Macon County Chronicle

Opinions and Blogs

Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes & More Sweet Potatoes!

Sweet Potatoes are the last major crop we plant in the spring, and also the last to get harvested.  All we need is two days without rain, and a whole lot of help.  Monday and Tuesday we got both.  Eleven rows were 700 feet long and three rows are half of that, and both rain and frost were in the forecast. 
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Farm's Fall Festival A Huge Success!

Preparation began in late Sept. for the farm’s fall festival. A thorough house cleaning happened early in the week, as it was too wet to “clean” the gardens. That had to wait until Wednesday or Thursday, when I also got to plant more kale and dig two rows of sweet potatoes. 
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Use the Land Entrusted to Us . .

One of the offers I have is at a farm in Nashville.  A hundred years ago this land grew a large garden and supplied vegetables to hotels downtown.  We would like to recreate gardens here, raising food and public awareness about biodynamic gardening.
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Farming Knowledge Lost?

It’s no secret that I love farming. The whole question of land use intrigues me, from forestry and pasture management to the various horticulture techniques for different crops.  These days it’s the middle part, making compost and soil preparation that I enjoy focusing on.
Owning land is a responsibility.  Tennessee was woodland until we cleared the forest for our crops and animals. This was done without machines; our grand fathers used crosscut saws and grubbing hoes to make field.  If we aren’t going to tend the fields they ought to be left to grow back into woods.
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What's Under the Ground

As an effort to understand more about what’s under the ground we stand on, I took a three day course in microbiology. It’s a fascinating subject. The professor dispelled many myths and inspired a desire to learn more. I have a long way to go.
Soils have lots of nutrients, but they are in a form that is unavailable to plants. A soil test tells us what’s available, and gives recommendations for how much fertilizer to add. The water soluble fertilizer helps t he plants to grow, but it destroys the soils microorganisms. Once we learn their role, we don’t want to hurt them. There are a thousand times more unavailable nutrients in the soil than available ones, and microbes can make them available.
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Vegetables

We don’t want to sell vegetables, but we grew too much winter squash for the members of our coop. so I called a few other community supported agriculture farms to see if they needed any, and they did. Some potatoes were asked for, too, and a count in the cave determined extra.
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Bare Ground won’t Stay Bare for Long

Bare ground won’t stay bare for long. We dress her up in cover crops. This is one of the best ways to build soil humus. Most of our vegetables are in and out within three months, so there’s plenty of time for growing crops just for the soil. Since I don’t want weeds, I plant cover crops.
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The Melons are Rolling In

The melons are rolling in, and we are rolling in melons. Cantalopes, known as muskmelons, have one major purpose on the farm. They are a week-long diversion to keep us from picking unripe watermelons.
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How much raw sweet corn can a person eat

Pleasured with sweat in the August dust,
We treasured the wet of summer swimming.
Though hungry and itching, harvest we must
‘Fore going to the kitchen to see what is simmering.
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Nitrogen

Air is 79% nitrogen. As a farmer, this makes me happy. Plant growth requires a lot of nitrogen and I don’t want to buy it. So we grow beans.
In mid-May I make furrows about two inches deep in a well-composted garden spot. We drop a couple of beans from last year’s garden every foot,, and t hen step on them to firm the seed into the earth. Dry soil is raked over top and in a few days they are up and running.
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As the Heat Turns Up

I’m falling, as the heat turns up during the first few weeks of August, we are planting the fall garden. Lovely carrots and beautiful beets are dug and snug in the cave. The rows of the roots are turning from orange and red underground to green leaves waving in the air.
Gardening, like all of life, is change. As soon as a crop is finished, out it goes and in goes the next. By keeping the garden weed-free, it’s relatively easy to sow again. And when it does get weedy, the bushhog and plows are ready to help.
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I Think, Therefore I Can

I think, therefore I can. Amidst the abundant summer harvest, I consider our winter provisions. A peek in the cellar revealed empty shelves, and the Blue Lake beans were perfect. After sending 12 bushels of beans to Nashville, we picked two more for ourselves.
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Volunteer Gardner

Volunteer Gardner is a public television show on at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. I’ve been appearing on it for ten years or so. It’s ironic, because I don’t watch tv. Each year I get a copy of the ones we’ve shot, but I’ve not watched any from the last three or four years, and there are many others I’ve never seen.
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Biodynamic Farm Extension Agent

I am a biodynamic farm extension agent, visiting organic gardens and farms and offering advice. This was not planned. It just happens that many gardens are sprouting up to meet the demand for local produce, and I’ve been a local market gardener for 30 years. If someone with 30 years of experience in organic growing in Tennessee had visited me when I started, they could have saved me 20 years of mistakes.
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Moon Signs

Old timers often times planted by the moon signs. I’m frequently asked if I do, and I don’t know what to say. Although I pay attention to the moon’s phases and signs, I generally go about my business regardless of it. The moon obviously affects that water of the earth, and consequently it can’t help but affect plant growth.
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Organic Farming

Organic farming is how folks have grown food throughout history, up until about a hundred years ago. After a few decades of chemicals, a new organic farming movement arose, along with much confusion. I’m still trying to figure it out and sort the myths from reality.
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Greenhouses

Many new organic gardeners feel the need for a greenhouse, an irrigation system and raised beds, but not for tractors, plows and animals.  In this regard, and a few others, I find myself to be more conventional.  To use the word organic now, you must follow rules set by the USDA which I don’t, and you can use materials which I won’t.
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Tip of the Iceberg

Iceberg is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lettuce varieties. The garden has ten different kinds this year. Alternating rows of red and green one five the beds a striped appearance. Gardening is like a painting that changes weekly.
Leaf lettuces do not make heads. Black seeded Simpson is the most well known. We grow Red Sails, which has red frilly leaves and gets big. It doesn’t pack and ship well because it is so tender.
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Music Makes the World Go 'Round

Music makes the world go ‘round, soothes the wild beasts, and has a universal appeal. All cultures make some kind of music, and it can be as different as night and day. With seven acres of vegetables planted (finally), you know we do a lot of picking. But there is always time for picking guitars, too.
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New Land, New Tractors, New People

In between the flurry of farm activities here, I slip into Davidson Count and continue the fun. Twice we’ve taken our manure spreader there, and have about 150 tons of biodynamic compost spread over two acres on four different farms. One field is potatoes, one is sweet corn, on is melons and fruit, and the largest one is for the vegetable garden.
This is new land for me, new tractors, and new people, so I am definitely on a learning curve. The day I arrived to plant potatoes, George informed me that there was a wet weather spring in the back third of the field. But they already had the seed potatoes cut up, so we planted the whole patch. With the extra wet spring, that part of the field did not come up. So our potato crop, which is flowering and is hilled up, will be less than we planned on. But I planned on too much anyway, so we are about on target.
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