Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Am I Talking About Deer, Or Raft Guides?

It was bad enough when they randomly showed up and ate my food, and got even worse when they moved in, but now they're having babies here.
We've found three baby deer on the farm in the last 24 hours. All asleep, all motherless, all spotted and adorable. The first was up on the ridge, just inside the fence. Isiah spotted it when we were up there for a routine fence check. He carried it down the hill, brought it home and put it in a pen with his goats.
The second was early this morning, under an outdoor plant table. I had run a deer off about ten minutes before - the mom? - and then noticed the little baby curled up under a table of potted bee balm and coneflower. The mom (?) had run up the hill toward Sam's barn, so I carried the little baby over to the edge of the hill, put it down, and vacated the scene. It bleated a while. An adult deer came out of the trees, ears pricked way up, and walked around in circles for a few minutes. The baby chased it all the while. The mom (?) went back into the woods, and the baby chased after it.
The third was between a bee hive and some lemon balm toward one side of the house. I found it mid-afternoon, and at this point all reason was briefly suspended. The unlikelihood of this trinity would not penetrate my brain, and I just kind of walked around in a daze all afternoon. Julie got back from market about eight, and I went over and picked it up. I put it down on the ground in front of Isiah, but it hopped up, ran through the blueberries, up the side of the field and out a gate.
The question is: How many others are out there? And why is it that the farm was selected as the maternity ward? Or, are deer population this dense everywhere? I'm averaging one deer per three acres. Is it the same through-out the western part of the state? Will a walk through the woods yield one baby deer every three acres?
How is it that the deer are giving birth here, when they usually just descend in the middle of the night, eat some beet greens, and leave. Or, are they giving birth elsewhere, and bringing their babies here and abandoning them on my doorstep?
I've encountered many demons since I've been here, and exercised most of them, but this babay deer curse is something new. It just may get the best of me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

As Someone Once Said To Dustin Hoffman ...

Fun With Plastic
Another in the Annals of Organic Farming Series

It's another drought year, and the landscape fabric is coming in quite handy. Unsightly, abominable stuff, really, but it has it's purpose. It keeps the sun off the soil. Laid down just after a rain shower, it locks the moisture down in the ground. The dirt under the fabric feels coil and moist, is still friable, when all else around is turned to dry powder. Worms come right up to the surface. Spiders and beetles frolic.
It chokes the weeds out. A pepper planted onto bare, tilled soil is, well, a pepper planted onto bare, tilled soil. Two weeks later it's another anonymous green stalk among the hordes. A pepper planted onto landscape fabric remains just that through the season; a distinct entity, immediately identifiable. It's quite remarkable what you can do with your plants when you can find them. Why, you can check them for disease, you can water them, you can pick them. Nifty.
You rarely step on them.
Landscape fabric, whatever it's aesthetic limitations, might qualify as my single most valuable tool. It quickly pays for itself in non-lost crops. The time invested in laying it down is quickly repaid in non-weeding time. It absorbs the sun and warms the soil, but slows evaporation and keeps the soil moist.
But the inspiration for this post is none of the above. The inspiration for the above post was a remarkable little discovery I made this morning: Buckwheat has prop roots!
A volunteer buckwheat has sprouted up in the squash field, about three inches off center from the hole in the fabric. The buckwheat grew horizontally until it reached daylight, and then shot up toward the sky. I was impressed. Buckwheat is usually such a docile, even wimpy, little plant. I was surprised at the lengths it would go to to survive. But there it was - the plant needed a way out and it found one. It had sprouted roots along it's sideways portion, stubby little props like you see at the base of corn. That's another good thing about landscape fabric: it pushes buckwheat to its extremes.

Monday, June 07, 2010

We're Organic Farmers. It's Just That We're Twenty-first Century Organic Farmers

There's a hole in the deer fence somewhere. My evidence: a pile of deer poop in one of the squash beds. The squash is planted in landscape fabric - long sheets of woven black plastic, holes cut down the center, the edges weighed down by rocks. It's nifty stuff - it chokes out the weeds and preserves heat and moisture. Unsightly, I will grant you, but it saves a tremendous amount of time. Um, unless you're a dung beetle.
The deer poop was on the fabric, and the dung beetle was trying, awkwardly but stubbornly, to bury it. She rolled a few balls over this way, and then rolled them over that way. She piled a few up here, then a few up there. She had made little progress burying by the time I finished picking squash, but she'd shifted a bunch of dung around.
We're bug friendly around here. We're pollinator friendly, and spider friendly. We even once thought about breeding flies. Until this morning I would have thought we were dung beetle friendly, and would have been mistaken. There's always something I haven't thought of.

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