Market Day

Despite the fact that we’ve gone a month with almost no rain (3/4 inch in all of May) the White Flint gardens are doing well. Yields are down in the spring gardens but they’re still providing in abundance. We’re a month behind on our summer gardens now, but it looks like the drip irrigation system is going to save the day.

Yesterday was market day.  That means we spent all day Friday harvesting and preparing the produce (5 am to 9 pm), then were up at 4:30 yesterday morning to take it to the market.

We had plenty to offer:   turnips, dinosaur kale, Red Russian kale, Siberian kale, wood sorrel, Asian greens (mizuna, Tokyo Bekana, senposai, tatsoi, yukina savoy, komatsuna and our stir fry mix), collard greens, broccoli, arugula, freshly cut herbs (dill, oregano and lemon balm), eggs, spring onions (white and yellow), beets, Swiss chard, our gourmet lettuce salad mix (6 baby lettuces), green and red leaf head lettuce, Romaine lettuce, sausage, homemade granola and plants (cherry tomatoes, ornamental peppers and herbs).  

We couldn't fit it all on the sign.

We couldn’t fit it all on the sign.

It’s encouraging to see our community stepping up and getting on board with the food movement.  The parking lot at Food Lion is still full and there are still way too few people buying their food locally, but the food rebels (to borrow a term from EllaDee) are increasing.  We sold nearly everything we took to market yesterday. We’re getting repeat visits from folks who were first time customers the week before.  People are daring to try new things. People are discovering how good food is supposed to taste.

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We’re getting the kind of feedback that makes those long hard days feel worthwhile.

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Unintended Consequences

Afghanistan is by far the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin (produced from opium).  Over 80% of the world’s opium originates in Afghanistan.

During the Taliban’s brief reign in Afghanistan, it declared opiate production to be contrary to Islam and managed to essentially eliminate the production of opium there. Afghan poppy production was almost entirely wiped out and the world’s heroin supply fell by 75%.

But with the U.S. invasion opium production returned with a vengeance. Opium production is now higher than ever and growing every year (despite billions of dollars spent by the U.S. to suppress it).  Drug use has skyrocketed in Afghanistan, doubling over the past two years. The sudden influx of cheap heroin has also led to an epidemic of heroin addiction in Europe and the U.S., resulting in thousands of deaths each year. And ironically perhaps, the enormous wealth being generated from the narcotics trade now funds the Taliban’s continuing insurgency.

I suppose one could make the case that it is better to have increased heroin production than to have the Taliban.

But now, of course, we have both.

The civil war, violence and fanaticism that emerged in the aftermath of the war in Iraq generates new horrifying headlines nearly every day.  I don’t think the war planners intended to create an environment for terrorism that makes Saddam Hussein seem tame by comparison, but that’s what happened.

And likewise I don’t think those who planned the Afghanistan war intended to create the environment for record levels of heroin production, addictions and deaths, but that’s what happened.

And, sadly, those environments were paid for with a lot of American blood and treasure.

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Another Addition to the Family

There’s a lot more wildlife here now than there was when I was a boy.  Then it was rare to see a deer, a hawk or a turkey, but now they’re abundant.  There are more otters, beavers and herons now than there were then.  And now we have animals that weren’t here at all 40 years ago–bears, rattlesnakes, eagles and bobcats, for example.

Over the last couple of months I’ve spotted a strange creature four times, at four different places on the farm.  Once we made eye contact for a few seconds, before it raced away as I fumbled for my camera.  It was feline, but not a cat.  It had a weasel-like face and a long tail.  It reminded me of a mink, but was much larger.  But I’ve been stumped trying to figure out what it is.

I looked at every mammal in the North American field guide.  The one that seemed most like the animal I’d seen was a fisher.

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But I realized it couldn’t be a fisher, as there are no fishers in our part of the country.

Per Wikipedia, the red area is where fishers can be found.

Per Wikipedia, the red area is where fishers can be found.

But then yesterday I saw THIS ARTICLE in the Lynchburg paper, saying there have been confirmed sightings of fishers in several counties west of us.

So it seems we have one more addition to the wildlife family here now.

Going Feral

Cherie said she’s imagined the opening scene from a documentary.  Our children are on camera and an off-screen voice asks, “When did you first notice that your parents were going feral?”

We’re eating more wild edibles these days and we’ve taken to sleeping outside. I know that for many readers of this blog those facts aren’t particularly remarkable, but they’re way outside the cultural norms these days.  Plenty of people would see them as evidence that we’re going feral.

So be it.  Sleeping outside this time of year is wonderful.  The air is cool, the sky is beautiful, the lightning bugs are entertaining and the nightsounds are enjoyable.  It’s not quiet outside at night.  The frogs and crickets keep up a steady hum, punctuated by the calls of whippoorwills and the occasional owl. Less pleasant, but interesting, are the howls and yips of coyotes.

