Our lives have changed so much in the last 5 months since our last blog post. To start with our 2016 growing season with a total of 20 weeks of production was our best producing season yet!
Over the past three years we have learned a lot about farming. This blog post will share with you what we see as the good... the bad... & the ugly of farming that we have encountered thus far.
We are so grateful for the lovely produce and farming knowledge base that we have grown. Over the past three years we have grown five different varieties of tomatoes, three different varieties of beans, three different varieties of peppers, two different varieties of corn, two different varieties of cucumbers, two different varieties of potatoes, summer squash, rattlesnake watermelons, carrots, sweet peas, lettuce, green onions, and pumpkins. They have all been delicious!
While growing our produce & knowledge base we have determined a few bad, less desirable, aspects of farming. Our biggest struggle has been with the weeds and poisonous plants on our farm over the past three years.
Our definition of "the weeds": any plant/green thing growing in our farming area that we do not consume or sell. The weeds continue to resurface despite our best no-till farming & manual efforts to eliminate them so the battle against weeds perpetuates.
The poisonous plants that we have struggled with includes poison ivy & wild parsnips. We like to joke that we grow poison ivy like a cash crop on our back two acres but sadly it is the truth. The poison ivy is everywhere out there! This year has been our first year of battling the wild parsnips but it packed a wallop. As a result, we have adapted ways of coping with these vicious plants. Our self defense mechanisms now include wearing blue jeans, high ankle socks, closed toe shoes, & gardening gloves EVERY TIME we go on the farm. Wearing all these clothing items might seem like a no-brainer. However, when it is 95° outside wearing all that clothing SUCKS hard but not no where near as much as being burned by either of these plants.
Our last, sometimes seemingly least effective & scary as hell defense mechanism is manually removing these plants from our farming area. Yes, we do pick these plants "by hand" and throw their limp, lifeless vegetation fannies as far as we can into our back acres. It has been quite exhilarating to remove these plants out of our farming area; reasserting that we can adapt and thrive as farmers. In case you are wondering, the term "by hand" means that we use our gloved hand that is also inside a plastic bag to manually remove these plants from our farm. Often we compete on who can pull the biggest root. You know a friendly competition that could end with us both having blistered skin, but hey, a farmer's gotta do what a farmer's gotta do.
On a final note, we have experienced numerous allergic reactions due to poison ivy & wild parsnips over the past three years. However, we are proud to say that this year is the first year that Armonda has not had to receive a prednisone shot in the booty to alleviate an allergic reaction. Woo hoo!!!
Viewer discretion is advised.
The following photos are stuff of our nightmares.
Destruction from grasshoppers, squash bugs, tomato moth caterpillars(hornworms), spotted cucumber beetles as well as dying plants & weather are the most of the ugly factors that we have experienced. We have learned that there is nothing more depressing & infuriating than experiencing any & all of the above.
For example, last year we harvested over 45 pie pumpkins from three plants & this year we only harvested 25 pie pumpkins from three plants. Here's the hardest part to digest... The only reason were were not able to grow & harvest more pie pumpkins this year is because our plants become infested with squash bugs and died off last week. It is so hard to watch it wilt away when you worked so hard to grow, protect, & nurture it. Since we do not use chemicals on our farm we hand pick as many of the less desirable insects off our plants & dispose of them, usually we squish them to death. It is a tragedy, but it is a survival of the fittest world we live in. We do use diatomaceous earth to curtail our locust, grasshopper, population. Otherwise, the locust would eat us out of house & home.
The most unpredictable & unsettling part we have had to work with is the weather. Our first year we were just coming out of a drought & concerned about having enough water in our well to drink & shower with, so we did not have any to spare to water our farm if it needed it. Thankfully, mother nature has cooperated over the last three years & we have had successful harvests. However, we know that farming is very volatile. In spite of all the potential ugly factors, we love farming & look forward to farming for the rest of out lives!
We are Four Flags Farm, Armonda & Ben Riggs!