Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sam Kirkpatrick
Friend, Neighbor, Mentor
July 1, 1922
September 28, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Don't Weed; Science Backs Me Up

This from:
Scale Dependent Dispersal and Distribution Patterns of Spiders in Agricultural Systems: A Review
Ferenc Samu. Keith D. Sunderland. Csaba Szinetar
The Journal of Arachnology 27:325–332.

Spider diversity in agroecosytems varies from being impoverished under intensive culture to being, under favorable agricultural management, even greater than in natural habitats.
Harvesting, plowing, pesticide spraying and forest clearcutting are likely to affect most micro-habitats within a given habitat; and they are known to cause severe reductions in spider populations. Conversely, disturbances of intermediate strength and frequency may actually increase the diversity of a spider community. This effect may operate by increasing the diversity of micro-habitats within a habitat.
Interspersed diversification is frequently attained by planting multiple crop species in one field. This in a number of instances resulted in spider densities greater than those found in monocultures, and an associated suppression of pest species. Reduced-tillage systems often provide a diversification of interspersed micro-habitats by engendering a rough or heterogeneous soil surface, plus structural complexity in the form of plant residues conserved from previous-year crops.
In a Swiss orchard, the density of spiders and their webs on the apple trees was greater in plots where weeds had been planted in strips below the trees, than in weed-free control plots. However, in many cases, spider density on and under crop plants is unaffected by strip management, perhaps because spiders aggregate in the favorable micro-habitats (such as weed and flower strips) and do not disperse out onto the crop plants.
The maintenance of grass habitats that are not demolished by crop rotation and the presence of set-aside fields significantly increased the viability of the modeled Lepthyphantes tenuis metapopulation. In asimulated linear landscape the inclusion of small amounts of grassland considerably increased overall spider population sizes.

I am nothing if not a friend to Lepthyphantes tenuis metapopulations.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Take A Cue From the Soviets

We farm in a heterogeneous landscape context. That much must be obvious. Thus our diversity of wildlife is enchanting.
Last night, the deer ate the hollyhocks. This follows the squash, beans, okra and watermelon. We’ve been trying to build fences as fast as they graze, but lately they’ve been ahead by a nose.
I started on the ridge to the South. That was in January. I was certain I’d be finished with the whole thing by the time I started planting. I was barely out of the woods. As the summer progressed, the fence did too, around the West end of the fields and around along base of Cemetery Hill. We’re about to close the circle, but it still may be a while. My goal is to have it closed by the one year anniversary. And the deer will weep.
They will be excluded by a linear sculpture of junk that circumnavigates the farm. It starts, as so many things often do, with old well pipe. Stuck in the ground every here and there and supported by salvaged fence posts. I was able to, and this was the real money saver, find several spools of wire at a local salvage yard. Not exactly fencing wire, but it serves the purpose. A few locust posts here and there. Some gas pipes from an old greenhouse. Some chicken wire…. And we will be safely enclosed. I can’t add up the amount the deer have eaten over the years. I can’t add up the amount of time I have spent with temporary measures. Or the amount of time I’ve spent building this fence. This should be the end of it. Maybe I’ll have time to farm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yet Another Snippet of Farm Life

It’s lonely here at the farm tonight, just me and 8,000 strawberry plugs.
The plugs that aren’t supposed to be here, that I thought would never come, are on a spiffy aluminum table outside the greenhouse, homeless, unplanted.
We order them together, a group of us, every year, and have them delivered here. The others farmers come and pick them up, I make excuses for all the weeds, and that’s it until next year. It’s an early September tradition, and about the only one there is.
Our plug grower, up in New Jersey, wrote and said they’d be shipped out late this year. His excuse was the weather. Late September, he said. Or October. Whenever his greenhouses got enough sunlight to coax those little plugs into actually growing some roots. I said we’d wait.
Last Friday a huge truck pulled up the driveway, and I immediately figured out the sun had been shining on the Garden State. So we scrambled to get them unpacked and watered. I called the other farmers and each called was met with the same glum, unenthusiastic, “Oh. That’s, um, good.” They hadn’t prepared their fields, either.
Not to worry, I said. They’re looking good and they’re being watered. I can keep ‘em here until you’re ready for them.
The greenhouses have become such that an extra 8,000 plants to water does not phase me.
Only, they’re still here. All 8,000 of them. No body can get any gas, and when they can, they don’t want to use it to drive all the way out here. The poor little plants are stranded here, unclaimed, orphaned, because of our failed energy policy.
I’ll be by as soon as I can, people keep telling me. Our local station is supposed to get a shipment in a few days.
And still they sit. Cheerful enough, perky even, in their little plastic plug trays, waving every time the wind blows. They think this is their home, for all I know. They don’t realize it’s just a weigh station. A lay over.We’d better get same gas soon or the little guys are going to root to the table. They’ll be here all winter. They’ll flower and fruit right here, all of ‘em, right in front of my greenhouse, a tangled mass of stunted strawberries serving as testimony to our dependence on petroleum.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Came First?

I have been accumulating greenhouses as long as the chickens have been running around loose. Or, I have been accumulating greenhouses for longer than the chickens have been running loose. Or, the chickens have been running loose ….
My latest greenhouse acquisition came with bona fide greenhouse tables. Aluminum tables with grates on the top. Rust-proof. Don’t rot. Water flows through. Plenty of air circulation. My days of grabbing pallets out of dumpsters are over.
The greenhouse came with, ah, a lot of tables. More than I need. More than anyone needs.
Put end to end, these tables would serve a nice Thanksgiving dinner for everyone on Spring Creek. Twice. Lots of tables.
My dilemma is where to store them. Greenhouses are full of tables already. Barns full of other junk. Already have a table in the house.
So: I surrounded the chicken coop with greenhouse tables. Perfect. They’re way taller than a chicken and they have an escape proof roof. Light and rain can get in; chickens can’t get out. Walls? Many of the tables I managed to acquire had legs broken off them. They were just, sort of, table tops. So I stood them up on their sides and wired them to the already there table legs. Instant walls. Light and rain get in ….
Now, here’s where we learn a little something: The tables I used for the walls, they’re of a different dimension than the other tables. In a word, they’re two feet shorter. So after I stood them up to act as walls, I had to patch the remaining two feet. I built little patches out of old chicken wire and tobacco stakes. (And fence staples. Never be without fence staples.) The patches took about half and hour each to build. After I found the saw. The entire greenhouse table enclosure, meaning all of the greenhouse tables that I loaded off a wagon and put next to the chicken coop, took twenty minutes. Start to finish.
It was a modular design. All the tables were the same size. The all fit up against each other perfectly. The enclosure went together like an, um, assembly line. The patches, being hand made, took forever. They required measuring and cutting and, well, thought. And were a lot more fun to build.
So: what I have in my back yard, full of chickens, is a demonstration as to why the industrial world expands exponentially and the pre-industrial world cannot possibly compete. It’s all right there, right in front of you when you look at it. Come on by and see it if you don’t believe me. And get yourself a few eggs.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

We Were Not Alone

Whilst traveling upstream along the Mississippi River, Seymour tells of bananafish.
We wee in Missouri when Mary Jane and Eloise had another drink.
Somewhere in Iowa, Ginnie put half a chicken sandwich in her pocket.
South Dakota was lonesome and barren, but the Comanche Club was entertained by a story.
On the Great Plains, Lionel found his comfort in a dinghy.
And approaching the Rockies, Esme helped us all regain our faculties.
That’s as far as we got.

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