I’m an early riser, but sleeping outside wakes me even earlier.  Not just because the rooster starts crowing well before sunup, but primarily because daytime arrives much sooner than we realize when we’re sleeping indoors. And at dawn the air is crowded with birdsongs, nature’s alarm clock.

I don’t think there’s any danger of us becoming entirely undomesticated, but I do hope we keep stretching the boundaries.  I hope we keep going feral.

I’ve Got Worms

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It takes effort to keep the soil fertile when growing food organically.  That’s especially true for us, as we don’t use any off-farm inputs for fertilizer, even those approved for organic use.

With 10-10-10 not an option, we have a fertility toolkit that might seem strange to a conventional farmer these days, but would have made perfect sense to a farmer a couple of generations ago.  We use cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, manure and chicken litter–as farmers have since the dawn of agriculture.

And now we’re also using aerated “worm tea,” taking advantage of our composting worm bin.

We start with an old chest freezer in the basement, which serves as our worm bin.  Of course it’s not necessary to have an old chest freezer to have a worm bin. Simple directions for making them out of plastic bins are HERE. (We have this kind of bin too).

Our bin isn't pretty, but it's functional.  This can be done on a small scale in an apartment or home.  No big ugly freezer needed.

Our bin isn’t pretty, but it’s functional. This can be done on a small scale in an apartment or home. No big ugly freezer needed.

We dump our tea leaves and coffee grounds (with filters) into the bin.  The worms eat the tea and coffee and turn it into worm castings–nature’s finest plant food. Of course the worms will eat anything that decomposes, but we just limit ours to tea, coffee, paper and some occasional eggshells. It’s a good way for us to get rid of those items and we don’t have to worry about smell or attracting flies.

To make the tea, you’ll need an air pump, air stone and a piece of piping to connect them.  These are inexpensive and can be found anywhere that sells aquarium supplies.

Put the stone into a bucket (I use a five gallon bucket) and connect it to the pipe and pump. You’ll have to weight the air stone down with a rock.

Add water to the bucket along with worm castings.  You can either put the castings into an old sock or stocking tied off at the top, or just dump them into the water.  I’ve done it both ways but you’ll have to strain it either way if you’re going to use a sprayer, so I don’t see an advantage to the sock method.

Add a couple of spoonfuls of molasses and let the concoction brew for 24 hours or more.  The beneficial aerobic microbes will be activated and will multiply during the process.

Tea brewing in our shed.

Tea brewing in our shed.

Then just feed the tea to growing plants.  I strain ours and apply it with a garden sprayer. The plants love it.

It’s a win-win situation.  We provide a worm-friendly living environment and in exchange they give us worm poo to fertilize our gardens. For more info, just google “worm tea” and you’ll find lots of websites with all the info you could ask for.  One of many examples is HERE.

 

Play Time

It looks like we're fixing to need a bigger trough.

It looks like we’re fixing to need a bigger trough.

I helped the pigs have a little fun yesterday.

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I reckon this is the porcine equivalent of city kids playing in the spray from a fire hydrant.

***

Last night, like the other animals on White Flint, we slept outside.  Under a cool beautiful  star-filled sky we enjoyed the nightsounds, the lightning bugs and a good night’s rest.

After a cup of coffee (and a few minutes of my obligatory internet time) I’ll go back out to begin the new days work, assuring that I will sleep well again tonight. Under the stars.

In and Out

In and Out
by Philip Larkin

Raking a fire, November morning, out in the garden,
Fly from the embers, skirling upwards, black scraps of paper;
Yesterday’s news.
Today the news is fog has invaded, year has hardened.

Along the saltings, commas that rise and spatter a vast
Grey nowhere are suddenly birds; seen, they settle
Beakily, you think,
Embarrassed. Caught disturbing the year’s first frost.

Which is, after all, only a warning. Later it will be harder.

But, for the moment, riding past backs of houses,
How comforting to see, saffron in each dark block,
One lighted window.
Reliable men live there, pursuing reliable courses

Which will take them, you can be sure, out from the unimportant
Secrets of half-awake bedrooms, knickers, dropped socks, and turning
Away from the light
With luxurious grumbles, wives who’ve forgotten they met,

Into this now. Before starting, on bikes with boxes
Wingnutted onto carriers, they’ll pause and take the perk
Mortgaged days earn:
A moment to rake the roundel of embers, find an astonishing glow.

It has lasted, against the odds, all the time they slept.

Yesterday’s news was bad: today’s will be much better.
Left out in the gathering frost, the fire kept in.
It took so little.
Quick, rake it together. Glittering nights are coming

And longer ones, too, that will test banked timbers and quell
Even the cheekiest birds until well past first light.
Simple lessons, then.
Learn to be still, and moving. There you are out, and in.

Source and more info HERE