Friday, December 11, 2009

Laying the Groundwork, Late Summer, Fall 2009

Progress on an organic farm, at least in the beginning is not always apparent. Some of the most important changes are taking place at or below ground level. Soil amendments and composts catalyze microbial activity and build soil tilth. Cover crops fix nitrogen, crowd out weeds and aerate the soil, while bringing important micronutrients up from the depths.
A good portion of our work since our inception in late August has been to build up the soil quality. This is a slow process, but one worth waiting for. Instead of depleting the soil over time by feeding crops we will increase soil fertility over time by feeding the soil. Increasing levels of organic matter increases the soil's holding capacity of nutrients and water, while also increasing it's friability, so the plants produce more with less effort. Although production may not be as great the first year or two on an organic farm, the abundance accumulates over time, until a mostly self-sustaining system takes hold, wherein less inputs are needed to produce more food. This is the idea anyway:)
So we've shoveled lots of doo. In fact, when all said and done, we'll have moved around 30-35 tons of composted horse manure from the farm next door and incorporated it onto our plots. This in addition to a ton of greensand, a ton of rock phosphate and a couple tons of lime. (Not to mention cover crops, which will be incorporated as added organic matter in early Spring.)
This soil-building work has been spread out over the last 4 months. There have been some other projects in the making... We've erected 2 greenhouses (one small 12' x 14' that my grandpa and I built and another larger 48' x 30' house built by Puckett Greenhouses of VA) and will be building a barn with the help of Jeff Holderfield of Mount Airy. Our friend Tony Ball of TB Grading has done some nice work "leveling the playing field," allowing us to build these structures. In the process a few mature trees needed to be removed (much to my chagrin), so we've also had a good bit of tree work on our hands. What a job! The upside has been all the firewood.
In early October I worked with my neighbor Fernando of Shangri-la Farms on rebuilding fencing. They are a horse farm and graze their mares on our property. In order to keep the horses on the property while also make space for planting and building we needed to reorganize. We were able to salvage a lot of material from the old fence and finished the job in a few days time. All that pounding and digging was worth it when I think about all that extra grass I'd need to mow if the horses weren't around. Not to mention the relaxed energy and beauty they bring to the farm.
November also brought our first food crop planting: garlic. We're trying out mainly softneck varieties, but we threw in some hardnecks and elephants for good measure. The elephant garlic stock I got from Brad Owen of Clove County Farm in Lexington - an interesting operation worth checking out.
This weekend brings blueberries! We purchased 300 plants this week from Finch Nursery of Bailey, NC which we'll be planting tomorrow (Saturday the 12th). My mouth waters thinking about all those little blue wonders.
So now that I'm caught up on reporting the goings-on around here, I intend to keep you all informed on a more regular basis. Hold me to it!
P.S. The picture I provided is what will be our main vegetable field(now planted in rye), wherein I've plopped the logo design I've been working on - let me know what you think...