These last two weeks on the farm went by in the blink of an eye, even though we had a couple late nights haying again. On Monday and Tuesday morning, we did the usual harvest for the CSA, which resulted in a beautiful share of squash, peas, cabbage, beets, salad mix, herbs, and scapes. Tuesday afternoon, Mica, Graham, and I were called over to Freedom Farm to help Phoenix put up hay. Phoenix worked at Freedom Farm for many years, so even though this year he and his girlfriend Megan are farming on MOFGA’s land, the farmers at Freedom Farm are letting him use their land for haying. Ken and Phoenix put a back wall on each hay wagon before we got going, so stacking it was much more stable. When we were stacking hay on our land in June, we could only go 4 solid levels up, with just a few bales on the fifth layer. With the back wall on the wagons, we can do 5 or six solid layers. Hay stacking is definitely a fine art, though, and one that doesn’t come easily to city kids like me. The wagon that Megan and I stacked on our own ended up being a bit shaky and I actually fell off of it from the top as a few loose bales slid around. Luckily I landed well, and didn’t hurt anything other than my wrists, but my nerves were shaken for a few hours. We hauled the bales all the way from Freedom to Unity, which is about 10 miles, and stacked them in one of MOFGA’s barns. Beside the barn, a windmill is perched on the hillside, and a laminated piece of paper tacked to the barn tells how first the (broken) generator, then the money for reparations, and finally the tower were donated. Throughout the entire year, that windmill puts energy into the grid, and during MOFGA’s biggest moment of energy use, the Common Ground Country Fair, they will have “earned” it for free. This year, they are also hoping to establish an electric car charging station that is directly wired to the windmill.
Between haying and harvesting we managed to get a few other things done this week, including weeding our second round of summer carrots and preparing the beds to be seeded with all of the winter storage carrots. This involved shuffle hoeing and amending just short of 4000 row-feet which Adrienne then seeded with a borrowed Jang seeder from North Branch Farm. The (very new and fancy) Jang seeder has the ability to space out seeds at various intervals, which lessens the need for time-consuming thinning. During Week 12, we harvested many bunches of thinned baby carrots from beds that had been seeded with the Planet Jr seeder that I described earlier. Now the remaining carrots will have room to size up. These two situations present a dilemma: Is it worth the time and energy to thin carrots for the benefit of being able to sell the baby carrots, or is it worth the money to buy a Jang and save the time and energy on thinning? Adrienne is hoping to get a Jang seeder in the future and use it for things like carrots and beets, because, for her, it’s not worth the extra time spent on thinning for the money made on baby carrots and beet greens. On Friday of Week 11, we weeded the second round of summer carrots all day while Adrienne and Graham went to market.
Week 12’s harvest brought in many new and exciting crops. Unfortunately I was a lousy photographer and did not get many shots the last two weeks. We harvested garlic, green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, cabbage, and we’re starting to get small amounts of eggplants and peppers in. Throughout the week, we planted lettuce, fennel, kale, and and broccoli for late season harvest. On Thursday, we ran out of rubber bands, so Adrienne’s friend Ashley showed us all how to do a no-tie twine wrapping method of securing bunches of vegetables that she uses at Chase’s Farm in Freedom.
On Friday, I went to market in Belfast with Adrienne and we sold conical and round cabbage, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, beets, parsley, marjoram, mint, sage, basil, carrots, broccoli, arugula, salad mix, kale, chard, and bouquets of flowers. It was sunny and warm all day and market was busy with all kinds of folk.
While we were away, Brian got to drive the whole team (3 horses!) with the manure spreader all day. They spread about 20 loads, each of about 100 cubic feet of manure. Saturday morning Brian’s friend Lizzie was helping us weed rutabaga as we all took turns driving Jewel with the single-horse cultivator. We cultivated between the winter squash, pumpkins, rutabaga, beans, beets, chard, lettuce, leeks, cabbage, and many of the other late season brassicas. I do well driving Jewel in a straight line along the edge of a row of crops, but I am still working on perfecting the turn. I have trouble stopping and starting her in the middle of a turn without us both getting confused and frustrated. There is a lot to focus on- the angle of my arms, the line tension, Jewel’s speed and direction, which row we are entering, the angle of the turn, and so on. It can get pretty stressful.
On Tuesday evening, Brian, Graham, Mica, and I all went to an amazing MOFGA apprentice gathering in Rockport at Avena Botanicals. Deb Soule, an herbalist of nearly 30 years, took us on a walk through Avena’s peaceful 3-acre garden of herbal plants. We were surrounded by the low buzz of pollinators as Deb talked about establishing an herb garden that is beneficial to the farmer, the local ecology, the pollinator population, and the consumers. Deb urged us all to grow medicinal plants on our farms, and suggested things like teas in a CSA and hawthorn hedgerows. She talked about how she started off being interested in organic gardening and then learned that most people in Maine did not have access to organically grown herbal medicines, so she decided to grow and produce them. Deb grows herbal medicines because she believes that although a wholesome, healthful diet and lifestyle is the foundation of good health, humans are prone to illness and injury nonetheless. Not all herbal medicines are targeting at treating poor health, though, and this is a huge distinction between clinical herbalism and hyper-industrialized Western medicine. Much of herbal medicine is aimed at supported and enhancing good health rather than treating poor health.
The gardens are beautiful and well designed and are a naturally relaxing space, and it reminded me how important that is for the farmers’ well being. Deb mentioned many times how critical it is, especially in the height of summer, that farmers have a source of calm and rejuvenation. Avena’s gardens are incredibly inspiring in how they join aesthetics and functionality, but they have taken many years to establish. That property very much validates the old saying that the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago.