Newsletter – 1 August, 2013


The Alleged Farm News – 1 August, 2013

This weeks share: Basil, Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumbers, Purple Garlic, Lettuce, Ailsa Craig Onion, Augusta Potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes

I find that going out in the early evening on Wednesdays to do some farm work is an excellent way to put off writing the newsletter. Which might cause one to wonder why I need to put off writing the newsletter, especially on Wednesdays. I don’t, theoretically. In some sort of weird ideal world I would have written a whole season’s worth of them this past winter when I had little else to do but stoke the fire and toss a little hay to the donkeys. The whole thing would be done long in advance, without any loss of sleep. Even the list of vegetables, because in an ideal world I would be able to decide what to hand out that far in advance and it would actually be ready to pick as planned. 

But I inhabit more or less the same flawed world as everyone else, a place rife with disease and anger and Lunchables and all the other unpleasantnesses inflicted upon us (more often than we care to admit, by us), all the disturbances large and small that wreak havoc on our intentions,the imperfections in our nature that render us far less admirable and accomplished than we picture in our frequent day dreams. And so, much as I would love right now to have a pile of newsletters composed at ease months ago awaiting little more than a quick reread and the send button, I am instead busy looking for ways to procrastinate. For some unfortunate reason I do not pretend to understand, do not want to understand, doubt is even open to understanding, I cannot make myself write until the deadline gets near enough I can see the sweat on its brow. Or maybe that is my brow covered in perspiration. One starts to lose track late at night.

Vegetable notes: We did not get anything like the yield I would like from this first carrot bed and a lot of the carrots had split open because of all the rain. But I still consider it a success for the simple reason that it suffered no deer damage at all. Last year the deer ate about 3000 row feet of carrots, and not just the tops. They actually dug up the roots. The beds were cleared out more effectively than we can accomplish with pitchforks and a chisel plow. But this year we put row covers on the early beds of carrots and sprayed them with deer repellant before the deer found them, in fact before the carrots even came up. It worked. The deer walked right over the carrots without stopping on their way into the greenhouse to eat radicchio. Not that I should gloat too much. A couple of weeks ago the deer finally noticed some of the later plantings and started to mow the tops off before we put electric fence all through the carrot patch (it stops the deer but makes weeding the carrots more complicated). 

Fotunately, the deer don’t have much of a taste for cabbage. They will occasionally take a bite (well, at least a bite) of just about anything we grow, including a cabbage. But they won’t decimate the whole planting. Flea beetles and cabbage loopers, on the other hand, would happily destroy every cabbage they can find, and they are good at finding cabbages. But not when they are under a row cover. Cabbages, however, like to be cool, and normal row cover makes them too hot. But I found some very light weight cover this year, and the results seem good. Good for the cabbages, anyway. Not so good for the row cover. It is so fine it is about as durable as tissue paper. There is no way of getting it off the cabbage bed without destroying it. That does not seem entirely sustainable, but it may be the only way I can grow cabbage during the summer.

As you can see, the onions did not particularly mind the weather this year. They are on well drained, fertile soil, and these Ailsa Craigs were on raised beds. I have, over the years, produced the occasional two pound Ailsa Craig. I don’t think any got quite that large this year, but they are a decent size (and tasty grilled), though hardly record-setting. If you want to see what a record setting onion looks like you can see it here. It is impressive, but I am not sure we could fit in the box.

My father claims that inspiration springs from procrastination, that the stress of the deadline bearing down on you provokes an unmatched creative response those who do their work in a timely fashion can never experience. Even if that is true, and it sounds more like justification than science, it hardly matters. I don’t know anybody who procrastinates on purpose in search of inspiration. You either procrastinate or you don’t, and it does not involve any choice at all.

If there were a choice, I would opt not to procrastinate. Any loss of creativity would be more than made up for by gains in sleep and peace of mind. It sounds lovely, getting things done beforehand. But I don’t even pretend any longer that it will happen. Sometimes in past years, when I was younger and had a slightly greater belief in the possibility of change, I would start writing on a Monday or Tuesday evening, sure that this time I would at least get far enough along to make any final touches a simple matter before a full night of rest on Wednesday. Of course it did not work.

Now I just look for good ways to procrastinate. Ways, that is, that seem to justify putting off what I really ought to do. And since I farm I always have a long list of tasks other than writing the newsletter that seem just about as pressing. Yesterday evening I sprayed deer repellant on the celeriac and remaining fennel, which suffering severe damage. If I had waited much longer there might not have been any fennel left to spray. 

But does doing your work instead of your work really count as a good way to procrastinate? That is basically how we operate all the time on the farm. Every week I write a list of tasks we really ought to do, almost all of them with some sort of deadline. Obviously, picking and packing the shares has a specific deadline, but so do many of the other things we do. To have lettuce to pick every week we have to seed another planting in the greenhouse (we will do that this afternoon when it is raining) and transplant another planting into one of the field houses (Ping and Devin put out 500 lettuce seedlings this morning) into a bed that we have cleaned up from the last crop (we cleared out the last of the turnips and hoed the bed on Tuesday). The irrigation for the lettuce has to be run regularly (and thus the constant small repairs to lines and sprinklers have to be done so it can be run). We have to hoe the lettuce beds when the transplants are still small enough to hoe around and the weeds still small enough to die when hoed, pull the remaining weeds a week or so later before they go to seed. We can only fill those boxes every Wednesday afternoon because we have undertaken a host of other tasks beforehand (often long beforehand; we cut the seed potatoes for these Augustas some time in April)  at the right time. 

Not that we get to every task exactly when we should–or at all. I only cultivated the winter squash once and the late potatoes were never hilled because of the rain. And sometimes the weather cooperates and we just don’t have time. We still have not trellised the late tomatoes. The longer we wait the harder it will be to do, but we have had plenty of other tasks in the meantime that seemed more urgent or more readily at hand or more pleasant. I often, on the way to or from some tasks, stop to check on a crop I happen to be passing by and start weeding because I am there and it looks like it could use weeding and the weeds turn out to come up easily even though weeding it was not on the list of tasks for the day.

I have not forgotten about all the other things I need to get done. But for some reason switching to this unlisted weeding at least for a little while is strangely satisfying. Perhaps in part because I know I will be justified in walking away from the task without having to weed the whole damn bed. Perhaps in part because I know I should be doing something else. It is a sort of productive procrastination that suits my nature, if procrastination can really produce anything and still be procrastination. Perhaps in its pure form procrastination involves doing nothing at all. I can do that sometimes, but after a while I think of something I ought to do, like trying to save the fennel from the deer, and if it is not quite what I really ought to be doing at that moment, i.e., writing the newsletter, at least it is something. And anyway, there are hours yet until I absolutely have to finish the newsletter.