On the Farm . . . what's happening this week - 7/19/15.
We took some time over the weekend to visit my sister, Lauren, and her family in Wauwatosa as well as to view the Van Gogh to Pollock, Modern Rebels exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was very interesting and child friendly. It runs until September 20th, and we recommend it to everyone.
Each of us found works that intrigued us. Naturally, the painting "Peasants in the Field" by Camille Pissarro spoke to me. Marlee was inspired to draw her own version of Henri Rousseau's "Bouquet of Flowers with an Ivy Branch" while Liam contemplated a larger than life sculpture of "Man Walking" by Alberto Giacometti. Aidan was intrigued by "Untitled", a welded steel, canvas and wire piece by Lee Bontecou, and Bill was perplexed by a painting of evenly spaced horizontal lines called simply, "The Tree" by Agnes Martin.
Back on the farm, a scary, windy storm hit late Sunday night/early Monday morning giving us needed rain but no damage. On Monday, Bill, sweat dripping from his eyebrows, hand weeded the brassicas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale in hot and humid conditions. Later Bill, Aidan and I weeded the peas in the sun while watching an ominously dark, blue-black, rumbly storm system move just north of us toward Richland Center. We were fortunate to again escape the damaging winds and hail many in the area experienced. Tuesday, my sister, Nicole, and niece, Cecelia, spent their day off weeding the green bush and yellow wax beans. I weeded chard and onions after supper. We still have more onions to weed as well as tomatoes and carrots. This year we've spent a considerable amount of time hand weeding even though it doesn't always look like it to us. All we can see are the ones we haven't gotten to yet!
We are concluding we need to be more serious about how we handle weeds to ensure successful crops as well as to protect our backs!
Bill weeding on his self-made, adjustable weed cart. All it needs is a willing participant, a padded seat to cushion one's derriere - we provide the weeds!
Because we are committed to farming without pesticides, including herbicides (even organic ones), we realize we will always have weeds. However, there are cultural practices that can better help us control the amount. We've considered using black, plastic mulch to keep weeds at bay but are leery because while it would suppress weed growth, we are also committed to reducing the amount of plastic we use.There is biodegradable plastic mulch however it hasn't been approved as organic and would need to be disposed of in a landfill. Every time we have been tempted to order the big rolls of black plastic, we develop a nagging feeling and decide against it. It just doesn't fit the way we farm.
We try our best to follow the 3 R's - Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. We make our own soil blocks instead of using plastic trays of cells to start seeds in. The full share black, plastic boxes and the plastic trellising material we used on several rows of peas all came used from another CSA farm. And we constantly question how few of the biodegradable, plastic bags we can use when packing boxes without sacrificing produce quality. Buying the mulch in a such large quantities would all but negate these efforts.
For the rest of this season and next, we are dedicating ourselves to exploring cultural practices like planting weed inhibiting cover crops like oats or rye, limiting the amount of weed seeds we disturb by tilling shallowly (2 inches or less), flaming tiny weed seedlings in beds, purchasing a mechanical finger weeder, using ergonomically designed hoes sooner and more often and mowing weeds before they go to seed. By employing these practices, we hope to prevent our work share members as well as ourselves from experiencing "weeding fatigue" and make our farm run more efficient.
At some time in the future, we may decide to use plastic mulch for certain crops such as tomatoes or watermelon which would also benefit from the soil warming it would provide but for now - we weed on!