Macon County Chronicle

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The World is an Onion

The world is an onion. We peel off layers and shed tears. Something good for us makes us cry. There’s a lot of sadness in the world, but nothing that an onion-filled meal can’t make a little better.

At the first dry spell in March, we are planting onions. Six boxes, with 30 bunches in each, filled up a patch that’s about 1/3 of an acre. The land was composted and rough plowed with a mold board plow last fall. Rebreaking with a harrow behind it was all it needed this spring.

Onion plants are set about six inches apart in rows on our standard 44 inch centers. I sort the bunches and pull out the tiny ones, who will need to grow in a bed before they are set in the field. The others are laid in the furrow and covered up with soil.

Because of their thin leaves, onions require diligent weeding. They don’t shade out competition like a potato or bean plant will. So, before the weeds appear, we hoe out between the plants and keep the middles busted out with the cultivating tractor.

Diversification is the key to a healthy farm. Growing many different kinds of crops and animals follows nature’s way and uses different nutrients and elements. It also spreads the workload evenly throughout the year. We weed onions in April before there is much else out in the garden.

The dry, hot weather didn’t seem to bother the onions. Wet spells before harvest can cause many to start going bad, but they all looked great yesterday as we pulled up eight truck loads.

A little hay was spread out on the barn loft floor and rows of onions were laid out to dry. I want the green tops to turn brown before storage. We either bag them up in onion sacks, or tie them up in bunches to hang up. Sometimes we take the time to braid them, which looks pretty but is time consuming.

Onion sets are simply sown in a furrow and covered up with the tractor. They don’t need much weeding because they come up thick and are marketed early as green onions. We do thin them sometimes to let the remaining ones make bulbs, but these are also marketed directly. Onion sets don’t make as good a storage onion as onion plants, because they are already a year old.

What’s for dinner? Potatoes, and onions. Squash, and onions. Beans, and onions. Italian, Mexican, Chinese, or Southern cusine will all call for onions. So don’t cry about it, keep  peeling those onions, eat well and stay healthy.

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Double-Digging

If you love digging in your garden, you’ll have twice as much fun double-digging.

When we dig into the earth, a change n color and texture can be noticed. Somewhere between six inches and a foot deep, the top soil ends and the subsoil begins. Topsoil is darker, looser and where the life is. The subsoil is lighter in color, an heavier in texture and lifeless.

Imagine your garden with eight inches of top soil and all of the plant roots living there. Then imagine it twice as deep. It’s like having a garden twice as big for the roots, and the plants will respond accordingly. Double digging is an old time method of deepening garden soil.

First, a shovelful of soil is removed from one side of the garden bed. It can be out to the side or in a wheelbarrow. We’ll dig until we hit the subsoil.

Now we break up the subsoil with a digging fork and pick. It feels good to open up this tight ground so our roots can penetrate easily. A root can’t get in here, it’s as hard as cement. We want to incorporate air and loosen her up.

Tennessee subsoil is often acidic so a sprinkling of lime will help to encourage root activity. I swing the back of the fork on the clods to further break them up.

The next step is to scoot over and move the adjacent topsoil onto the freshly dug trench. Once it’s over there, pick up the pick again and work up the lower layer. We want to leave the subsoil where it is, but really fluff it up. Roots need oxygen, and by double digging they can utilize twice as much area in the soil. If allowed to, many plants will send the roots down several feet. Think of all the extra nutrients and moisture they can get.

The last trench gets filled with the soil from the first one. The bed will be slightly higher than ground level because of the new air spaces. Don’t walk on it. Squishing it down defeats the purpose. Make the bed narrow enough, five feet or less, to be able to reach easily into the middle.

I was a back yard gardener long ago, and double dug the beds. Now, as a farmer, I employ a tool to break up the hardpan created by plowing. A sub-soiler is a two-foot long

Shank with a shoe on it. it is pulled through the fields, but only when it is dry. Wet clay will smear and seal back up. I usually do it in August, after a crop is removed and before the cover crops are sown.

The first time a bed is double dug will require the most work. Next year it will be easier. Keep the soil loose up to your elbows and you’ll soon be up to your elbows in vegetables.

