Farm Update January 6th, 2018

Happy New Year!

We are back at it after a nice break. Today we completed the fall treatment of the asparagus beds – a bit late but finished nevertheless. We should have a pretty good asparagus harvest this spring with two beds that we can fully cut and one bed that we should be able to harvest very lightly. We will prepare and plant a fourth bed later this month.

We continue to plant apace. In the high tunnel we recently planted a partial bed of baby romaine lettuce, with the remainder of that bed to be planted with more romaine tomorrow. Today a half bed of arugula was seeded. Tomorrow we will transplant kohlrabi, spigariello, fennel and rainbow Swiss chard.

We are looking forward to delivering delicious, healthy, sustainably grown food to  you this year!

unnamed (1)
new greens bed basking in the warmth of the high tunnel
unnamed
purple prickly pear cacti

 

The Heartiness of Handwork

Growing sustainable, earth-conscious food often means lowering one’s hands to the earth in order to work palm-to-leaf with the plants. We shuffle aside tomato, cucumber, and bush bean vines to pluck the fruit. With a pair of scissors in tow, we shear off our greens, cabbage buds, and squash babes. Oftentimes, after mowing down a bed of lettuce I will run my hand, open-palmed, over the freshly-cut greens. Or, after thinning the seed trays so that each square is taken up by only one sprout, I will do the same routine—run my hands over the freshly cut greens. It brings a certain level of satisfaction, to work so closely with the plants.

Handwork means consciously caring for the plants. We call the places where we lay down the seeds to grow, “beds.” We push aside dirt with our hands to create wide troughs and after distributing the seeds throughout them, we, “tuck them in,” by covering the pushed-aside dirt back over them.

Since going organic means refraining from the use of pesticides and herbicides, we often have to tackle these problems hands-on. It’s not unlikely to dedicate entire mornings of our off-harvest days to uproot weeds all around the field.

As for pests, we have undergone infestations so bad as to necessitate examining each plant, leaf by leaf, spraying the insects methodically away with water, and dousing them with garlic oil to repel future visits. This happened when aphids began to multiply at such a rate in the kale bed that, despite our best efforts, we ended up chopping all the leaves off of each plant in the hopes it might regrow. It didn’t, and then we uprooted each stalk by hand.

When there are not more pressing matters at hand, such as getting more seeds into the ground, we will chop the roots off of the old, bolted and overgrown plants. Sitting in the dirt with machetes in hand, we leave behind tiny fibers of nutrition to nourish future plants.

Handwork is healing. The same way the roots, like a plant’s fingers, digging in and clinging onto its hold in the ground, are left behind to massage the next set of roots, we too intend for our efforts to make more nutritious ingredients available to more people, and that our sustainable methods will leave behind a legacy that revitalizes the ground’s fertility.

It’s not uncommon that you will find us, day after day, out in the field working with our hands. And when we take a break, we use our hands to nourish ourselves, roasting just-harvested squash and chilis atop the fire, chopping up Siberian Kale, Sorrel, cucumbers, Iitois Onions, and tomatoes for a meal so hearty that to use a fork would be a shame.

This post was created by Hallie Hayes, an intern at SouthWinds Farm.

To Harvest Green Beans

To Harvest Green Beans

Kneel on the ground, head bowed to the west. Fold your hands beneath the stalks as if cradling a newborn’s head. Lift up gently.

Sift through the stalks and concentrate. Being the same size and color of the stalks, the beans are tricksters when given the chance. Leave no stalk unturned.

To harvest beans is a lesson in choosing wisely. Like broccoli, when left on the stalk too long, the beans will turn to buds, and the plant will consider this a top priority, concentrating all its energy and nutrition into the cultivation of this future plant. Yet, plucking too early means cutting down the bounty of the next harvest. And so, it’s a lesson in balance, as well.

Cup your hand around a bean, finger-sized, and yank. Leave the smaller ones to develop. The biggest ones are ripe to share. This reminds me of—no; don’t let your mind wander. Focus on the harvest, don’t miss a bean. Get to the end of the row and round the corner. Sort through the stalks your companion just harvested from, as your companion does the same. Pluck a few more beans.

