Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dead Tomatoes

This is what the frost'll do to tomatoes.  These were Matt's wild cherry. 

Chickens and Herbs

The photo on the bottom is of my new hens. They were born mid-August and will start laying sometime in March. The golden ones are buff orpingtons; the white are ameraucanas, which lay blue eggs; the gray and black striped ones are barred rocks and the black ones are black australorps. They are foraging on what was once collard greens and radishes.  You can kind of see the raised beds and footpaths, though all the chicken foraging has squished the beds a bit.  The photo on top is a Rhode Island red standing on a matt of cut pea shoots. I grow pea shoots and sunflower greens in trays in the greenhouse, and after I cut them, I feed the leftover stems and roots and leaves to the hens. This allows them to eat a lot of greens all year. Of course, they also wander around outside eating whatever they want. You can see a little bit of the white fencing in the corner of the first picture. It is electric fencing that is made to take down and set back up in a short amount of time. This allows me to move the hens around so that they always have greens and other things to forage.  Two weeks ago this area was covered in grasses and some beets and turnips that didn't
grow large enough to harvest.  In about a week I will be moving their fence.

The photo on top is thyme and the other is sage. In my herb plot, I also have chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, garlic chives and lemon thyme. Last week I was harvesting chives when the guy who sold me my pellet stove came by. He asked me what I was doing and I told him that this is where I grow all of my herbs. He became very interested and looked at me suspiciously. In addition to selling heaters, he is also some sort of law enforcement guy--I think a probation officer. Also, there's a big Carl Paladino sign next to his store.  I guess I'll meet his colleagues when the swat team arrives for their oregano samples.  I'll let you know how it goes.  The pellet stove is great, though.

A Recap of the Past 730 Days

I’m writing this on Nov. 2, the day after the first frost this season and the day of the second frost this season. That’s probably not a coincidence. Most of my entries came before I really started the farm and this entry is coming in my third season, on the day everything officially slows down a bit. The truth is, I did write two or three entries last year—2009. I could find them in the black, marbleized composition book I write drafts of everything in, but 2009 was awful and all I remember was scrawling profanities about the rain, which I will spare you. I will just say that it rained, on average, every other day from mid-May until mid-August and the nights were usually in the low fifties. Those weather conditions are ideal conditions to incubate more fungal diseases than I ever knew existed. Since my soil is wet to begin with, I found myself trying to grow vegetables in a bog and I was not happy. Fortunately, my hens laid a lot of eggs and I grew a lot of greens in the greenhouse, and I bought an ipod and listened to podcasts to distract myself from the rain.  Yes, I put the ipod in a ziploc plastic bag.  Yes.  The ipod still drowned and I bought another one because I became addicted to Rachel Maddow and the Slate Political Podcast and TBTL and plenty of others.

My response to the conditions of 2009 was to buy a BCS walk behind tractor (and a third ipod when the second one broke) and a rotary plow attachment which makes raised beds. This season, I raised the rows I plant in 8 to 12 inches above the footpaths. Anytime it rained this year, the excess water flowed down the footpaths to the lower part of the farm, where nothing is planted. It worked perfectly and it was an awesome season.

Despite 2009’s underwater fiasco, my customer’s loyalty was the bright spot. I am not exaggerating to say that Muddy Farm would not exist or would barely exist if not for the people who live around Abingdon Square Park in Manhattan buying whatever I brought to market with a smile and compliment, even if half of my stand was taken up with four different kinds of mint. In 2009, they bought the mint (which doesn’t mind being under water). So, I am incredibly grateful to them and to the High Falls Food Co-op, which goes way out of its way to support local farms and to the Greenwood Heights and Bay Ridge CSA’s that buy my eggs. Honest, everyone that supported Muddy Farm in ’09, you are tolerant and kind people and you are the only reason I was able to have a very successful 2010. I am now done pretending like I am accepting an Oscar. No, not yet. My family. They live in Chicago. I think I called them everyday it rained, which was nearly everyday and shouted, “OH MY GOD IT’S RAINING AGAIN. HOW CAN IT BE RAINING AGAIN? IT’S JULY AND IT WAS 48 DEGREES LAST NIGHT!” There was nothing they could do about the Pondy Farm situation, but they did offer, many times, to leave their busy lives 800 miles away to help harvest baby purple mustard and Swiss chard with me while ankle deep in water, which, seriously, is pretty incredible. And completely nuts, but who am I to judge.

This year, of course, the pond dried in August, but I’d take that anytime over 2009.

I just took a bunch of pictures of my chickens, my movable electric fences to keep the chickens safe, and my mobile chicken coop. I can’t figure out how to get the pictures from the camera to the computer to the blog, but I will and you will see it all very soon.