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May Flies for Gardeners

May flies by for gardeners. Between planting summer vegetables and hoeing what’s already growing, there is hardly time to pick a salad. But our tiny plants from early May become thousands of lettuce heads by Memorial Day, and everyone must do their part and eat their greens.

We only hoed them once. Dry weather kept the weeds from sprouting, and good soil management insured plenty of moisture for the lettuce roots. I picture a giant sponge underneath our fields, capable of soaking in the winter and spring rains and slowly releasing water to the crops in the summer. Deciding to not hoe it again has now brought up weeds, but the lettuce has made heads and son this field will be plowed and replanted anyways.

There was plenty of hoeing to do elsewhere. Beans, cucumbers and squash plantings have been hoed and thinned. Soil gets pulled in to help hill crops. Potatoes get hilled with disc hillers on the farmall tractor, and this is also how we make the ridges for sweet potatoes. We’ll use them for the last pass through the corn, too.

Beets, onions and carrots don’t want to be hilled. They would rather have their shoulders coming out of the ground. Swiss Chard, celery and parsley like the soil neither higher or lower, although celery can be blanched by mulching deeply.

I’m trying parsnips again, but planting later than I have before. They germinate slowly and often get lost in spring weeds. Planting them in early May got us a good stand, but they still required a lot of tedious hand work.

Several bushels of butternuts were split, yielding a few pounds of seeds to plant about an acre. They would have been easier to plant if they weren’t so sticky. Next year I’ll  try and get the seeds out and dried a few days before sowing.

We rolled out our groundcloth for melons. A dozen seeds go into each freshly worked hill, and later thinned to two. A local sawmill donated slab wood to hold the cloth down, and will be remembered come harvest.

Second plantings of beans, summer squash and cucumbers separate the melons from the tomato patch. We have a row of dill in the center to break up the tomato jungle soon to form. We dug holes four feet apart and poured a half gallon of water in the hole. Then we take our bare root transplants from the cold frames and lay them in the row, roots in mud and stem in furrow, and rake in dry dirt over them. Just the top six inches bends up out of the ground.

Peppers are planted three feet apart, and eggplants slightly closer. Sweet potatoes are spaced at 16 inches. One person lays a plant down and the partner pushes it in with a stick. The stick has a 16'” wire on it, to mark the spot where the next plant goes. Processes like this allow us to move down the row quickly, with less bending over and less decision making.

Flowers get planted on the edges of the fields or on the ends of the rows. I tike cosmos and sunflowers for a tall border, and zinnias and marigolds for a shorter one. Tithonia, or Mexican Sunflower, makes a great accent for special places with its velvet stems and bright orange blooms. White flowered buckwheat is sown wherever we need a temporary ground cover.

As we enter June, the potatoes are laid by and the garlic is topped and soon to be dug. Most fields are planted, but a pumpkin patch is still in the seed jar. Hoeing and harvesting are the daily chores, along with weekly haying. We are also clearing brush from along the power lines on our farm, something I highly recommend everyone do.

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Weather

We talk about the weather often. A recurring spring question for gardeners is, “Has the weather settled?” We want to plant frost tender crops, but we do not know when the last frost will occur. As of May 1st, it is not likely going to frost, but there is still a possibility. About 20 years ago, there was a frost on May 16th. 10 years ago there was one on May 18th. The last frost could, however, be in March.

So, we take our chances. If the seed is cheap and burning a hole in your pocket, go ahead and till the soil deeply and harrow a seedbed. The land needs to be biologically active, mineralized, loose, and weed-free. Before we plant more, all of the spring crops should be hoed and cultivated.

Into the furrows go the alternating rows of beans and cucumbers. These companion plants go in at the same time as a row each of yellow squash, scallop squash, and zucchini. I step on the seed as I drop it, and rake over an inch or so of dry, not cloddy soil. In a few days, I rake directly over the row to destroy weedlings.

As the crops pop up, we rake away from the row. After the true leaves appear, hoeing begins. By planting thickly, thinning is done with the hoe. It is easier to hoe plants than grass and weeds. No weeds are allowed in the garden, period.

Corn is planted a foot apart. Turkeys and crows love to eat the freshly sprouted kernels, leaving a small corn plant on the surface. I have to put up scarecrows. I also dump some corn at the edges of the fields. Birds will eat this rather than dig up the seeds. Pine tar on the seeds definitely defeats the birds, but this method is very messy. Bird life is necessary for the farm, so we have to work with them.

