2005. The days seem to be stampeding through my life
like a heard of wild buffalo. As they rush past, I find it increasingly
difficult to round up enough hours to even begin putting a dent in
the ever-evolving “to-do” list. However, as I survey the
farm and its current condition, I am amazed at all that has been accomplished
within the past few months. The entire process so far has brought
with it many gains as well as plenty of setbacks, and both have offered
some valuable lessons.
The beginning of the season started with some challenges that caused
me to alter my plans quite significantly. Our first farmers market
here in Buena Vista was a dismal failure. The other two venders
were no-shows and the customer turnout was virtually nonexistent.
I had little to offer in the form of produce anyhow, a result of
not getting seeds started early enough. The other venders tried
selling goods the following weekend, while I was out of town, and
had little success. After talking with another farmer who had the
same experience when she had tried farmers’ markets in this
valley a few years ago, I decided the whole thing seemed like a
waste of time and that I would be better off spending my Saturdays
on the farm. I hope to try selling at another already established
farmers market a few towns over later in the season.
The second blow came as my truck began to have some technical difficulties
and landed itself in the shop, resulting in an $1,100 mechanic bill
and a major obstacle for my farm budget. All of a sudden the whole
farming thing seemed a bit risky, financially. So I took on more
hours at my two side jobs, which meant I would be working around
26 hours a week away from the farm. Needless to say, farm projects
began piling up. With so many tasks needing immediate attention
I had a hard time prioritizing. This seems to be one of the greatest
challenges of farming. There are many days that there are a handful
of jobs and it is crucial that they all are tended to, yet there
just aren’t enough hours in a day.
As I began sliding further and further behind in the garden, the
weeds got further and further ahead. It seems the manure that I
had so highly praised harbored a plethora of lambs quarter and one
other type of weed seed. Though most of the pile had sat for over
three years, a good portion of the manure on top must not have been
given enough time to heat up to the point of seed annihilation.
I am positive this is where most of the weeds came from, as I had
combined this manure with my weed-free starting mix and the same
two varieties of weeds found their way into those pots and trays
as well. However, after a few intense days of weed pulling with
a few friends, my wonderful mother, and a fabulous little tool known
as the “hula hoe,” we managed to thwart the majority
of those little water- and nutrient-sucking thieves. Once the competition
was alleviated, the vegetables took off.
Though I was able to get most of the vegetables planted, a large
portion of my flowers and herbs—both of which I had hoped
to be able to market—never quite made their way into the ground.
About one quarter of the garden went unplanted, but I hope to use
that space for a green mulch of winter rye and a cold-tolerant legume
this fall. I had underestimated the amount of salad greens I would
need to plant, and for some reason the succession planting of my
lettuces had a poor germination rate. The endive and escarole got
bitter quickly with the intense heat spell we had. Arugula grew
exceptionally well but, just as it was ready to harvest, got ransacked
by a horde of little, jumping flee beetles that left the patch looking
as if they had been wielding a shotgun in the garden. I have since
learned that a garlic-infused spray will detour these pests.
On the brighter side of things, the rest of the garden is doing
well and I should be able to market some tomatoes, chard, peas,
squash, sorrel, garlic, oinions and kale. Fifty more pullets have
been added to my flock of chickens to meet up with high demands
for eggs. The coyote that had made off with a half dozen of my free-range
birds has been illusive as of late. I have purchased two more Nubian
goats, as Colorado just passed legislation in favor of raw goat
milk, and I am looking into the possibility of getting certified
so that I can sell my yogurt, cheese, and milk. Finally, I have
been blessed with some great friends and amazing parents who have
all lent a helping hand on numerous occasions and have made this
whole farm experience possible and more enjoyable.