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Week 4: new intern and cocktail party prep

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


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Week 4: new intern and cocktail party prep

We welcomed our new intern all the way from the UK this week: Aryo Feldman, joining me, Anna Farb (from Maryland), Kelsey Altmann (from New Jersey), Eleanore Nelson (from New Jersey), and Deanna Riggan (from Tennessee). Technically, Aryo grew up in Jersey, so we are literally a magnet for the Jerseyans.

Themes of the week: setting out our first transplants, aphids and sow bugs in the greenhouse, the value of counter hoops, compiling all the local food we could for the cocktail party fund raiser at the end of the week. We pulled out the most heavily aphid-infested plants from the greenhouse and tried to wash off the rest of the aphids. We will plant more beneficial flowers in there next and research the sow bug problem. As we have struggled to keep our hoop plastic from succumbing to the wind, we applied counter hoops at last, which seem to be a big part of the answer. We identify a counter hoop as an additional hoop above the plastic, so the sandwich goes, hoop, plastic, counter hoop (see photo below). Finally, we served an eclectic assortment of local foods at the cocktail party, such as goat cheese, elk, eggs, horseradish, venison, greens, and trout from the town lake.

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Low tunnel wind protection: hoop, plastic, counter hoop.

We had some intern bonding time this past weekend at the Valley View hot springs and Great Sand Dunes National Park. On the way, we picked up some seed potatoes from White Mountain Farm, being sold at Mosca Pit Stop. We found it delightfully odd to see organic quinoa being sold at this otherwise standard, gas station-like pit stop. The clerk fetched our potatoes from the back while we observed a sign taped on the counter: “Organic onions for sale: 50 lb. bag for $37.”

Without further ado, the week in photos:

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We did our first set of transplants.

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Our brassicas are germinating and growing really well in this home-attached south-facing greenhouse. They will go into the ground very soon.

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Transplanting lettuces. They will perk up a bit in their bed under an old apple tree.

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Unloading straw at each of the plots for future sheet mulching and run-of-the-mill mulching. No dolly necessary (they were light bales, I admit).

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I harvested some horseradish from the community garden for the cocktail fundraiser.

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While doing irrigation chores, we ran into a heard of elk. Check out the dike wall back drop.

The first three weeks: hoops and snow

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


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The first three weeks: hoops and snow

In my observations of farming internships like this one, some days tend to go slow, but weeks, without fail, go fast. We, the interns and the board, have seeds planted and broadcasted, seedlings potted into soil blocks, sprouts emerging, low tunnel hoops erected, people excited for harvest, and ideas, so many ideas, about how to grow food successfully here in La Veta. We have written them into our plans and will experiment with different methods; for example, on a snowy day, we seeded indoors by attaching the seeds to a stretch of paper towels using a flour-water mixture and spreading it out on the bed the next day. That area of seeding was more efficient and we got to spend our indoors time wisely; now we wait and see if they grow well. We also want to use our toilet paper rolls as seeders, but with the slow decomposition rate here, this may not work so well (the cardboard won’t break down). Each day has brought its own unique set of challenges, especially with this cold, snowy weather, the climate in general, and becoming a cohesive team. Regardless, whenever we are around our plants, future vegetables for the basket program and market, we transmit positive energies.

I think I can safely say that we have all fallen in love with the town of La Veta. The dirt roads, the mule deer, the astonishment every time you look up (the tremendous views), the hypothesis that the pet population beats the human population, and last and certainly best, the people themselves. They are so talented, artistic, visionary. This is a transition town, after all, meaning we are trying to build resilience in the face of climate change issues. Much wisdom resides here, through stories and experiences, and we hope to renew the interest in local food. Several folks already garden; we get advice all the time on how to deal with the wind and deer. I literally just went to the bakery and discussed low tunnel techniques with Sharon, who gardens at 8800 feet. However, many buy their groceries from the one supermarket in town. So far, La Veta has welcomed us remarkably, and we hope to return the favor.

The snow has come like clockwork; we have gotten at least a few inches every week around midweek, including this (forth) week! As I write this post, I have Christmas music playing because it seems only appropriate. Nevermind the fact that it’s April 23rd. Besides the snow, we have been eating, sleeping, dreaming in hoops. We are constructing low tunnel season extension hoop house beds using strong greenhouse plastic, bent metal conduits for hoops, and rebar to plug in the hoops. The trick is getting them to stand up to the wind. We have been clipping the sides of the plastic to the hoops, but are still perfecting the design, with doors, rollable sides, and of course, adaptation and improvisation for now.

Without further ado, here is my take on the beginnings of the Wahatoya Community Initiatives Farm to Table Internship in photos:

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One of the garden plots before we started laying it out with tape measures, rebar, and twine. Stay tuned for the finished product.

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We planted 4000 seeds using soil blocks. I enjoyed making the soil blocks, although it took some elbow grease and lots of water. They reduce the amount of plastic needed to propagate seedlings.

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We were in the local newspaper. I believe any young person who enters into the La Veta community will probably show up in the paper, so don’t get too excited. But pretty much everyone we meet has heard about us, the program, and seems energized that we are here.

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A view of the straw bale potato garden, the hoops, and an old apple tree at Kerstin’s (pronounced SHEER-ston) plot. Kerstin’s compost is the best in town–it’s got the poop of multiple animals, including horses and sheep.

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Seeding tomatoes, bak choi, broccoli, etc. into soil blocks. We are getting the technique down.

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We are inoculating our seeds with mycelium (the white powdery substance), a network of fungi that colonizes and benefits plant roots (not a perfect definition–sorry!). A high school student from La Veta is doing amazing work on mycoremediation, using mycelium to clean up drilling waste and such. We get our mycelium through him! The book Mycelium Running is on my list, don’t worry.

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Preparing seed potatoes for planting. We are healing the wounds of the cut potatoes by dipping them in our wood ash from last night’s fire. These are Yukon Golds, but we have a colorful assortment, too.

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Remember that photo of the empty garden plot? Here it is again, with low tunnels. And under the snow, there are baby vegetables emerging. Today we put on the doors; at each end we can remove the door hoop, so that in the summer when it gets hot, we can efficiently open the tunnels to air flow.