Notice where Johnson grass is and dig it all the way out with a fork. Bermuda grass succumbs to weekly tillage and constant raking of the roots to the surface. It is better to do this a few times and plant later than to plant right into it.

Sow sweet basil and dill into shallow furrows and cover them lightly with fine soil. Zinnias are planted the same way, as is lettuce. Early lettuce seedlings can be transplanted a foot apart into beds to make heads of lettuce.

Winter squashes are planted deeper and get stepped on before they’re covered. They really sprout and take up a lot of space. Shelly beans, like Taylor’s Dwarf Horticulture bean, can go in alternate rows and be harvested before they are overcome with the vine from the squash.

Melons are the only crop we grow on plastic. We get 6 mil, 16 foot wide pieced and cut holes in a diamond pattern 5 or 6 feet apart. 10 or 12 seeds go in each hill and are later thinned to the best 2. Boards weight the plastic down, and it is picked up and stored away right after the harvest, so it will last for several years.

The cold frame is watered, and the tomatoes lifted out. Keeping their roots moist, they are laid down in a furrow and mudded. This means water has been poured into a small hole, making mud, and the bare root of the plant is placed in it. Dry soil is pulled on top. If the plants are long, we lay them down so only the top few inches are above ground. Tomato plants will form roots on the buried stem.

Our last planting is a field of sweet potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Okra, field peas, and our later plantings of beans, cucumbers, and squash will go in then as well. These get planted every 3 or 4 weeks, so a fresh crop comes in when the earlier ones begin to peter out.

Onions are hoed, potatoes hilled, and all the spring crops are carefully tended. We keep a look out for beetles and cutworms on our newly planted crops. Soil is pulled away from beets, carrots, and onions, but pulled toward potatoes, corn, squash, beans, and cucumbers. After the ground warms up, tomatoes will get a thick mulch of hay.

The tomatoes are more valuable, so I do not gamble with them. Except for a row of early ones, I wait until the 3rd week of May to set them out. If frost threatens, we put a reemay over the rows. Crops planted in mid-May often catch up to the earlier plantings anyway. I try to wait, but it is tempting to get some planting done earlier. You can never tell about the weather, no matter how much we talk about it.

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Interesting Characteristic

Human nature has the interesting characteristic of an inevitable ability to overcomplicate simple issues.  For example, I could have just said “people make things too complex.” Working with mother nature is so easy that it baffles our minds. I see this often as I consult with other gardeners.

In an urban backyard, a lady has six raised beds, about two feet tall. The plants could be healthier, and I asked about the soil. “It is pure compost,” she said. It looked like undigested organic matter to me.

“Where did you get the ‘compost’?” I asked. “I bought bags of it at the store,” she replied. I felt it and could tell it did not have life. Further inquiry revealed no soil had been used at all.

At this point I dug a hole nearby. As I suspected from the abundant white clover, her soil was naturally rich bottomland, just compacted. I loosened it up, added a bit of sand and her “compost,” and had something plants would love to grow in. A hole dug further down from the house turned up gorgeous soil.

Composting is both a breaking down process and a building up process. The end result is a stable, humus-clay complex capable of holding nutrients and moisture that are slowly released as plants need them. Mother nature is an expert composter.

When left alone, an appropriate amount of fallen leaves, along with other organic materials, gets mixed with the waste products from animals and lays upon the soil. Carbonic acid forms when it rains and dissolves minerals from the rocks.  This results in a beautiful topsoil.

Much of what clients show me as compost has not broken completely down. Bits of wood chips and leaves will rob nitrogen from the soil to continue their decay. This will cause plants to be yellowish and unhealthy.

The building up process requires microbes. Good compost feels silky and soft, and smells like forest soil. Adding good compost to a new pile insures the presence of these microbes, which can then have families and colonize their new home. They need air, moisture, and a few months to build up a stable humus.

The lady spoken of earlier then showed me her composter. It was a plastic bin that can be turned with a handle, and inside it was her kitchen food scraps. Composting was not happening- no soil, air, water, or microbes. I would be much more simple to dig a trench in her beautiful soil and put the kitchen scraps in it every day and kick a little soil over them.

