Tag Archives: salad

mysterious moonlight diggers

I can’t think of many things more devastating than leaving your happy, healthy plants in the evening and finding them destroyed the next morning. Destruction can come in many forms: a swarm of cucumber beetles, a broken water pipe, a fast-acting bacterial disease. But one form of ruin is particularly frustrating to me right now: mysterious holes dug haphazardly throughout our planted beds.

For months now–ever since we started growing our baby salad mixes–we’ve been finding small patches of salad dug up each morning. It always looks the same: scattered depressions of moist, scuffed soil, each about the size of a saucer. Around each one, uprooted lettuces mounded with dirt. The lettuces are resilient enough that we can generally push them back into the soil and they’ll keep growing. So it’s never enough of a loss to take out a week’s harvest, but just enough to drive us crazy. And the anonymous digger doesn’t stick exclusively to the salad bed. He also leaves us holes in the radish bed, the leeks, young beets.

Every farmer or gardener has to dedicate a fraction of each week to sleuth work. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes in overalls (with less of an intuition for catching the bad guys, sadly.) So, who is the mysterious moonlight digger? What are his motives? Let’s look at the evidence. First, the digger seems to have zero interest in the plants themselves. He tosses them aside in search of a greater prize. Second, the digger also targets areas where we have young plants growing–baby salad greens, beet seedlings, tiny leeks. What’s unique about these beds? They’re watered more frequently than the more mature plants, so the soil is always moist. Third, the digger only attacks at night.

So from these observations we’ve deduced that the perpetrator is a nocturnal animal searching for grubs or insects that thrive in the constantly wet soil below the salad bed. But still, we don’t know who it is specifically. Top on the list are skunk, fox, and raccoon. My bet is with the skunk, because I know they have a real soft spot for grubs. ( Skunks are omnivores; they eat everything from insects, larvae, and earthworms to rodents, frogs, birds, berries, and fungi. One recently attacked a wasps nest near our farm, ripping it apart to get at the tasty larvae inside.) Which means I’d better be careful if I try to confront the mystery digger in person. I’m not keen to take a tomato juice bath, in the event of a skunk spray.

We’ve been plotting to camp out in the field for a night to catch the crook red handed (if only we had nigh vision goggles). Since the damage hasn’t been catastrophic, it’s hard to justify putting up any serious fencing or netting, but I’d at least like to know what’s causing the problem. I guess it’s the inner detective in me. In the meantime, we’ve started lightening up on the salad bed watering, especially in the afternoon– to slacken off on the moisture content of the soil.

So, for now, we’ll tuck this case into the unsolved mysteries file and keep you posted if we mount a sting operation to catch our supposed skunk by moonlight.

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farmer’s market-ing

We have, approximately, 3′ x 4′ of baby salad greens, a host of summer-spicy radishes, and exactly nothing else.

We’re going to the farmer’s market, baby.

(Quick note: I recently moved this blog from blogspot to wordpress, so there’s going to be a bit of a glut of posts today. And, since I started this blog after we started the farm, there’s going to be some catch-up to do anyway… so for a while, a least, there will be flashbacks interspersed with current events.)

For a while we’ve been stressing out about when to start going to the farmer’s market. How much produce do we need to have? Will we look like fools if we only bring 10 bags of salad and a few radishes? Or is it better to show up and start building a customer base (perhaps a foundation of pity or sympathy), so that by the time we have — hopefully — heaps of corn, tomatoes, beets, winter squash and zuchs, people will be primed to buy our stuff? After much internal debate among the farm’s proprietors, Farmer Number One (Emmett) called the kindly Farmer’s Market Coordinator, who heartily advised us to start this Sunday. (This weekend, she pointed out, is some kind of garlic party for the farmer’s market, so there should be lots of customers. In honor of garlic day, Emmett’s advocating bringing a few of our garlic heads to round out our produce — but the garlic, which was planted six months ago before we knew we’d be starting a farm, was only ever intended for personal consumption. I keep pointing out that if we sell our garlic but then have to buy garlic later, we might end up losing money, because garlic won’t be in season and it might cost more than we sell it for. I’ll let you know who wins the garlic fight.)

For the past couple of weeks, as we debated the date for our farmer’s market stand grand opening, we’ve also been frantically looking around for other things to sell, to assuage our feelings of inadequacy. Rosemary from Emmett’s parents’ garden. Tarragon from Emmett’s parents’ garden. Ditto on their sage, until we learned that Mexican Sage isn’t in fact edible. (It’s a deer deterrent.) Prickly pear patties from a prolific cactus hedge, until Emmett’s dad informed us that you can only eat tender new growth, and have to cut the cactus back in order to encourage it. We’ve been praying that the blackberries, which run rampant along the Russian River, would ripen. (They’re starting to turn pink, but are in no way edible right now.) We even considered foraging for the wild garlic that grows in the vineyard, a blatantly silly endeavor because the cloves are t-i-n-y and usually buried in the dirt without an obvious stalk. I advocated buying chickens so we could sell eggs (and I want chickens, anyway), and Emmett’s dad advocated selling old grapevines for barbecue firewood. (Apparently it has a nice fragrance when burned.)

But I think, when push comes to shove, that we’re just going to be sitting at our little stand with some lettuce, radishes, a bit of rosemary, and maybe a garlic head or two.

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