Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lettuce Get Started

Part of the agreement in signing up for a CSA subscription with The Lady Bountiful is time spent working on the farm. She only asks for three hours of our time, which seems to me like an extraordinarily easy trade.

Last year I didn't get the chance to work on the farm as My Wonderful Parents covered the work requirement for me. This year, though, I want to get in as much time at the farm throughout the season as I possibly can, just to learn the many aspects of farming.

So I got started today, hoping to help the Lady Bountiful get a good start on another round of her plants.

When I arrived mid-morning, the sun shone across the fields, warming the soil, so we decided to take a walk out to inspect the new barn. While the barn still isn't finished, the electrical and plumbing work is nearly done, and it looks much more impressive than when I last saw it as a raw wood frame. They've added in a section where they can drive through to unload and load produce for market, a loading dock on the south side, a walk-in cooler, a root cellar, and indoor and outdoor washing sinks. This pavilion is where we'll pick up our CSA produce (and eggs!) this summer.

The Lady Bountiful and I also inspected the growth in the greenhouse. Along with pots and pots of her favorite flowers, she has already started the first round of vegetables and herbs, including these tall tomatoes on the top (steamy) shelf. (She says that as soon as they can get the cover over the high tunnel, they can plant these!)

The first lettuces are already leafing out, including my old favorite, Freckles (not shown here). How I craved to nibble on those fresh greens!

After the leisurely tour, the Lady Bountiful put me to work. First we mixed up a seed-starting medium (in an old wading pool).

Then, following her clever method, I filled seed trays with the mix by scooping large handfuls over the tray, then leveling them off.

We took the trays into the basement, where she has her seed-starting "office." We consulted one of two multi-page spreadsheets laid out by The Gentleman Farmer, indicating when to plant which varieties and to what quantity. (If you think I'm organized with my preservation spreadsheets, you ain't seen nothin'!)

Various seeds required different methods of dispersal. Some, like the broccoli and pepper seeds, were large enough to handle one at a time and drop one per cell. Others needed this handy little seeding gizmo that called for gentle tapping to get the seeds to emerge one by one.

Each tray got sprinkled with vermiculite (to keep the moisture in the soil), leveled off, and tamped down before it was set into a tray filled with fresh water.

Add a lid, flip on the grow lights, and there you go: seeds ready to germinate and become strong seedlings for the field.

We took a break for lunch (and a stimulating discussion about the local foods market plans), and then the Lady Bountiful and I headed back into the basement for a few more hours' work. Though I can't tell you how long we actually worked, we filled 28 trays (98 cells each), each drank a big mug of coffee, and talked ourselves almost hoarse. It was great.

Since I worked so much more than the required three hours, she very graciously sent me home with some fresh eggs from "the girls," so I get to enjoy a bit of a head start on my egg half-share for the year. Yum!

I'll certainly try to get out again a couple more times this year to help with other aspects of planting and harvesting, and I'm sure I'll have another delightful day visiting and working.

But for right now, I am ready for the CSA food!

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At 3/31/2009 10:26 AM, Blogger Tara said...

Oh, I've been dreaming about that lettuce...

At 3/31/2009 10:34 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I know! :-)


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