Mother nature teaches us to slowly decompose organic matter. Let life processes arise out of the death and decay processes. We do not need bags of “compost,” which can contain toxic poultry litter, un-rotted wood chips, and products of uncertain quality. We do not need two-foot tall beds, which will have to be watered a lot, or plastic compost digesters. Let’s enliven our soils with good compost, and not confound things. Keep it simple.

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Spring Brings Beautiful Things

Spring brings beautiful things, flowers and bees and a bird that sings. Gardeners are busier than bees, blooming in their exuberance and humming right along with mother nature’s display. We’ve added necessary minerals, gently tilled the soil, and livened things up with plenty of compost and biodynamic preparations. Let’s go!

If the ground is damp enough to make a ball in your fist that doesn’t shatter when you drop it, we stay out of the field. Compost piles are made for next year. Dandelions need to be picked for preparation. Horns are filled with ground quartz and buried. Tomato cages get made, chickweed is pulled from around the berries, seeds are inventoried and garden plans jotted down.

On April 1, I got the cold frames ready to grow the tomato, pepper and eggplants for transplanting later. Sifted compost, sand and soil makes up the top few inches, ontop of the same mixture (unsifted) to a depth of eight inches or so. A little phosphate, lime and kelp are mixed in, too. I make rows with a stick, three inches apart, and carefully drop seeds an inch apart in the rows. After firming them in with the side of my hand, I rake with my fingers to cover them up.

As soon as the ground is dry enough, onions and leeks go in. Plants are sorted, and the small ones are healed in temporarily to get bigger. The plants are set six inches apart, and two can be planted together. Onion sets, for green onions, are sown and covered up, but in a different garden, to avoid disease.

Potatoes are cut up so each piece is the size of an egg and has a couple of eyes on it. notice the stem end and don’t confuse it for an eye. They are dropped a foot apart in the furrow with the eye up, and then stepped on before being covered.

After two weeks, a harrow is pulled over the rows to disturb sprouting weeds. This does not bother the potatoes sprouting below where the harrow reaches. A tine harrow or rotary how actually goes over young plants without doing too much damage and greatly reduces weed pressure.

A narrow furrow is made for lettuce, parsley and swiss chard. The lettuce will be dug up and transplanted into beds, at a foot apart, in about six weeks, leaving that row for planting a summer crop.  The chard, parsley, and celery go next to each other because they will stay there all year, even over the winter if protected.

For carrots, beets and radish, we make a wide-bottomed furrow and thinly sprinkle the seed. It is easy to get them too thick. I roll the seed through my fingers and watch as it falls, but not at the ground. I want a few inches between the plants. All seeds are pushed in with the back of a rake, stepped on, or rolled over with a wheelbarrow to firm them in. then they are covered with dry soil by raking.

A few warm days around April fool’s day don’t fool me. Every row of the spring crops will get the soil raked away as soon as the sprouts appear. Then they’ll be hoed and cultivated before any weeds are visible. I have x ray vision and can see weeds sprouting underground. It is so much easier to weed them before they appear to ordinary vision.

We tend what we’ve planted before planting more. Warm weather crops like warm weather, so I don’t push my luck. I sacrifice the honor of having the first bean or tomato, and don’t take chances on a late frost nipping tender plants. Enjoy the flowers, and the birds and the bees, and spend spring with the spring crops. In May, when the ground has thoroughly warmed up, you’ll be glad the spring things are well taken care of.

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Lectures

I frequently give lectures as part of my business. It can be to youngsters at Head Start, to an elderly garden club, or to anything in between. I’ve slowly gotten over stage fright and give speeches fairly easily. Although our county executive said my talk to the commissioners fourteen months ago was respectful, he refuses to let me address them again. “We are not talking about chicken anymore, “ he said. People talk to me about chickens all the time.

On March 2nd I gave two lectures in Bowling Green, at the Organic Association of Kentucky’s annual conference. It’s a good bunch of people trying to get more organics going in our neighboring state.

The next day I attended the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show. Many old and new friends meet me there every year for my lecture. It turns into a fun question and answer session. The Davidson County Master Gardeners were represented, and have asked me to speak at their May 19th get together, at the Ellington Agriculture Center.

