Lessons So Far

Okay, let’s see if I can get back in the swing of updating a blog. It’s been way too long since my last post……

Fall Garden

Fall Garden

We have reached a point in the growing season in which we have very little coming out of the garden. In fact, for the past week and a half we have not gone to market with any produce. Back in June when the produce started coming in, I was a little overwhelmed. The first week of June I thought, “I’ll just put off my planting schedule for a week so I can catch up.” The second week of June I thought, “I’ll just put off my planting schedule for another week so I can catch up.” This trend continued for two more weeks. This is why I have no produce to sell right now.
While at first I was a little upset about this, I have really enjoyed the break. Harvesting, setting up a booth, talking and selling to customers for 3-5 hours, and tearing down the booth can take more out of me than farming. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the market, especially getting to talk to customers who are enjoying my veggies. I just need to learn to balance the marketing aspect with the actual growing aspect. The good news is that my fall garden is almost completely planted and the veggies are growing again. We’ll be going to market this weekend with produce!
This is just one of many lessons learned so far this year. Here’s a highlight of some of the others:
1. Follow plant spacing guidelines
When setting out tiny tomato transplants, the recommended spacing of 2 feet just seems way too far apart. So, I put them 1 foot apart and had a bushy mess once they were full grown that toppled my trellising system. What a mess. The same thing for squash. I couldn’t walk through the squash patch after the plants grew up (but man did we have a bunch of squash!)
2. Don’t forget to open the coop after moving the chickens
We move our chickens every few days to a new fenced in pasture. This way they can forage, eat bugs, enjoy the sunshine, and be clean and healthy. To move our coop, which is on wheels, I have to close the door or it drags the ground. One morning, I closed the door with a couple of chickens in the coop, moved the fence, moved the coop and moved the chickens. Like a good farmer, I gave the chickens fresh water and feed and gathered eggs. Like a very bad farmer, I forgot to open the coop so the chickens could get in and out. It was very hot that day and two of the chickens that were in the coop died because they could not get water. I felt terrible, and needless to say will never forget to open the coop door again.

Notice door IS open

Notice door IS open

3. If people offer to help, let them.
Early in the year, I was turning down requests to help because I wanted to do it all myself. I guess it is just my nature. Plus, I felt guilty about people coming out and sweating for half a day pulling weeds or planting potatoes for no compensation. Man, have I changed my tune, now. Anytime anybody asks if they can help, I scream “Yes!”
4. Make sure the tractor is in forward before releasing the clutch
My tractor is a “walk-behind” tractor which means it looks like a tiller on steroids. It does many things a large tractor can, but only has two wheels and you walk behind it rather than sit on it. I chose it because they use less gasoline than a larger tractor and sounded a little safer. They may sound safe, but I found out how much power 14 h.p. actually is one spring day. I was in a hurry to get out to the field to till before rain set in. Normally I put the tractor in low gear to get out of the barn so I don’t run into something. This day I felt rushed so I put the tractor in high gear and let her rip. I took one step forward as the tractor rushed backward at me. It lifted me up in the air and pinned me to the wall of the barn before I could engage the clutch and stop it. By that time it put a large gouge in my shin and slightly twisted my ankle. All in all, not much damage, but I gained a healthy respect for my “tiny” tractor.

Looks safe enough

Looks safe enough

I’m sure I’ll have more lessons over the next few months. Hopefully both farmer and livestock will not be harmed with my further education.