Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doin' It At the Farm

Warning:  The following image may be inappropriate for idiots.

Exhibitionists!  They just have no boundaries do they?  Even right here on this young parsnip stem, out in the open for everyone to see. 

"A long war, not with cranes, but with weeds, those Trojans who had sun and rain and dews on their side.  Daily the beans saw me come to their rescue armed with a hoe, and thin the ranks of their enemies, filling up the trenches with weedy dead."
- Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
There is always a job to be done on the farm and after spending the cold winter and early spring months in the greenhouse, it was time to take to the fields.

Zach needed help tending to the beans, parsnips and peas that were starting to grow faster, along with all the rogue plants fighting for space on these nutritious beds.  First we head out to rescue the beans from the "Trojans who had sun and rain and dew on their side."  Zach gave us a quick tutorial on hoe to use the hoe out in the field.  Since we were dealing with young bean plants, we wanted to be careful not to uproot them while ensuring that all weed roots were brought to the surface, especially those closest to the plants as these were direct competition.

Zach explained that you need to keep the hoe parallel to the soil while progressing through each bed.  You want to go deep enough to uproot the weed, leaving it facing the sun to dry out, which prevents reproduction.  It was an especially good time to hoe these beds since there was going to be sparse rain for a while.  This causes the weeds to lose the battle; however, the never ending war rages on.

Once prepped, we got down to business.

The good thing about these long hoes is that you don't have to bend down and put pressure on your back, which could lengthen this tedious process.  Zach told us that he would rather hoe a few times a month than spend an entire day hand-weeding these beds.  This is a much more efficient use of time and with so much to be done on the farm, time is a precious commodity.

We then moved on to the peas.  These funky white nets are actually trellises.  These peas grow like vines and the trellis provides an easy to grab surface for the pea shoots to climb up.  These peas were Oregon Giant Sugar Snaps, which tend to thrive in colder weather.  Unfortunately, the beds planted a few months earlier were much more abundant than those more recently sowed.  In what can only be described as Willy Wonka-esq, these pea shoots actually grab tightly onto the trellises and wrap themselves around as they grow.  If you look closely, you can actually see the long, thin pea shoots doing just that....incredible.

This made hoeing a bit more difficult because the wiry pea shoots cover up the base of the plant making it a challenge to avoid hoeing the peas themselves and not just the unwanted weeds.  As with anything else, practice makes perfect and after a few rows, we started to get the hang of it.  A little taste proved quite delicious as well.   Even though the peas were not yet pods, the shoots were a pleasant surprise.  A clean, sweet flavor, the shoots tasted identical to the actual snap peas.  Each shoot yields lots of snap peas and although tasty you are sacrificing quantity for the same flavor, so be patient.

Finally, we put those dirty hoes down and headed straight for those parsnips.
These beds were a little tougher to weed, which meant we had to get down and pull them up with our hands.

Although the parsnips are one of the first vegetables of the season to be planted, they are one of the last to be harvested.  It will take all summer and early fall for these snips to be ready for plucking, but one day they will turn into this...

Yes folks, it is twice the size of this gentleman's head and Matt actually survived eating only this parsnip and nothing else for 6 non-consecutive months; superheroes do exist.

One of the biggest differences between the greenhouse and the fields is that there are many more weeds to deal with outside.  For the most part, the greenhouse weeds tend to come from other beds and since they are in an enclosed space, can be more easily controlled and even harvested.  Out in the field, we found more inedible and resilient weeds that have been there for many years and won't leave their home just yet without a fight.


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