It is difficult to believe that we are already halfway through the summer! With midsummer behind us, autumn will be with us sooner than most of us would like to imagine. For the last two months, our crew has been diligently working away at the site to recreate something new, something beautiful. We have made such incredible progress at the site.
The last of the remaining storm debris is slowly being cleared from the neighborhood. Although the storm was devastating, it is always eye-opening to experience such a dramatic and rapid shift in the landscape. These powerful weather experiences are profound reminders of the power of nature and the brief period without power was a great lesson in both patience and gratitude.
In the last week or so, work at the Honey House has begun to shift from transplanting and direct seeding to harvesting and maintenance. Last week, we were busy putting all the remaining starts into the ground. The Honey House is finally beginning to resemble a farm. The plants are eagerly growing. Just last week we finally did our first official harvest….kale, Swiss chard, spinach, sage, basil, cilantro, and even some edible flowers! Everything is looking very impressive. We are constantly being reminded of the success of this dramatic transformation by the positive feedback we receive from our friendly neighbors and passersby.
Signs of other less desirable garden visitors, such as hungry bunnies, aphids, and cabbage moth caterpillars have also begun to appear. As urban farmers/gardeners the act of sharing the harvest becomes all the more challenging when you have such a small area of land to work with. We have been not only learning how to thoughtfully observe, but also learning how and when to intervene. That awareness is something that occurs over time, after many years of observation. Recognizing the importance of reflection is one of the most important lessons to learn in the garden and we experience that on a daily basis at the farm, particularly in regards to how the farm was designed and how it is being maintained.
Our farm designer, Paula Westmoreland stopped by last Friday to do a brief talk with us about the intentions of the design. In regards to gardening, life, and particularly our space, she stated that as advocates of permaculture,
“We need to create space for life”.
Last weekend, a couple of us had the opportunity to take a brief trip up to Garden Farme (an incredible space!), just North of Anoka, to weed our squash plot. The squash hadn’t received any attention since late May when part of the crew went out to plant it. The plot was fairly weedy, but for the most part it was growing well. We noticed a few cucumber beetles and some nibbled leaves, which were likely a result of some hungry deer that inhabit Bruce’s land. Woven into the bed was an excellent stand of Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album). With any organic production, weeds are inevitable, so I say “Choose your weeds wisely” and if you are going to have weeds, Lamb’s Quarter is a great one to have!
A local herbalist once told me that the herbs that you need in your life have a way of magically appearing in your yards and gardens. This year, I have had both Mullein and Motherwort emerge in mine. At the farm, we have an unfortunate and aggressive problem with bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), which we have yet to find an important use for. With the abundance we have at the farm we joked that we better come up with some important use for it! We’re thinking that bindweed will be the next local niche crop.
Every time I weed I try and remember that weeds are one of the gardens many messengers. They reveal many important things about the soil, the climate, and may even offer us insight into our own health, but we need to take the time to pay attention. With a production farm, it is easy to become wrapped up in the production aspect, but in between all the things you intentionally plant are things nature is trying to sneak in. Often times the things that nature sneaks in are just as, if not more nutritious and hardy, than the things that we intentionally plant.