Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Favorite Tools

(Before I start, please note:  Our produce stand was a huge failure.  It was only open for about a week, then it froze and the season was all over for us.  With the late spring start and an early freeze,  'I give up ' Mother Nature!  Time to start thinking about next year.)
We had our Focus on Farming event here in Snohomish County in mid-November.  One of the questions that was asked of a our panel was, "What are your three favorite tools?"  Since I garden in the style of my grandmother, mostly with small hand tools and anything mechanized like rototilling, was left to the men.  So, my favorite tools are a rototiller, a hula hoe, and a seeder per the following:  
The above is a picture of our 5 HP Craftsman walk behind with an 18 inch tiller.  It has been a 'godsend' piece of equipment.   We (Doug or Bob) can till about 50-60 foot rows in about three hours.  Yes, I do hand tilling, but it's a row here and there.  A senior citizen such as myself can 'manage' a straigh line, and as long as there is no turning involved.    I still haven't gotten the knack of a well-done, efficient turn.  And, as long as there are no hoses, plants or people in my way, it's not a problem.        
  When we are planting, we customize the width of our rows to accommodate the tiller, we plant roughly 24 inches.  This allows for plant growth and squeezes more plants into the garden. (DUH?)  We were planting our rows a tractor tiller width (48 inches) apart, but that wasn't an efficient use of our space. (another DUH???!!)  
Okay, moving on ... below are my other two most favorite tools.  On the left is a hula hoe ... it's one of those tools that when you are in the 'rythym' of using it, all of the stars are lined up and life is good.  Because of it's curved corners, it's great for weeding close to the plants. 
The other tool, the one on the right is an Earthway seeder, with interchangeable seed plates.  Yes, and one year, (Bob can attest to this) not too long ago, I forgot to check the seed plate to make sure that we had the right one in it! Arrgghhhh

We have successfully and easily planted from seed: beets, carrots, green beans, corn, lettuce, pumpkin and cucumbers.  The pumpkin seed was a little bit too big for our biggest plate.
The Earthway made the planting of those itty, bitty seeds really fast and no bending!  I planted 32-60 foot rows of corn in about an hour or maybe less. 
Our goals have never been to be a big dollar producer, and make our money from selling vegetables.  HA!  We would have been out of business in the first two years!  Even if we would have been perfect, Mom Nature jerked the rug right out from under us!  Our goal is to grow high quality food using as little fossil fuel as possible and share our experience with people who want to grow their own food.
Food production wise we have been averaging about 4,000 lbs of food per year.  In 2012 we were hoping to produce 6,000 lbs by hand, with little equipment, but with the late spring and early fall, we fell short. 
I like to think that beginning food producers/gardeners/farmers will learn from our mistakes. Some of the mistakes have been 'what were we thinking!?' kinds of mistakes. And, yes, embarrassing to admit. Learning from one's mistakes is what happens when you are 'self-taught.'   Neither my grandmother, nor my mother explained why they gardened the way they did. In the spring, my mother could toss tomato seeds into the ground and by late August we would be eating  tomatoes right off the vines like they were apples.  I didn't know what happened in between, but to this day, I remember the first bite and that tomato juice running down my arm! YMMMM  And, BY GOLLY I'm going to figure it out!  Even if it means growing cherry tomatoes!  Make it a great day!  Happy Holidays to you and yours!