March 10th found me back in Nashville at Lipscomb University, giving a 3 ½ hour class on gardening. Afterwards, I gave a talk on beekeeping to a different group of people.

The Tennessee Organic Growers Association also hired me to lecture at their annual conference on March 24th. They are a hard working group active in the organic movement in Tennessee, and also had speakers from Pennsylvania and Washington State.

Two local groups, Kirbytown Farm Community and Friends of Long Hungry, still meet regularly to share research on the impact of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) coming into Macon County. We believe our findings would be of interest to our local representatives and policy makers.

Whenever a major industry moves into a rural county, people talk about it. Many of our friends and family have been negatively impacted by the chicken houses next door in Clay County, from what we can tell, the citizens of Macon County are uneasy with the prospect of CAFO communities, and can see the truth in this statement.  But it is never too late to admit a mistake and change direction.

Yesterday, Nashville Public Television came here and filmed three more T.V. shows. I would like to continue operating my business at my home, but feel threatened by the huge Tyson (who owns Cobb) chicken houses being erected 450 feet from my kitchen doorstep.

With 300 acres, there is plenty of room to move them back to 1500 feet away from my 1871 log cabin, the public organic garden and the storage cave. Cobb’s own restrictions are “1500 feet from a public area or business.” The Macon County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution stating CAFO’s must be 1500 feet from a residence. Why are they so close to me?

Hundreds of people visit here every year, and spend money locally. The concern throughout Middle Tennessee, wherever I go, is deeply gratifying. Most importantly, the wide support I have in my local community touches my heart. I didn’t know so many cared so much. As I keep on the lecture circuit and meet all kinds of people, I always can’t wait to get home to my comfortable little neighborhood.

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Variety id the Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of life, and gardeners love to try new things. Here is a list of the vegetable varieties we will be growing this year, most of which I have grown before: Arugula- standard; Bush beans- Blue Lake, Roma II, Cherokee Yellow Wax; Climbing beans- Purple Flat, Kentucky Wonder; Ghelly beans- Dwarf Horticulture, Black Turtle, Soy Butterbean; Beets- Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia; Cabbage (Chinese)- Blues, Rubicon, Michihili, Joi choy, Mei Qing, Bokchoy; Carrots- Danvers Half Long; Celery- Utah; Collards- Georgia Southern; Corn- G-90, Incredible, Silver Queen, Golden Bantam, Country Gentleman; Cucumber- Marketmore 76, Straight Eight, National Pickling; Eggplant- Black Beauty, Orient Express; Garlic- Spanish Roja, Music; Gourds- Dipper, Bird House, Crown of Thorns, Small Warted, Autumn Wings; Kale- Flatleaf, Siberian, Blue Scotch Curled; Leeks- King Richard; Lettuce- Nevada, Magenta, Concept, Red Sails, Tropicana, Buttercrunch, Jericho, Winter Density, Anvenue; Melon- Honey Rock, Green Nutmeg; Mustard- Southern Giant Curled, Mizuna; Okra- Burgundy, Clemson Spineless; Onions- Copra, Walla Walla, Yellow Ebenezer; Parsley- Italian Flatleaf, Forest Green, Survivor; Parsnip- Hollow Crown; Peanuts- Virginia Jumbo; Peas- Sugar Snap, Oregon Giant, Skunkpeas; Peppers- Carmen, Pizza, Olympus, Gypsy, Golden Treasure, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Cayenne; Potatoes- Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold; Pumpkin- Old-Time Tennessee, Cushaw; Radish- Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, Daikon, Watermelon, China Rose; Rutabega- Purple-top; Spinach- Bloomsdale Long Standing; Summer Squash- Early Prolific Straightneck, Yellow Scallop, Sunburst, Gold Rush Zucchini, Trombocini; Winter Squash- Waltham Butternut, Table Queen Acorn, Carnival, Delicatta, Sweet Dumpling, Small Wonder Spaghetti; Sweet Potato- Golden Nugget; Swiss Chard- French Swiss Chard; Tomatoes (hybrids)- Better Boy, Celebrity, Goliath, Big Beef, Pink Beauty, Pink Girl, Fantastic; Tomatoes (open-pollinated)- Delicious, Mortgage Lifter, Bradley, Indigo Rose, Black Trifele, Golden Jubilee; Turnips- Purpletop, Amber Globe, Gold Ball, Scarlet Queen, Hakurei; Watermelon- Jubilee, Charleston Grey, Crimson Sweet, Tendersweet, Sugar Baby, Amish Moon and Stars; Herbs- Large Leaf Basil, Pukat Pill, Sage, Oregano, English Thyme, Sorrel; Flowers- Brite Lites Cosmos, Giant Dahlia mix Zinnia, Giant Sunflower, Tithonia, Rosa Rugosa, Valerian, Tuberose.

