Friday, February 6, 2015

Cry me an electrified atmospheric river, please

A rabbit's eye view of Mizuna growing under a shade cloth
Envious onions lust after straw mulch
When I was a kid, back in the last century, there was no such thing as  an atmospheric river. What we had then were big storms and such. We even had warm storms coming up out of the tropics once in a great while.   If someone had said "atmospheric river" or "El Nino" back then they would have received a blank stare in return, at least that's how it was in Stockton, where I was fortunate enough to have grown into adulthood. But that was then. Now I'm a grown-up and am in the midst of enduring my second atmospheric river in one year! And this one is flowing along dropping off lightning bolts here and there, which I didn't hear any of our weather forecasters predicting. Ha! So since I'm the first to notice, I hereby call such a storm "an electrified atmospheric river." This should be picked up by all the weather talking heads, who will start pronouncing it and not even think a second thought about the name. Why should they? If it appears on the tele-prompter, they say it!! Who's in charge of those tele-prompters, anyway? Sounds like a good job for a subversive progressive liberal. But I like farming too much for a career switch. Anyway, it sounds like one would have to spend a lot of time looking at stuff on a monitor for that job. Then figuring out how to tweak the stuff on the teleprompter to subtlety reflect the progressive, liberal outlook would take creativity. Plus you'd be thwarting the ultraconservative owners of the media, who are so very busy trying to do the same thing, only in the opposite direction. (As an aside, it looks like they are winning.) A labor of love for sure, regardless of what side you are on. Nevertheless, I think a higher call might be growing wonderful, organic vegetables! Like that Mizuna you see growing under shade cloth above, or the leeks lounging in a bed of straw. In fact, time to get back to reality: I've got some stainless steel mixing bowls to fasten to the tops of posts! Part of my great secret plan to channel Marxian spirits into my soil.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hay, what's going on here?

Hardneck garlic pushes through plastic mulch in a sea of straw. It's already been in the ground four months with four to go.

Straw is the latest thing to happen to my 50' x 50' garlic plot. It's just part of the ongoing saga for this little piece of land, commonly known as 5A around here. Last October, after a hard year's work growing melons and peppers, the plot was cleared, tilled and then had 7 cubic yards of prime organic compost added, followed by another tilling and mounding up of 11 planting rows, putting in drip irrigation and then covering each row with plastic mulch. Spread over a matter of days, it was pretty manageable. As Ron Popeil would say, "But that's not all!". The final step was to make about 4,000 slits in the plastic, then push a clove of beautiful Russian Red hardneck garlic through each slit. So, that was four months ago.  Now the garlic has burst through the slits and all the weeds that came through with it have been pulled. However, in between the rows, where there is bare dirt, weeds are growing and that is where the straw comes in.  Some of those weeds were pulled and tossed, others left untouched. As of this morning all the bare dirt and weeds have been covered with a nice layer of straw, 3 bales in all. That's going to be a powerful suppressant. Now all that's left to do is three or four foliar feedings over the next four months. Then, in late spring, this plot will begin giving back: First it will be a harvest of tasty, young garlic scapes, followed by the harvest of the garlic bulbs themselves, which will be pulled, bunched, and hung for a few weeks before making their debut in discerning kitchens around Sacramento and of course doing their part to ward off devils, werewolves and vampires!