Wow, what a busy week here at the farm! We transplanted about two rows of onions and shallots. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you but the rows are about 150′ long and 4′ wide so that is hundreds and hundreds of plants.
Also this week we planted potatoes! This is a pretty fun process actually. You basically take a potato and stick it in the ground and try not to compact the soil too much because it’s all getting hoed up later on for the harvest. We planted 13 rows 150′ long each in one day with many different potato varieties. This would be a great garden project for kids. I felt a bit like a kid digging all these holes and throwing potatoes in them. Also the cold room downstairs is much emptier now that so many potatoes have been planted out. We didn’t even have room for everything Jen wanted to get in but still I think it will be lots of potatoes. From how people were talking I get the impression that you can harvest about 1-4 lbs. of potatoes per plant. So that all took an entire day. There was also some prep for the potato planting in the days beforehand. It’s out in a back field that actually belongs to the neighbours and had been neglected for quite a few years so there’s lots of reclaiming it back from the weeds going on with the tiller and seeding it with forage for the cows. There’s about 5 or 6 cows and two bulls back there right now. We put up an electric fence around the tilled patch. Note to self: do not touch this one. It measured at 6.4 Hz. We also put up a paige wire and T bar fence around the patch where we planted the potatoes. For this we used The Pounder. Oooooh my lord. This is basically a 30 lb. elongated can with handles forged in steel that you use to pound in the fence posts. It was such hard work doing that! I could do 3 in a row before having to take a break for a while. To use it you put the open end over the fence post and then hold it basically over your head and push it up and down many times to pound the stake into the ground. We were pounding T bar posts into tilled land which Mike said was easy. Imaging pounding thick wooden posts into the ground! I’m going to get strong working here.
I also learned how to lay long aluminum irrigation line this week and have been helping Mike out with that. I learned the big lesson which is after you’ve turned on the pump that brings the water up into the lines, you have to have at least one of the lines running open. If all the lines are closed and the water is on you can blow out the main line which is a pipe underground that runs for about 1 km. It’s really difficult I am told to figure out where the line blew and basically requires a lot of excavation. The main line also supplies water to the house and it is a big deal. Mike and I were joking about this becuase we joke with eachother all the time and he was saying that if that were to happen that’s when you give the interns some shovels and tell them to dig 8′ down to find the spot. When we were first setting up our second line Mike went and turned off the first line so we could have more pressure on the line we were working. When he did this the extra pressure blew an elbow joint right beside me and an incredible volume of gushing water came pouring and pouring out. After looking at it for a moment and weighing whether to turn off the spilling water or let it be because I don’t know what the hell about this stuff I decided to go ahead and start to close it. Mike was waaaaaaay down at the other end of the line but fortunately Jen was in the garden nearby and yelled at me not to turn it off. I’m so thankful she did because I would have done exactly that thing that you are never supposed to do with the irrigatin lines which is turn off all the points where the water can go and make it blow. Yep, so I’ve learned that lesson thoroughly now. I also learned a lesson about management and training people which is that it’s worth repeating “rule number one” when the trainee is in a position to make a decision where that rule needs to be applied. So if I went back in time and were in Mike’s shoes, I would say “OK, I’m going to go shut off the other line. Whatever happens–if the line breaks or anything–just remember do not turn off this line because the water will have nowhere else to go.”
I haven’t mentioned yet that one of the goals I have in coming to work here is to improve my management skills. I’ve been an assistant manager at the chocolate shop for about a year now and it’s a massive skill to learn. It’s not something that comes naturally to me for the most part. Production management of very eagar people comes naturally but basically anything else is a challenge and a learning opportunity. Initially I’d intended to learn more about production management for farms. There’s a lot of organization that has to go into the timing of seeding, soil prepartion, harvest and everything else. At the end of week two here I’m still in the beginner mind set because I’ve never worked on a farm before but I can still get these little lessons about management by going back into the trainee role. And of course I’m a lot more compassinate towards people who are in management because I know now that you don’t always know what exactly is going on and what needs to be done and that it is a lot of work task managing others and giving other people work. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how much work it is to manage others.
Today (Friday) we worked on these interesting little structures. They are chicken tractors that are made of a little hoop house about 4′ tall and 6′ wide and 20′ long. Over the late winter and early spring though they were used as little green houses so we converted them back into chicken tractors by tightening up any loose screws, putting snow fence back up on the two ends and covering the things with shade cloth (they call it Ginseng cloth here). It’s quite a clever design. When the chickens are in there you can move their house to different parts of the pasture to spread their manuer and disperse their scratching and eating of the grass.
Yep that and several other things we did this week. Week two was a good one. I’m settling in quite quickly here. Probably the biggest adjustment has been not having very much free time. I wake up at 6am, two hours before work starts so I have some time to leisurely wake up and have breakfast and get ready for the day. Then after work I have between 2-1/2 to 1 hour before dinner which is largely recouperation time. I sit in my trailer and drink iced tea or beer. I watch Project Runway or play a game on my phone. Then we have dinner at 6:30. I usually leave around 7:30 or 8 and have an hour before shutting the chickens in for the night at twilight which is getting later but is currently around 9:15 and then I go to sleep. A couple nights this week I even went to bed at 8 and set an alarm to get up and close up the chicken coops because I felt like I needed the extra sleep. This will probably be a more normal thing as we get closer to the solstice. Twilight will probably stretch to 10:30 or 11 around the end of June I expect, though I may or may not still be on chicken duty at that time. And then we have Sundays off. It’s just not a lot of free time! I think of my spare time differently now than when it was plentiful. It’s more focused.
Saturday turned out to be a crazy tiring day as well. Natalie and I moved all 207 broiler chicks down to the pasture. This involved catching the chicks, putting them in boxes, driving them slowly in the truck down to their new home and then releasing them into the newly refurbished chicken tractors. It was very stressful for the chicks but how are they supposed to know that they are going to a great new home with fresh air and grass to peck at? Oh yea I also helped with castrating four little boy piglettes. This is a common practice. It makes the pig’s meat taste sweeter. The meat of uncastrated pigs tastes displeasing and pungent I am told. It was a really emotionally taxing day overall. Afterwards Natalie and I drove into Salmon Arm for a little R & R.
I don’t have a recipe in particular this week. I do have a beautiful photograph of some of the volunteer greens that were sprouting up in the footprint of the old greenhouse. Natalie and I went ahead and harvested all of these for salad before the tiller was due to go through. You can see Orac which is the big magenta leaves. It’s a lot like spinach and super beautiful. Then there’s the young leaves of a type of amaranth a.k.a. Lamb’s quarters that has the magenta splash in the middle. There’s a couple springs of baby dill and an egg that was laid by one of the chickens that roams around the farm freely and lays eggs in a couple random spots. We rescued one of those.