Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weed of the Week

This week’s Weed of the Week feature is an ecological diatribe is disguise. We feature stickweed, the famous Verbesina occidentalis, an interesting creature found not so much in the fields but around the edges of the farm. We have quite a bit around the pond, up and down the fence-lines and along ditches, bare, unkept places that get full sun. The stickweed is a tall fellow, sometimes to eight feet, with a small yellow flower up top and distinctive wings along its stem. A brief examination of stickweed or any late summer weed reveals an entire universe: ants crawling up and down the stem, bees, wasps and butterflies feeding from the flowers, assassin bugs mating on the leaves, and deeper and greater mysteries that go unnoticed. Beneficial bacteria may be co-existing with underground exudates, forming complex communities with-in the root system. In short, there’s a hell of a lot more going on here than on a tidily mown front lawn.
We keep the areas around the field as wild as we can, letting the natural world express itself in any way it wants to and providing the appropriate niche for many different creatures. There’s no telling how this benefits the garden – did a beneficial wasp feeding on that flower then parasitize a caterpillar on a tomato vine? Are the wildflowers attracting aphids that would otherwise be on a vegetable? Do the wildflowers provide a home for assassin bugs that then prey on veggie pests? The answer is yes, yes and more, but none of these little creatures work in a planned or predictable way. Rather, we maintain a healthy environment that can sustain all kinds of wildlife, and then let the ecosystem evolve in its own way. We take care of it and it takes care of us.

CSA Newsletter 7-22-09

It’s the wee small hours, and though it’s late July, I’m huddled in front of the monitor with a hoodie and a cup of tea. I went outside a moment ago, still dark, stood between Venus and Jupiter and looked for signs of morning. There’s just a bit of orange over the mountains to the east of us. I’m just sitting here waiting for it to get warm.
Our summer vegetables seem to be in the same fix. Most of them are of South American origin and have only grudgingly taken root in the northern hemisphere. They’re used to the tropics and are confused by our weather patterns, and spend most of their time, this year especially, wondering where the heat is. The tomato vines are sprawling, and have small green tomatoes hanging from them, but we’re yet to see signs of ripening. The pepper plants are laden with blossoms, and the peppers that have formed are looking happy, they’re just not in a hurry to get any bigger. Ditto the eggplant, though they seem to be ahead of everything else. Squash and beans form healthy looking dark green rows in the fields, remarkably free of weeds, but have about as much energy as I do right now. These cool, wet nights have been great for sleeping, but the plants, much like I, don’t really want to get up in the morning.
The cool-loving plants, on the other hand, have all petered out. Our large leafy green stuff – the kales and collards, the broccolis – have decided that indeed summer is here and they’re going to stop growing and lay there in wait for the bugs. We’ve plowed them all under and will plant something else in their place. Thus, we’re feeling the box a bit skimpy this week, but rest assured, there’s bounty on the horizon that awaits nothing but warmer temperatures.

In Your Box:
Boc Choi

We grow eggplant of many kinds and colors. All the eggplant we offer this can be treated like, well, eggplant. Make a parmesan, grill or roast them, fry them in bread crumbs, or whatever you like. We’re pleased to announce the return of our leeks (!) and have thoughtfully added some potatoes for leek potato soup. If that doesn’t catch your fancy, use leeks like you would an onion, or have them by themselves, sautéed or grilled. We selected thyme this week because we figure it will go with a lot of what we offer – spuds, eggplant, cabbage …. Try sautéed carrots with thyme and coriander. We use mint in iced tea, juleps, or with vanilla ice cream.

In sadder news, we bid farewell this week to Saba, farm worker extraordinaire, bus painter, photo-journalist, drummer, ghetto gang leader and all around good egg. Saba arrived six weeks ago and began immediate contributions to the farm with her hard work, good humor and positive attitude. She leaves a legacy of photo archives and a mandala corn circle that brings blessings to the farm every day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can I Have Your Attention, Please

Death comes quickly in the middle of the night, signaled by the pained cry of a chicken caught in a possum’s mouth. No, this is not what I want to be writing about now; I’d rather write about the eggplant waiting to be picked, the brassica fields mowed and about to be plowed, the beans and the lettuce mix that we actually hoed, but death is what stands out on this rainy, moonless evening.
They climb the fence without difficulty, negotiate around logs and weeds and get to the unclosed, forgotten door and grab a chicken from the roosting pole in the middle of the night. They’re heartless and evil, and my mind won’t be changed about that because they have long snouts and spiny, scary teeth. And they represent more than anything else forgetfulness and neglect and even lethargy and those will be tolerated even less that the possums. An unweeded field lies unnoticed, increasing in mess so incrementally as to not be noticed. Ungerminating peas have no danger signal, just rows of nothingness that may sprout up tomorrow or the next day. Overlooked squash triple in size under broad flat leaves and when discovered cause laughter. Uncoppered tomatoes and un-b.t.ed cabbage provide no immediate signs of distress. An unclosed chicken coop door wakes you up in the night with the pitiful howl of a bird hanging on to life and quickly loosing its grasp in a tragic attack that I could have prevented with less than a minute of my time.

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