My Notebook – Walking the Land

On my field walks I never tire of digging, tasting, smelling, touching, and observing the constant changes taking place on the farm, whether it’s in the fields, orchards, or non-cultivated wild spaces.

Right now, as we approach the Summer Solstice, the farm is a continuously changing canvas of activity and fertile growth. I try to walk the land we farm every day, otherwise it’s easy to miss things. In the coming days, if temperatures do climb into the 90’s as predicted, several crops will need to be watched carefully since they will ripen and mature much faster. Green beans, still tiny right now, can double in size within a day, or some of the apricots, already turning orange in color but still hard to the touch, will most likely be ready to harvest.

Almost, but not quite, ripe.

Daily field walks also help me identify and ward off damaging diseases or insects early on. Especially with flea or cucumber beetles, I like to cover young seedlings with row covers or make timely applications of kaolin clay to minimize their damage.

Row covers protect vulnerable seedlings from pests.

On my walks I always check the soil moisture in the fields. The easiest and quickest way is to use my hands, digging into the top 4-5 inches of soil and feeling the moisture by kneading and sifting the soil through my fingers. At the same time, while I check the moisture level, I determine whether a crop needs cultivating. Cultivating the soil is not only critical in aerating the soil to increase water and nutrient uptake, but also to remove competing weeds.

Digging in the dirt to test soil moisture and friability.

Weeding rows of recently transplanted seedlings.

During Saturday’s community farm day, I spotted a few limp and wilted looking potato plants while digging for these underground treasures with the kids. I have seen this often enough to know that a gopher was at work. The “rascal”, I noticed, had advanced at least 10 feet down a bed of red potatoes. Typically I would take note to trap him, but since we are planning to harvest that block this week anyway he will continue to enjoy a few more days of indulgence.

The potato harvest has begun.

The joy of walking the fields is that there are always new or unexpected things to discover, whether it’s the tiny clusters of grapes hanging off the vines starting to swell in size, watching the red-tail hawks circling above the fields or simply enjoying the flavors of a fully ripened yellow raspberry.

Clusters of young Concord grapes.

The first golden raspberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2020-01-15T14:30:04-08:00 January 1st, 2018|Farm News & Tom's Reflections|Comments Off on My Notebook – Walking the Land