Family Work Days – A good way to start the Fall

and I just got back from a vacation to Seattle.  Leaving the farm in the middle of harvest is a dicey proposition at best, but coming back with a family work day on the farm certainly helped with the catching up that happens when any of us leave for any length of time.

This family work day was designated as fall planting, but before you can plant for the fall you need to spend some time harvesting the summer.  and , along with some help from Kit and Rev for sure, had already done a great job of harvesting and cleaning corn to be dried.
We had all had a family meal together with the Inca corn just before leaving for Seattle.  That corn is the best blend of sweet and hearty corn I have ever tasted and I am sure we will be planting it again next year.  But harvests come in waves so and dived into the harvest while I started ripping out dry pea plants long since done for the year. Then it was on to the carrots for me. 

One of the major adjustments I have been going through with gardening at Sunflower River is learning the differences from gardening in New England.  Some of what is different is the climate, but the other major difference is the process of remediating the soil.  The area we chose to garden first was by all accounts (see Bernallio county aerial photography) a parking lot for dead trucks.  So the soil has needed some major help.  Part of the problem is clay, hard packed clay.  Now back to those carrots, I started to ‘pull’ carrots.  Imagine my New England gardening sensibilities  (which include nice moist dirt) when I pulled on the greens and ‘snap’ went the carrot – still in the ground.  Ok – I knew we had clay.  So I get out some tools to loosen the soil.  Then I start pulling  on the little bit of carrot poking out of the ground, and ‘snap’ went the top half of the carrot.  At this point I have only half of the first carrot – and a lowering level of patience.  Well with a bunch more trial and error I found I could twist the carrots out and get a whole carrot – but only after loosing the soil and wiggling the carrot.  Needless to say this took a bit of time and after dealing with the first row I decided the second row would be quite happy to grow for another week or two.  has assured me this is a soil thing and not a southwest gardening thing.  So next year raised beds for carrots – thank you very much.

Once the harvesting was done it was on to planting.  The south end of our garden still needs soil help – and at the advice of ‘s grandfather we planted buckwheat in that area to help break up the soil and provide a fall cover crop that we can till under this winter.  I have never actually seen buckwheat so I am excited to see how that grows.  The seed package claims a love of poor soil and the ability for buckwheat to help fix nitrogen and phosphorus – all good things.

We also put in our fall lettuces, radishes, swiss chard, and cauliflower. But only after turning the soil which was full of wonderful roots from the summer crops in that row.
Each year we add more dirt to our clay simply by working the soil.

Besides all of that and I prepped 5 gallons of apples from the tree at Caer Aisling and started the process of pickling watermelon rind (a tasty bit of my childhood).

I haven’t even mentioned the great amount of progress that Rev, Kit, and our guest Evan made on the coyote fencing!

Family work days have become a great way for all of us to spend some time working on projects that don’t need many hands, and working together certainly brings the sunflower stewards closer to each other.  I was very grateful for coming home to one of these types of days.  It also was one of the most productive days I personally have had on the farm – and that is always a great feeling.

May your today be productive, and may you taste the sweetness of tiredness from a day well spent.