Starts Beneath Your Feet

Tuesday March 8, 2016

My soil test is in the mail but I’ve already spent timeIMG_0751 with the clay loam, by hand and satellite imaging.   There is a rocky swirl across the field in the likeness of a yang or a ying.  I took two tests, one from the wide, circular part of the paisley and another from just beyond the whip of its tail.  My first thought is that there is less organic material in the rockier part but I’ll wait for the test to see what the lab coats say.  In this area, heavy in displaced river rock from floods of the past, there is a case to be solved.  Something’s not right in that part of the field.         

In this block an entire broccoli crop this winter took a turn for the worst.   It happened after a set of down pours.  It seems that the diction best suited to this situation is too much of anything, even a good thing, is bad.  The heads rotted out and it looked a lot like fusarium, which also would have caused the red leaf lettuce wilt.  Out of balance, something in the biology is harboring a criminal.  The fertility appeared to be there; great vegetative growth all around; the kale, Napa cabbage, and a good amount of the red leaf lettuce strived.  As for the broccoli it wasn’t strong enough to defend itself.  A clay soil will hold water for a long period of time when it rests underneath, like a hard pan, a layer of wale-post.    Yup, wale-post.  Cold Creek Compost, a behemoth composting operation in Potter Valley, CA “composts” mostly chicken carcasses and television sets (Martin, the owner said they “can compost anything.” They have a gigantic industrial separator which blows plastic from the near finished product.  Everything about it screams big.)  It’s an incredible little alchemical slum where trash and heat make growing gold.  They have been incredibly generous by donating tons of compost to our farm for the past two years.  The organic matter was at 2% in the last soil test.  I’ll be adding more compost soon but I have to get my onions in.      

At the moment, soil test still in the mail, I am planting onions in the botched broccoli block.  I managed to receive Mycorrhizae inoculated peat moss as a donation from Pro-Mix.  I mixed it with some gypsum to add some mineral content.  Trichoderma mycorrhizae is supposed to hunt and kill fusarium but I don’t even know what kind of mycorrhizae is in this stuff but the peat helps break up the wet gypsum.  I’m hoping that the mineral content, especially the calcium and sulfur will at leas help the immune system of this crop.  I ordered onion slips from Texas and plop the little buggers into a holes I make using a dibbler board.  It’s a simple and somewhat effective contraption composed of screws and wood.  The heads of the screws pierce the soil in a pattern with appropriate spacing: alternate rows of 3 and four, 6” apart.  There are easier ways such as a rolling dibbler but I don’t have the time or money right now to build one.  So much of the farming practice is about how much your adapting to what you do and don’t have.  I could spend an entire day building a dibbler wheel and it would effectively, if built correctly, save me a lot of time, maybe even a day.  I hope to do so when a volunteer here at GFS, a master detective of the industrial arts, named Takashi Yogi arrives sometime this week.  I’m sure I’ll be mentioning him a lot during these journal entries.  He’s truly an immense human with a background in nuclear physics and electricity.  He’s also the president of his Grange outside Sacramento.    


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