Read about the trials and joys of organic farming in this series by Sue Vingerhoets, from Foxglove organic farm:
Every year I berate myself for not planting earlier. This year, I really tried to get a head start on seedlings. Seed growing began even in the cold.
The germination cupboard Jan made from scrap roof brandering and discarded greenhouse plastic worked well to keep the temperature warmer and constant. Around 18 degrees when it was 10 outside. Only trouble is the local mouse found a free seed depot and dug up all my cucurbits for his spring feast. Livid! I have had to begin again on all the cucurbits and I have such good ones to plant this year. Well, the new batch are up and growing, albeit on my dining room table- safe from the mouse (until I solve that problem).
We have also opened up a new area set far from our existing planting fields so we can do several varieties of corn and tomatoes. Our new workers helped me further by pulling out rocks, making mini-terraces and piling in compost. Since my test of Indian Rainbow Corn have already shot up -so early!- I can plant immediately once the soil is ready. I won’t be able to use manure directly, so instead I will make compost tea to feed the plants along the way and mulch heavily with mown grass and clover.
From mowing to harvesting
Speaking of mulch, since we have no labour on the farm (do 72 year old Granny and 5 year old monkey count?), we are implementing every labour-saving method we can possibly find. The grass shot up with the warmth and so we have mowed a few places. No longer called mowing, now called harvesting.
Normally, I would not mulch with mown grass but it is such a mix of weeds, clover and grass, that once dry, makes a great mulch if applied heavily. The raking up just takes time. Thanks to workers Tania and Glenn from Australia (sheesh, could they work!).
Where animals are concerned, our new chicks have grown well but 1 was taken by the hawk and another laying hen turned out to be a rooster. The 2 roosters are very funny with their voices breaking and a lot of squawking going on. Casanova seems to be a bit ahead of the game so we may have to separate the 2 roosters and make 2 flocks. My plan is to have our own chicks and increase our flock until we have around 20 laying hens. My 2 old ladies are back to laying almost every day after taking it easy over winter. Chasing the chicks seems to amuse them. The pecking order adage is right.
I did not know how vicious hens can be. These 2 make a quick meal of any frog, small snake, mouse – anything moving! They have been a great help eating wire worms and caterpillars as we clear grass. Now they need to come into the bird-protected veggie garden and sort out all the baby grasshoppers which have hatched. They can really devastate my new bean crop- Blue Peter and Scarlet Runner this year. Maybe some black beans in the other field too.
We had our first puff adder making it’s way towards the house across the grass and the curious chicks wondering if they could eat it. It was relocated very quickly. I am sure we’ll have plenty more this summer as well as the night adders and egg-eaters we see so often. Just need to keep the house and working areas clean and clear of bush so we can see them. Another of nature’s beautiful creatures.
In all, farm life is very varied, constantly busy but so rewarding. I don’t think much compares to the reward of a bucket full of leeks, strawberries, carrots, baby potatoes, snap peas, turnips, lettuce and chillies to bring home for dinner. Except maybe a bucket full of tomatoes!
Organic farmer Sue regularly writes for us on farm activities and challenges.