Reach the end and raise yourself up on two feet. Mix your harvest with your companion’s. Smile as you head over to sort out the slightly-chewed on casings underneath the head-cooling shelter of the shade.

This post was created by Hallie Hayes, an intern at SouthWinds Farm.

New Interns Take Root

After spending two days on a bus ride from my hometown in Iowa, I hopped in a manual-shift truck and headed out to the farm where I would intern for the next three to six months. On our way there, Joe—the farm’s owner, Kristen—the other intern, and I stopped at a burrito joint before piling back into the truck, bound for a few miles of bumpy dirt road that crossed paths with everything from the San Pedro River, Jack Rabbits, Roadrunners, cacti to the well-known dryness of the Sonoran soil. As the tires from the car kicked up my first whiff of what was soon to develop into mild allergies, the eight acres that are Southwinds Farm materialized before us. I was delivered to a picnic table well-shaded beneath tarps outside the RV where Kristen and I would soon be sleeping, eating, showering, reading, and watching movies together, and there, gathered at that table, we ate our first meal.

Southwinds Farm is located on the eastern slope of the San Pedro Valley. At an elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level, the sun is closer and harsher than the Valley—our price to pay for an unrivaled view. The Rincon Mountain range, garnering Rincon Peak and Mica Mountain to the northeast, with the Whetstone Mountain range to the southeast play tricks with our eyes, changing from a speckled-green tan color under sunlight to deep blue silhouettes beneath the rainclouds. In our backyard is a mesa, and when we climb it we gain the view of the Dragoons and the Little Dragoons, rounding out our view of mountain ranges in a complete 360 degree circumference.

“Are you growing some dreadlocks?” Gentry, the apprentice and farm manager asks me. As I answer with a short explanation that they are natural-formed dreads, he flips through his phone to show me a picture of his dreadlocks before he had chopped his hair to the mere inch it stood at now.

Although he didn’t know it at a time, this mere act of sharing was as much as a welcome to me as the burrito had been after a 48-hour nearly-foodless journey. A friend of mine had interned at a farm in Washington where they had asked him to cut off his dreads. Learning that Gentry himself had recently had dreads, I cast this worry away.

One of the first things that Kristen and I learned on the farm was how to plant seeds into small blocks, water them until they start sprouting, then plant the entire block—sprout and all—into the beds for growing. We plant the sprouted blocks at night because the delay of sunlight helps them recover from the shock of transplantation into new soil. Another crucial step in shock absorption is to fertilize the plants right away. With a diluted mix of fish guts and kelp, we pour the nutrients onto the leaves and soil. This soaks in overnight, and by morning they are ready for the sun.

As new interns, Kristen and I had been transplanted from our own blocks in which we had heretofore grown our roots. Here, we had been placed in new soil—a larger bed—where, if we were to take advantage of it, our roots would grow well beyond the blocks, allowing us to remain more strongly rooted in our identities, expanding our access to fuller nutrients along the way. Here, with food picked fresh daily, it is easier for us to follow the diet we desire—simple, fresh, wholesome ingredients.

But it wasn’t just our access to nutrition that made us feel more welcome here. Joe has garnished us with many more acts of kindness, from sunshirts to neck coolers to chocolate, and more. Gentry introduced us to his friend, leant me a guitar for my stay here, and a book worth reading. It’s these little acts of kindness that have helped us absorb our former selves into this place we’ve plopped ourselves into. While we won’t lose our original shapings completely, our roots will spread and we’ll let this place become a part of us, and us a part of it. Well-fed, we wait for the morning light, when you can find us out in the field, snipping off greens, pulling up roots, and preparing the depleted beds for new sprouts to take root.

Not long after planting our first set of seed blocks, I saw the preliminary tufts of green starting to carve their ascension through the dirt. “Why are some of these sprouts bigger while some of them haven’t even appeared yet?” I asked Gentry one day, worried that Kristen and I had done something wrong in the process.

“They are just more excited to see the world,” he assured me. “Some are more eager than others.”

This post was created by Hallie Hayes, an intern at SouthWinds Farm.