Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Farmer's Thoughts

The last few weeks, I've been kicking back and just watering what will be a late summer's bounty. Nine of the 29 raspberries are showing some signs of sprouts, and six of the seven paw paws seem to be coming along. Being that it's midsummer, I thought I'd do some reflecting on the season so far.

That first picture up there highlights one of my mistakes in garden layout this year. I put the corn in the middle of the plot! Blocking the sprinkler. Shading the other the crops. I had no intentions of even growing corn, but there were so many requests, I had to comply. And with that submission came haste in my design, and hence the corn in the middle.

Even up to a week ago, I was thinking I was done with corn as a crop. But after this week's visit to Marietta, Ohio, where I bought some just picked at three o'clock in the morning, sugary Bicolor Ears; I'm starting to believe it's every Ohio citizens right to picked that day summer corn. I want to see how this year's ears fill in, and if it's halfway good, I will probably continue the pursuit next year.

Cheap soakers hoses are just that, which is mostly to say that they are cheap and aren't worth the hassle. On that note, my whole irrigation "system" needs an overhaul. Sprinklers and spray hoses are okay and definitely do the job. However, straight rows and drip tape will do it better in the future. Now anybody that knows me will tell you my lines/rows/swathes of cool beard zigzags are never straight.

In my personal garden, I have four tomatillo plants. Three are right next to each other and the fourth is about six feet away from the cluster. Now it is a given fact that it takes two tomatillos to tango. That is to say, tomatillo plants are not self-pollinating and it formally takes two separate plants for tomatillo fruits to form. And even though my lonely tomatillo is just six feet away from the other cluster, and my garden is like an epinephrine accident design lab, there are no fruits!

In other layout design news, tomato cultivars will be planted with their own kind to ensure ease of staking/weaving and flush picking next year. That means Amish Paste with the Amish Paste and Caspian Pink with Caspian Pink. The "cool" Monet-inspired color palette of random planting does not outweigh the future convenience of these necessary grow steps.

I'm growing these gnarly blue Hubbard pumpkins that will grow up to 40 pounds and will look like a giant tear drop with warts. In contrast, I'm also growing these cute lil two-pound pumpkins called the Sweet Dumpling. Regardless of size, pumpkins need a ridiculous amount of water and will suck up whatever I give them. One of the Hubbard vines is 16 feet long and seems to grow a half foot a day.

Prepaid customers. I'm looking for a few of them. I'm not talking a full blown CSA by any means. Nor am I talking about a regular "pick-up" schedule. I just need a few folks who can regularly take irregular amounts of produce at irregular intervals just like real life. This would really help me even out my production kinks because some times there's just too little to make a farmer's market worthwhile and too much to eat myself. So, I'll be looking for a few "Prepaids" soon. The means to communicate produce availability may be email, texts, tweets, or facebook announcements, whatever works best for my Prepaids. If you're out there, let me know.

Now that I'm starting to see some production out of my plot, next year's planning is starting to take hold. The number 15 has been resonating in my brain. A few weeks back I heard some SPIN Farmer mention something about 15 bundles of anything being the minimum volume to take to a farmer's market. Conceptually, I thought this was great. Though the SPIN Farmer was referring to sales displays, I feel that 15 could also be applied to number of plants in a planting. Like next year, I will do two plantings of Japanese Long Cucumbers with 15 plants each timed at a 10 day interval. This will give me an abundance of cukes throughout the season for grander displays.

Wow. That was meant to be a quick one and it's two hours later. I got to do this more often. Lastly, I'm not sure how I grew white beets, whether is was a genetic defect or a seed packing mistake, but those two white beets pictured up there tasted like pure sugar. Like, I was thinking they'd be good on oatmeal, for real. Perhaps, these were sugar beets?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lease is signed

Back on Wednesday, I anted up on this urban farm thing when I formally signed a lease agreement with the Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation (BPDC), who owns the property next to my Cleveland Land Bank property. I've signed personal leases for apartments, but nothing in the name of a business before. Gratefully, the lease was simple enough that I could understand it without a legal background and with minimal questions.

The last time that I had spoken with BPDC it was over a complaint regarding sunflowers. So I thought the hammer may be coming down at this meeting. Instead, it felt quite the opposite. BPDC assured me that they are still all for the farm and would help block any Buddhist parking lot expansions or other pro-runoff business (or non-profit) entities. Furthermore, BPDC is committed to helping me navigate the perilous waters that are Cleveland fence and shed permitting. I also learned that my farm has inspired some others to start a community garden in the area. The final cherry was when Bryan Gillooly, Executive Director of BPDC, personally bought "A Farm in Cleveland?!" t-shirt to conclude the meeting. Thanks Bryan!

The pictures above are from Thursday, July 8th. The melons completely freaked out in this killer heatwave and almost overtook the black plastic at this point. It's hard to determine where the melons are actually planted. Also, there's a picture of the first farm picking, a jade scallop squash and a Japanese long cucumber that needs some hummus accompaniment.

If you can't tell, the t-shirts are in. However, I've yet to make a formal announcement until I get somebody with better photogenic-ness than myself as a model. I also want to see if any stores around the area will carry them. I have a quasi-appointment at 4 PM today in Coventry at one of the nicest women's clothing boutiques in town. I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My first farmer's market!

Took place on July 3rd at the Gordon Square Farmer's Market. I'm so glad it's over with because I had no idea what I was doing. Somehow, I walked away with exactly a dozen dollars for my less than abundant wares. So I feel good about that. Getting over that learning curve seems exponential.

Notice that picture up top, the only reason that I'm partly shaded is because of the good grace and size of Farmer Dan's pop-up tent next to me. It turns out that you need a pop-up tent for both you and your veggies if you're going to sell at farmer's markets. Check.

Because of ATMs, people have an abundance of 20-dollar bills; therefore, I will have ample amounts of one and five dollar bills. Check.

Selling veggies is not for the anti-social. I'm sure glad I like food because people ask questions, a lot of them. Check.

Binder clips are the new duct tape and proletariat-ly work as displays, holders of price tags, the cash stash, holder of table cloths, etc. Subsequently, bring binder clips next time. Check.

Besides these specifics, the learning curve got applied to even mundane tasks like loading up Subee-1 and how people would choose to take their vegetables home. For instance, when people were faced with the option of putting carrots in a plastic sandwich bag or a re-used plastic Chinese carry-out container, people simply opted to dump their carrots in their re-usable bag.

So I'm glad that's all over with! I'm at a post-Spring, early-Summer lull that has me without veggies beyond my own personal consumption. I've got melons, cukes, pumpkins, corn, and tomatoes coming, but sort of nothing right now. I'm busying myself with watering, and paw paw orchard planting. There's some other grants out there that I need to be pursuing wholeheartedly.

In the meantime, some old man complained to me the other day about my sunflowers. Something about he "now needs to inch out when he turns right on red." So I took some pictures of wildflowers for all of you to complain about.

Earlier today, I had a power meeting with Dean Santell and Jim Funai at Tri-C, regarding the development of an urban agriculture program or certificate at Tri-C. It seemed pretty promising, but still in the developmental stages. I'm just glad community colleges are starting to take an interest in our urban farming ventures. For some reason, it makes it seem more real.

Tomorrow, I finally sign a formal lease with the Bellaire-Puritas Development Corp. This has been on the back burner for months, but just never formalized. Hopefully, they don't inundate me with jargon. I don't think that will be the case. I'll keep you updated.