Warm weather excites gardeners, but do not forget we often have frosts in late April or early May. April 1st is a good time to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in a cold frame. Outside, we can plant onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas, Swiss chard, celery, spinach, leeks, and radish. We will wait until May for everything else, and will not plant turnips, Arugula, cabbage, mustard, collards, Rutabega, and kale until mid-August.

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Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of life, and gardeners love to try new things.

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Everything in Nature is Related

Recent discoveries in quantum physics, microbiology, and ecology verify something gardeners have long known.  Everything in nature is related.  There are no solid lines between the plants’ roots, the soil, and the bacteria and fungi tying it all together.  To help understand why garden crops do or do not thrive, we are led into the enigmatic field of companion planting.

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Tennessee Gardening

The culture of African people greatly affected the history of Tennessee gardening. Many of the two hundred thousand slaves here grew gardens for themselves and their owners. We still grow crops from seeds brought here from Africa.

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Silent Spring

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, opened the eyes of the world to the dangers of chemical sprays.  The book came out fifty years ago, in 1962, when chlordane, DDT, and Aldrin were commonly used.  Case studies of the widespread poisoning of humans and wildlife reported in her essays led to the ban of these chlorin-ated hydrocarbons.  The ban is actually only on domestic use; chemical companies in the U.S. still produce DDT for use in other countries.

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Barefoot Farmer II

We have a new book, Barefoot Farmer II. I say “we” because of all the work done by the designer and typesetter, Victoria, and the illustrator, Linda. “We” also includes Kathryne, Gabby, and the rest of the Macon County Chronicle staff, who turn my weekly chick scratches into a newspaper column. You readers are included too, as your interest keeps me writing.

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Potash

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Potash is an added bonus to heating your home with wood. As the name suggests, it contains potassium, wood ashes also have calcium and many trace elements that are needed in our mineral-deficient soils.

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Rutabaga

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Rutabaga is a plant grown for its fleshy root. Although they are quite similar to turnips, they are distinctive species. Brassica Rapa is the turnip, while rutabaga are Brassica Campestris or Brassica Napus.

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The Season for Fall Plowing

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Plowing is the archetypical farm work. Ground must  be loosened and plants turned under in order to grow a crop. The plow comes in many shapes and sizes for various uses we put it to.

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Turnip Time

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It’s turnip time again. As fall waxes, and the garden wanes, turnips take over. We sow them in many of our fields for a cover crop, along with crimson clover and buckwheat. If you want some, come up to Long Hungry Road and stop in. they are right below the blueberry patch, near the tall bamboo.

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Southeastern Biodynamic Conference

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Our 16th annual Southeastern Biodynamic Conference was a huge success. Over 150 people came to hear lectures and enjoy the beautiful gardens and conference site. There were folks from California to New York, Michigan to Florida, and even Costa Rica and South America. Besides the celebration, there was a sense of sadness, as construction of a giant chicken house continued just a few hundred feet up on the hill overlooking our home, farm, and business. No one will come if it stinks here, and Cobb says “It will stink.”

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How do we learn?

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How do we learn? How do we teach? The 16th annual (and may be our last) Southern Biodynamic Conference, Sept. 30-Oct. 1, will explore agricultural education and practical training. For the past 16 years our farm on Long Hungry Road has served as a campus and classroom for several dozen interns and apprentices. We have been visited by hundreds of curious gardeners full of questions, and the farm has been seen on the Volunteer Gardner TV show by many thousands. I guess that means I am a teacher.

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Gardens

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Gardens ebb and flow throughout the season. Each week is slightly different than the last one or the next one. Our CSA business requires providing a steady stream of produce, which can be a bit tricky. I have developed a few tricks to insure that 150 families are happy each week.

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