Day 4: Bug Massacre

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I still feel potting soil under my fingernails as I’m typing this post. I had a pretty relaxing morning at the farm. First I did more lettuce (Red Sail variety) planting, which basically means I slide down 115 foot rows on my butt, briskly but rhythmically sowing the starts into the ground. Then I hand watered the whole lettuce patch. With the morning sun on my back and the spray just misting me, this was extremely soothing. I moved down the row at the same rate as a perky stellar jay that was systematically hopping down the row pecking at worms. I took a strange, maniacal pleasure at killing any cucumber beetles or flea beetles I saw with the pressure of my hose. Day highlight for sure.

After that I did some tray seeding of Nevada, Cherokee, and Red Fire summer lettuces. This meant planting tiny seeds (no more than a millimeter in total volume) in little trays using a little tool. Everything is little. As a result, it was a little tedious as well. Then we cut potatoes in half. After they sit like that for a while, sprouts will shoot out of the nodes and we can plant them in trenches and they will act as seeds. I didn’t know that.

After lunch we completed connecting, staking down, flowing out, 'end-capping,' moving, and tightening of all of the irrigation on the upper farm. It was really fun when all four of us were working on it, it felt like teamwork unlike any other I’d felt before. It was just as glorious as the first time when the drip finally came on, and I could watch as plump glittering drops came slipping out of the T tape. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and neck, wiped my muddy hands on my pants, and took a slow walk down the dripping rows.

Here’s today’s list:
1)    A few days ago I asked Steve about the “Save Helvetia” signs I’d seen on my way out to the farm. I thought it might be about the urban growth boundary. Turned out my suspicions were right. Steve said that the controversy was over for the most part, and the urban boundary was not extended to include Helvetia, but it is a “reserve.” Steve said that metro said they aren’t actively looking to expand it, but if they were, Helvetia is one potential area. Steve said this makes it very difficult to ever feel completely secure about the long-term future of the farmland.
2)    Wanted: more young farmers. Stuart said the national average age of a farmer is 57 years old. But interestingly enough, he said that at least in Oregon, many of the emerging young farmers are females. I’d love to see a rise of female farmers in this country. There are so many positive qualities that females can have that could be extremely valuable to our agricultural system: a maternal instinct could be channeled towards the land, their natural foresight would also be invaluable. I’m no radical feminist, but this is a very exciting prospect to me.
3)    There is a train track that runs near the upper farm. Yesterday as we were eating lunch it drove by, squeaking and honking the whole way by. “There’s a tree coming down,” Stuart said, and I craned my neck to see who was cutting down a tree. Turns out he was talking about the train. It runs back and forth between Portland and the coast, carting logs that have been clear-cut from the coastal forests. Pretty upsetting.
4)    I forgot to mention folio spray. Folio spray and I have bonded a lot over the past four days. Folio spray is applied directly to the leaves of the crop to give them a nitrogen boost. The folio spray that AH uses consists of a few tablespoons of ground up dead fish, a few tablespoons of kelp powder, and a bunch of water. I’ve smelled manure and other fertilizers, but all of those things have NOTHING on folio spray. I had the opportunity to do it on my first day at the farm. I strapped on this very heavy plastic tank of the stuff on my back and began spraying each crop with it. When the sprayer loses pressure you have to crank a pump. The pump at AH is a little finicky, so in the hot beating sun it was quite a challenge. Adversity builds strength, adversity builds strength…right?
5)    All of this has given me two things: a deep, mad respect for the people who grow our food. Also, it’s helped me forge a more holistic view of food production. Hopefully that will feed (ha, ha..) into the next segment of my project beginning next week nicely.