Saturday, July 16, 2011

Finally, the rain has stopped but it's muggy as s#!t out here

Last week, I woke up around 5:30 one morning and the sky was on fire.

This morning I got up at 5:30a to pee (TMI? haha), I looked out the window and there were a bunch of cows in the soybean field across the street where they didn't belong! So I woke up my aunt and uncle and we all got up to gather them back to their pasture. It wasn't as difficult as it could have been, it was light out, it wasn't raining, or hot yet. My uncle has been grazing his cows and one of the benefits, he noted when they were all back in the pen, was that the cows are more responsive to his calls. Because they associate his call with new food when he called them to come back across the street to the lot behind the house they escaped from they were happy to do it! All we pretty much had to do was stand around them in a circle (my grandpa and the neighbor Kevin got up too) and kind of herd them back to the open gate. I'm sure it's not always as easy as that but for my first time, I'm glad getting the cows home wasn't too difficult :)

The weather here has been sh*tty, seriosuly. It's either raining/t-storms with a threat of hail or tornadoes, or it's crazy hot and humid. I've been here just over 3 weeks and there has been about 2 nice days for working outside. Sigh. Yet... somehow, I'm still feeling the pull of this land that's been in my dad's family for generations.

Today is Festival of Farms, Sustainable Farm Day, in Minnesota as declared by the governor. My uncle was helping out with tours at one of the farms (Mike's place) and I came up for the morning tour. Mike is working his 9+ acre piece of land with a sustainable approach in permaculture. If you are unfamiliar with permaculture and have any interest in gardening, or you own your own land, or you want to be smarter, I highly suggest you look it up. Mike's been experimenting with interplanting; a concept found in permaculture of using layers in planting.

The traditional plant combination of squash, beans and corn is one example of successful inter-planting. Mike is working with rotating trips of different veggies and inter-planting grapes(high), raspberries(mid) and strawberries (low) as well as other things. It was educational, inspiring and exciting to see a permaculture farm in action. Making me very eager to get started growing or at least try to convince people who are growing food to try some permaculture methods. Mike also suggested a book to me, Carrots love Tomatoes, because I was telling him when I was at Cornell for Landscape architecture I wasn't learning about what I was really interested and that was edible food and inter planting (though I just learned that term today).

The root cellar is progressing, a bit slower these last few rainy days. Last night I built one bay of shelving so that when Dan was here on his own today he'd have a visual reference of how I wanted the shelves built. Half of the shelves are built. Garlic harvest is tentatively Tuesday which means we need to get those shelves out of there by the time the garage gets full up of garlic!

This is half of the shelves.

The verticals are pressure treated 2x4s as well as the ledgers. The shelves are 1x4 cedar planks which come with one smooth side and one rough- because they are intended for siding. The widest shelf has slats across the back and that is so that veggies can be piled in without leaning against the wall. All the ledgers stick out at the back at least an inch and this is so when the shelves are in place, with the back legs resting on top of the footing, there is still air flow around the back of the shelves. These ledgers will also offer a place to attach the shelves with anchors to the wall to prevent any disasters of a collapsing nature. I was totally jealous of Dan because it was really fun to make that shelf last night, I wanted to spend a whole day making more!

In a root cellar, air flow is super important. If the air gets stale it can lead to rot because of the humid nature of the space. If vegetables are piled too much without air flowing around them it is just breeding ground for mold. I'm looking forward to getting updates from my aunt and uncle about how they are using the root cellar and how well it's actually working and what kinds of things they need to adjust. It's not as easy as plopping their stuff in there!

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