). It appears that alfalfa meal has less nitrogen in it than the feather meal... which is probably why our farm prefers the chicken death.

In any event, I'm still conflicted by the whole ordeal. Thoughts?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lesson learned

I spent about 80% of my day today bending over to reach something or other on the ground. In addition to my neck and back being insanely sore and tired, I have a fantastic strip of sunburn on my lower back that will make an awesome, peel-y mess of a tan in a few days.

Today's lesson: Wear longer shirts. Or lots of low-back sunscreen.

But, the good news from today is that there is NOT a small tick embedded in one of those weird bumps on my back. It appears as though Mr. Tick merely decided to sample a few spots along the way, but hasn't gotten comfortable yet. Hopefully, it will settle down somewhere in my short hair and make a little home. Doesn't that sound nice?

I love the outdoors.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week one!

Whew. I made it through the first week. I kept telling myself that the first week would be the worst week (as far as pain in my body goes). Hopefully that will hold true, as my body hated me a lot this week. There is so much awkward bending and squatting and crawling and carrying involved with this work and my body doesn't quite know what to make of it. Needless to say, ibuprofen is my friend and staying up past 11pm has become extremely difficult.

We did a lot of different work this week, which was nice. We "potted on" about 1,000 tomatillo/pepper/eggplant seedlings (see photo below) so that they now have more room to grow before we plant them into the ground. It was super repetitive and monotonous work, but I really enjoyed it for some reason.

Later, we planted lots of seedlings into the ground, including cabbage, kale, and various types of flowers. We also did some direct seeding, which means just putting seeds straight into the ground, of carrots, radishes, and turnips (ick), and even planted some potatoes.

Least favorite task of the week: mulching. I had to carry and spread tons of wheelbarrows (I legitimately thought that word was "wheelbarrel" until just now) full of mulch over the perennial flower bed. It was a really hot day, the work was super tiring, and the pitchfork gave me a blister. Hooray!

Favorite task of the week: harvesting. Since we go to market on Saturdays, we spent a good portion of our time on Friday harvesting and preparing crops to be sold at the market. We don't have many crops ready for harvests yet, but we do have plenty of collards, kale, swiss chard, and green onions. Interesting note about the swiss chard: I didn't even know we had swiss chard because the rows are absolutely engulfed in weeds. The remainder of our Friday was spent weeding the swiss chard rows and we still aren't finished. Fantastic.

Okay, okay. I'll stop writing now and just show you some photos. I know that's all you really want anyway.

So many tomato plants:

More baby plants:

The soon-to-be hoop house:

Delilah, my favorite farm dog (don't tell Maya):

And, last but not least, at terrible attempt at capturing the beauty of a small portion of the farm:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I love you most of all, my favorite vege-table!

I made it! I successfully packed up my life in DC, moved down to North Carolina, and have unpacked my new farm life here. I can't even describe how excited and happy I am to be on this farm. It's beautiful. Seriously.

Since it's the weekend and I just got here yesterday, I haven't done any farm work yet. I think I might celebrate Easter tomorrow by getting my hands dirty for a while though.

I took a walk around the fields today to see if I could pick out any of the crops that were growing. I basically failed - as I could only name the collards, kale, and onions/garlic (though I couldn't tell which was which). I told Deb (who runs the farm with her husband, Harry) about my failure and she assured me that I would get to know all the crops very intimately.

One of the best parts about being on this farm besides living some place beautiful with bees and birds and deer and dogs and cats is... free vege-tables! Tonight, I cooked up some collards and sweet potatoes that were grown about 100 meters from where I'm sitting right now. Hell yes.

What's your favorite vege-table?! Yes, I realize I'm going to use up all of my farm-related music knowledge within the first five posts of this blog. It'll be worth it though. Anyway, enjoy!