Good Help

Dear readers–the image embedding and tags haven’t been working on my WordPress blogs for a couple of days now–once that’s straightened out, I’ll be back to the regular picture-bedecked posts.

It’s hot as blazes at the farm–95 degrees according to the outdoor part of the indoor thermometer.

I have been out in it–and I’m glad I got out early this morning–before the 30+mph winds, when it was just overcast and cool.  Everything in the gardens got some water either yesterday evening or this morning before I headed into town to put in (very little, I’m afraid) work at the Community Gardens.

But I also went out just a little bit ago to gauge the risk of trying to get some peppers and tomatoes in the ground–in the holes I and a helper dug yesterday.  It’s just not worth it–the combination of heat and wind is just too much.  That, and the tomatoes are going in on landscape fabric I haven’t yet laid–I can just imagine how that project would work in this gale.

So, instead, I dug a few more holes for peppers (bringing the designated sweet pepper space to fifty plants), worked up a spot to transplant the rest of the parsley, and corralled all the harvest buckets to be sterilized with bleach water.  I had to hold them while I got water in the bottom of each, so they didn’t fly away.

There are a few more little projects I can go out and do–I’ve got to hoe the small onion-overflow bed and the bronze fennel bed where volunteer red currant tomatoes are staking a serious claim.

But I’m taking it a little easy in this heat and wind–drinking lots of liquid, taking lots of breaks, and cinching my floppy garden hat securely beneath my chin lest a big gust gets beneath it, and I become a countrified version of Mary Poppins.  It’s probably a good thing I’m wearing my heavy work boots–a little ballast never hurt on this kind of day.

Yesterday evening, I got a nice chunk of work done–I had a woman from Prairie Grass Collective come out for a four-hour stint, and she worked hard–didn’t take a single break, and didn’t have any complaints about the brome-and-hole-digging, weeding, or any other task I set her on.

We started at 4pm and went straight through ’til eight o’ clock–my favorite stretch of the day to work (besides the cool morning hours, when I usually prefer to garden solo).

You start out when the heat is barely beginning to wane, and it just gets cooler and nicer, until that final tool’s put away and you can sit on the front step, break open some beers, and consider the odd twinge in the muscles you didn’t know you had (and the satisfying warmth in the ones you did know about).  And then start thinking about supper and bed.

The thing about getting a helper on the farm is that I have to reconsider my work strategy–if I hand someone else my digging fork and ask them to remove all the brome invading the lower part of the west garden, I can’t simultaneously use that fork to dig holes for peppers.  Guess I need more tools!

Too, my usual strategy when I’m working in the gardens is to task-switch regularly–I’ll be weeding out a particularly bad bed, then I’ll realize I should be tossing the weeds in a bucket for the compost pile.  Off I’ll go to get a bucket, go back to weeding, then realize the bucket’s full, and there isn’t a new pile set up.

So, I’ll let off the weeding again for a bit while I lay the nice green nitrogen-rich weeds out to form the base of the pile.  Turning to consider that rotting bale of straw (the carbon element), I’ll realize I probably want gloves to remove the wire tie to pull apart a flake to scatter over the weeds.  Huh.  I left the gloves in the truck.  And off I’ll go in that direction….

In the end, the bed gets weeded (and in this case, re-sown with chard, as the stand of carrots there was pretty weak, and I needed a place to put chard), the bale gets undone, the compost pile starts to form, and both the newly-forming compost pile and the newly-seeded bed get watered.

But when you’ve got a new person on the farm who is just doing what you ask them to do (and isn’t that a lovely thing!), you have to have tasks set up that don’t depend on a sort of place-induced ADD.  The job has to be ready for doing, the tools have to be gathered in one place, and the refuse pile (in the case of brome–the burn pile) has to be clearly identified.

It’s a whole ‘nother way of thinking, but I think we got through it pretty gracefully.  Well, I know she got through it gracefully, and without managing to make me feel like I was lacking in that department.

Except maybe for when she asked whether she should take out that row of foot-tall trees forming a perfectly straight line along the side of a bed she was weeding, and I had to explain that they were, in fact, weeds, and that I, in fact, had simply neglected to remove them when I removed the trellis that helped the birds to perch there and form that lovely configuration.

But if I remove the trees now, I’ll probably take out a good portion of the spinach in that bed, and with this heat, the spinach will likely make way by the end of next week (which will also allow me to put in one of the summer crops I don’t yet have a clear location for).

Anyhow, we accomplished a respectable amount of work through the long afternoon, I harvested a bag of baby bok choy for her to take home (I can’t imagine working on a veggie farm in full-on spring greens time and not having something tasty to take away), had a brew on the steps, and she said she’d be willing to come out again–“anytime.”

I guess I’d better get a little more organized!

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