These weeks have been probably the more difficult of the season thus far. The heat and drought finally began to impact the plants, squash beetles and corn worm moved in, a raccoon got into the temporary poultry enclosure–we lost some birds, including some guineas, and we made the difficult decision to change the labor team mid-season.
Labor first: a small garden is one thing. Go up to two acres and there is a constant rotation of weeding, pepper spraying, picking and planting. All of that needs to be coordinated and managed in a orderly fashion. If planting is not done timely, we don’t have the beans when we need them. If the squash and beans don’t get sprayed, we lose plants and production—all of the activity is important and no one part can be ignored.
As a child, I never understood why my father, who was a successful farmer, was so adamant about every tool being returned to his tool shed in the same place at the end of the day, and why he paid attention and managed even small actions (e.g., don’t throw rocks into the lawn when tilling—put them in a spot where they’ll be picked up and moved.)
Management of a garden is about management of all the varied elements—one day, pepper spray; another, plant; another, weed control. Maintaining orderly process is foundational to getting everything in critical path done when it should be done.
The current lead of the labor team, who has a degree in Environmental Science and a background on a large Indiana farm, understands this ballet. We walk the garden each morning, looking at how the plants are doing. We enjoy the process because there are flora and fauna here that are rarely observed. Almost every day, I hear Louise saying, “I haven’t seen that insect before.” That’s another aspect that is much appreciated with this new team—an understanding of the mission of Terembry Farm. We believe in the importance of environmental health and diversity that are protected in an farming operation that follows sustainable principles.
Terembry is part of the Culpeper Basin and we have a great diversity of birds and insects—it is something of a micro climate that has not had the chemicals applied that are typically used on larger farm operations. No Round-up allowed! Thus the farm here, as Louise says, is “healthy.” In the cattle farm next door, which is managed traditionally—the farmer uses GMO products and lots of pesticides—one doesn’t hear or see a flock of bluebirds, or see unique and rare insects.
But back to the food. We harvested the last of the lettuce, which hung on remarkably long, and also were able to get a harvest of chard. Herbs have been a staple, with the basil, cilantro and Italian parsley thriving. We did some additional planting. As noted, the heat has been impactive. We have more squash ready—and we’re keeping water on the plants, along with picking the squash beetle eggs off by hand (and spraying). The heat has slowed production a bit. We are keeping water on the cukes but they too aren’t producing as much as we’d like.
However the peppers have thrived! They like the hot and dry, especially the Jalapenos of which we have hundreds. (They pickle well.)
Farming is a process—and a lot of hard work. But the work here is real and healthy,
At the end of the day, to prepare and enjoy a salad of tomatoes, cukes, and just-picked basil tossed in olive oil, a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, is a tangible reward.