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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An honest day's work

I spent the day yesterday on the farm. It was SO good to get out there in the sun and get my hands back into the soil. Farming is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. One of the reasons is that it is so visual. In a few hours of hard work you go from having soil to having long rows of seeds that have already started turning into a crop. It is incredibly rewarding work. As a Baha'i, one of my beliefs is that work is worship. There is not a day that I spend out on farmland that does not feel like worship.

Yesterday I prepared this bed to plant. This involved flattening out the bed until it was level, marking out my three rows using string with stakes at either end (you would be surprised how hard it is to make a straight row without the string guiding you!), and then creating a shallow trench in the soul with a hoe.

It took me a while to get my rows sorted out, but I was pleased with them.

Once I had my rows sorted, divided up my bed into five foot sections. Five feet is an incredibly small amount of space. Back in Canada our rows extended much longer distances. But this is a small garden surrounded by a larger farm, so everything is on a smaller scale.

 Once my bed was divided into sections, I got out my seeds. I planted beets, chard, turnips and mixed greens. When I was farming in Canada I learned that each beet seed actually has two seeds in it. Isn't that cool? In addition to being cool it means that beets have to be well-thinned once they get established to one of the two plants growing in any given spot a chance to really grow. Beets, chard and turnips get planted between 1 and 2 inches apart. Greens can go as much as three seeds per inch. I am enjoying learning US measurements. Having grown up in the Mediterranean, and living in Canada for the last six years, I measure in centimetres, and the folks on the farm here have been well amused by my blank facial expressions whenever they give me instructions that involve measurements. I was grateful that Guy gave me a measuring tape. It was a BIG help!

These are chard seeds. They look a lot like beet seeds though.

Can you see my row of seeds? They look kinda like popcorn from this distance. Isn't it incredible that tall green chard stalks are going to emerge from those tiny things? 

I planted the greens last. It is hard to plant these tiny seeds as they blend in with the soil, which made it difficult to see where I had planted the last seed. It is odd to be planting greens in September. In Canada they would not survive, but here, I am told, they will be just fine. There is so much to learn when you move from one climate to another and attempt to farm. There is much to to understand about the seasons, the soil, the elevation, frost and precipitation. It explains why families that own farms stay in one place, deepening their knowledge of the land over many generations.

I don't have a photo of it, but after I planted this bed Guy and I installed the drip tape. I have had to learn how to install and fix drip irrigation tape since arriving in California. In Canada there was so much precipitation that we did not ever need an irrigation system, but here in California, even sitting right next to a river, we need water. The sun is blisteringly hot even now in September (99 degrees yesterday), and the plants wither within hours without plentiful supply of water. Guy got out a huge wooden reel and I grabbed the end of the drip tape and ran to the opposite end of the bed where I hooked the tape up to the valves that run off of the main water pipe. You have to get the pressure in the main pipe perfectly set or the delicate drip tape explodes when the water starts surging through it. The trial and error of figuring out how far to turn the lever gives you plenty of opportunity to learn how to repair (or replace) the drip irrigation tape! Yesterday, in the process of getting the drip irrigation tape hooked up, I reached down to move some soil that was obstructing the valve and ended up finding myself cupping soil that was moving. After I recovered from the shock of having picked up an enormous, and amazingly well camouflaged bull frog that had been happily enjoying the coolness of the water dripping from the valve, I hooked up the tape and turned the water on. I love the sound of water surging down the lines, and the image my mind creates of the rows of seeds beginning their journey up out of the soil. 

Before I left I harvested some tomatoes for salad, and some gorgeous flowers for the kitchen table. The sunflowers in the garden are towering beauties right now. They are their own solar system. The sun in the sky pales in comparison to their bright yellow brilliance. 

The mighty ones that towered above me I couldn't bear to cut down. But I brought a few smaller ones home. They are shining warm light all over the kitchen. 

Aren't they pure joy?

And on that note, I will leave you with a tune from Luke Slot, called 'A few Honest Words.' 

I hope you all manage to get outside this weekend, and that the sun is shining brightly when you do! Have a great weekend, friends. See you here Monday!

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