Sunday, December 12, 2010

August 3, 2009 - Recap

August 3, 2009 Recap
Seven months were passed since I was first starting my agricultural experiences. It feels like it has been longer. It was Summer then, hot and rainy. Fruits, flowers, lush foliage, strong scented bounty was everywhere. I can barely remember all as every day brings new little changes. I don’t feel quite the same sensations I had. I don’t know if I have gotten insentitive to Nature’s performance, or if I just make part of it now.
The temperature has dropped significantly. It is average 23⁰C for winter against 30⁰C during Summer months. We had a few freezeing days, but never enough to needing to heat the house. Alas, heating or air conditioning is something that the houses usually don’t have. We depend on opening or closing the windows.
My first experience with vegetable gardening was quite a disaster for not knowing anything about it. I had read books but I trusted that the land would be good enough not to need any additions. I had a massive attack of beasts that not even diseases had time to show. Those ones that sprouted grew weak and improductive except for sweet basil. I still have basil and melissa that refuses to be transplanted.
The lush orchard that looked mysterious and enchanting are gone. My neighbor came with an axe, his wife and a cousin for wood. They cut down three orange trees. My father finished the strenuous work of cutting down the rest of the 20 year old trees. I replaced them with over 45 new plants. Sixteen oranges of different varieties, peach, pear, plum, atemoya, fig, lychee, quince, guava, avocado, mango, jabuticaba, acerola, Portuguese nuts, olive, banana, lime, berries, pomegranate and a number of native trees usually found growing wildly. When the rainy season started, I will go back to the extension agency to buy more plants that I still want in my orchard such as grapes and passionfruit.
My vegetable garden grew in height, and specially in number of plots. It takes the whole part of what used to be bare land in the orchard and also part of what used to be the orchard. After insuccessfully trying to make flower seedlings in the styrofoam trays, I opted for sowing directly into the soil. I may confess that I was a little bit lazy (and anxious) to be able to do such a detailed and slow paced work, in spite of what the books say about ratio of good seedlings. During summer months, I had a help of a man to pile up the compost and spreading the chicken manure. The house smelled toxic (by realesed ammonia) for weeks, but now we get to enjoy fresh vegetables every day. It was so hot that I couldn’t do much, and I left the manure work itself in. Someday, I raised the beds myself. I had bought seeds every time I saw them. I was already collecting quite a few envelopes. I felt overwhelmed just by looking at them. So much work ahead. So many of them required transplanting. Some rainy day, MC’s parents-in-law came to visit her and gave me a kick started I needed. I asked them about the location, orientation, size of the beds. I first sowed arugula, parsley and cilantro. I drove them back home and brought adult green onions to plant instead of starting from seeds. I have now over 22 raised beds. I have eaten red radishes, and still enjoying arugula which yielded first. I am harvesting daikon radish, beets, oak leave lettuce, zucchini, scallions, parsley and cilantro. I have a luxury of packing a few of these to proudly bring to my friends. Some leafy vegetables can be eaten young such as mustard, collard greens, and even lettuce. I have transplanted lettuce and other vegetables successfully. The ratio of loss is minimal. Pests have come, specially catterpilars, but I lost my repugnance and now pick them by fingers to step on it. I have not had courage to make catterpillar juice in the blender to spread back on the plants as a pesticide for the same bugs. Instead, I am experimenting with juice of nehem leaves and garlic peel. But positively, manure makes all the difference. I couldn’t believe it. Everything grew strong. Even the root vegetables had espectacular foliage. I learned that chicken manure has too much nitrogen which is good for leaves, but not so much for roots. I sowed more radishes and beets on a cow manured plots a few days ago.
I can’t believe I am starting a new cycle for radishes, arugula, and beets. My lack of organization is notorious. My brassicas are all over. I can’t just tell what is what. I have collard grees, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprout and cabbage. I know I have taken note of it, but I can’t find it. Later on, I transplanted them. I have to wait until they starting to show their identity. I few other vegetables bore too many seedlings, but not to lose them, I transplanted as many as I could. I got Oak leave lettuce from my gardening instructor, therefore, I had not chosen to be in my salad bowl. And it beared so much! It seems like no seeds failed. I am still transplanting as new spots get available. I ate it young and tasted like manure (if I can say that). But as it grew, it has a soft texture and mild flavor, but it is edible. To my surprise, a different variety of lettuce sprouted with tagetes. We got to enjoy them. As I transplant seedling to where becomes available, my garden is becoming less homogenous. This is also a strategy to repel bugs. Tagetes, nasturtium, cilantro, hot peppers, onions, parsley are spread around. I also found out that I need to alocate in different plots as I don’t know ahead of time where is the optimal place for the plant to thrive. To my surprise, the leftover collard grees loved a patch that even had the manured scraped and moved elsewhere. At the same time, the sweet corn was attack by some kind of mold.
I also discovered that some seeds take a long time to germinate. When I thought failed, New Zeland spinach came about. Only three, but enough for a family. It grows in bushes.
Currently I had on my garden salad vegetables (mustard, watercress, red leaved lettuce, Salad bowl lettuce, arugula, bettercrunch lettuce), leaf vegetable (collard greens, broccoli, brussels sprout, cauliflower, New Zealand spinach, cabbage, chinese cabbage), shoot vegetable Florence fennel, celery, bulb vegetable (yellow onions, pearl onions, leek), pod and seed (okra, corn, mangetout beans, pole beans, soy beans, andu beans), squash (cucumber, zucchini, ornamental squash, and other varieties on the farm), root (radish, beet, daikon, carrots), fruiting (two varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, bell pepper, sweet pepper, hot peppers), herb(rosemary, anise seed, lemon balm, basil, bay, camomile, cilantro, sage, dill, dinger, lemongrass, marjoram, parsley, green onions, mint, oregano, peppermint, thyme, wormwood, citronella and other native medicinal herbs), flowers (marigold, calendula, nasturtium). Those are the ones I have introduced on our farm. There are many others that were already here such as aloe vera, alfavaca of basil family, loofah, and fruits. My contribuition was to bring annual edible veggies in.
Every day, just before mealtimes, and sometimes during, even at night with the help of a lantern, I run to my garden to collect fresh veggies. I specially enjoy pungent flavors. Besides arugula, I love to eat grated raw zucchini, beet, daikon radish and green onions seasoned with salt, lime, and olive oil. Sometimes, I add soy sauce and rice vinegar.
We still buy majority of other vegetables that we are not harvesting. But I started to eat more of them. One of the best ways of eating are heating oil to the point of burning and toss coarsely chopped green beans, or cauliflower, or broccoli to a quick sautee. It turns out caramelized on the outside, and crispy and crunch inside. I can eat just that, even as a snack.
Spicy veggies are good to replace other industrialized flavorings such as ketchup or mustard. Of course, I never eat those creamy dressings.
I have acess to fresh eggs any time I want. I run to the chicken coup to collect them. I still get fresh baked bread from my neighbor. I get to supply her with fresh veggies now. I have visited a few more neighbors. Specially now that I want to bring a milk program to my farm. I am working on financing my milk farm and about to get it.
I am all busy and unable to write, even though sometimes it comes to my mind nice lines of writing. Such as “driving through the plain fields of pastureland...”

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