Growing bigger …

We’ve begun working on projects for the new land this last week, and we’ve had to significantly ‘up’ our scale on everything as we go. This was the plan all along, so it’s not a surprise or unexpected, but it is still shocking at times—actually doing things makes our imminent growth feel more real. Here are some recent examples:

We bought 550 pounds of fava bean seed last week to covercrop four of our seventeen acres for the winter (the rest are still going to be rented by the farmer who’s farmed the land up until now). Five hundred fifty pounds. That’s a lot of fava beans. Our little Honda civic carried it all home fine, but we are still in awe when we look at the pile of bags.

And, yesterday we bought more seed—this time our garlic seed for next year, which we will plant out soon. This time: 60 pounds. Of course, neither of these amounts is big by most farmers’ standards, but they’re certainly larger (and more expensive) than our previous purchases of similar items this year. Here’s a picture of our garlic on top of our favas:

In addition to the quantities, we are also excited about the sources of these two items. We purchased both directly from local farmers, which saved us significant cash, both in terms of paying for middlemen and shipping. We also know that both the favas and garlic have grown successfully in this region before—another huge bonus of buying locally grown seeds. And, the garlic grower sells at the Mac market with us, so we’ve been enjoying her garlic all summer—it’s delicious! We hope ours performs half as well next year!

Another ‘bigger’ thing we did today: we had a custom applicator apply 25 tons of dolomite (a mined product similar to lime) on our new land. The big field is about 12.5 acres, so we applied around two tons per acre. The goal here is to get some calcium and magnesium carbonate into the soil to raise the pH, which performs a myriad of useful purposes in growing. Plants like brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, etc.) need a higher pH (or ‘sweeter’ soil as some say) to perform well. Calcium also helps tomatoes resist blossom-end rot. And, particularly useful to us since we plan to use green manures extensively, a higher pH helps nitrogen-fixing plants fix more nitrogen. All around, applying calcium and magnesium carbonates is a great start to establishing general soil health.

You may remember that we applied lime to our small field this spring, by hand. Wow. That was a tough job, one which in retrospect didn’t even go that well (we still had some problems this year related to pH levels). Carrying around buckets filled with lime was not fun. So we decided to have a lime buggy do it this fall. A professional application is going to be more consistent and thorough than anything we could do by hand. It took us half a day to lime a one-acre field. It took Mike at Premier Ag one hour to finish the entire field at our new land. Here’s a picture:

Effective, yes. But also a little bit scary for us. We watched him applying the dolomite while we sat in our lawn chairs relaxing, feeling pretty good about our choice to go with the professional application rather than doing it ourselves again (which would have cost more and taken at least a week for only four acres) … but we also sat there in awe of what we’re taking on.

We are slowly but steadily moving our way into a new level for Oakhill Organics. Well, maybe not so slowly. We’re realizing that we’ve jumped head first into this whole venture: both this season at Seven Spoke and with the new land. And it is at moments a tad overwhelming … but 99% of the time we are so glad we’ve done it this way. Things are moving along, and it’s positive. Even though we see things getting bigger, we feel like we can handle it. It’s been a fast progression from start to today, but we haven’t moved faster than our ability to cope and learn new skills.

We’re especially glad that we leased land for our first year—that has made a huge difference in our ability to manage the new piece of land confidently and without too much trepidation. (Training on another farm was also absolutely necessary.) Sometimes we wonder how we would feel if we bought the land first, before farming on our own on leased land. And we really can’t imagine it. We’d be totally overwhelmed with our new responsibilities. This was a perfect transition year. Thanks to John and Kena (and kids) for making it possible.

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2 Responses to Growing bigger …

  1. SaraJay says:

    You’re doing a great job, made even greater by the conscientous, careful planning that you have put into the effort. Scary and trepidatious, perhaps, but well done. I’m proud to know you.

  2. Courie says:

    “(Training on another farm was also absolutely necessary.) Sometimes we wonder how we would feel if we bought the land first, before farming on our own on leased land. And we really can’t imagine it.”

    But, it can be done! It is done, and it works too!

    Congrats on the new land and have fun…

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