‘Work is Love Made Visable’

“Work is love made visible” these words of Kahlil Gibran were carved by hand onto a wooden sign that hung on the main lodge of my beloved Vermont summer camp, Farm & Wilderness.  This was a place where teens from all walks of East coast life would come together for 2 months to work the land, swim in the waters and learn to create community together.  As my dad reminded me yesterday, not only have those words been carved into my soul & life purpose, but also the community spirit.  In the years since summer camp I have found myself surrounded with similar earth loving angels actively loving the world & each other through their hands

.IMG_0312 They came smiling and laughing, eager to spend the day in the sunshine with me and my tomatoes.

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Not only did they work, but they sang, told stories and charmed the baby & us all while doing so.IMG_0327

There were parents, neighbors, old friends and new, this incredible little hard-working crew just breezed in with great blessings and warmed our little home until it sang right along.  In return dad cooked the burgers & freshly picked ‘Lovely Day Farm’ (on our street!!) Asparagus on the grill and we feed them well.  When I sent out the invite I mentioned that I would feed them all but ‘if any one wanted to ‘WOW’ us with desert or beverages they were welcome’ and WOW us they did! Handmade Mojitos and Fresh Pear Pie and Raspberry Tart and homemade yogurt on top!! OH MY!!!

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And now the greenhouse is at maximum capacity with 250 tomatoes, all in brand new little pots, the only question now is, where will I put everything else?  Plant sale anyone?

I almost felt guilty having them do all that work for me on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but then I remembered all the seeds I have sown, beds I have dug, weeds I have pulled out of other people’s gardens and like them, I sang too… so happy to have dirt to put my hands in and a hard task to put my strong body to real use.  As we were working Jaengy jumped in helping with sorting the pots after shying from the crowd for the first hour.

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I commented how he is happiest when he has a job to do.  Casey responded, “I think we all are!”  and I thought, ‘Well you are my kind of people!’  So Thank You garden angels with your kind and helpful hands, you have shown me that there should be no guilt in asking for help and that for many of us there is no greater gift than working together to complete the task at hand, to share the load and to enjoy being of use together.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

Planting into pallets

Is there anything you can’t make out of an old pallet?  Yes, it does take more time and a bit more know-how to upcycle a pallet into a totally different and functional thing, but luckily I have an expert on my side.  Yep, Joel does it again.  This time he made me a new seed planting flat out of recycled pallet wood.

(Note: I do also do make these out new wood too, see here)

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Cool Huh?  Want to try? Here is how he did it.

First, he tore the pallet apart with a flat bar to get the the lumber in order. Image

Then he used the cross pieces which were 3.5inches wide and 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.  There was mix of oak (harder, longer lasting, heavier) & pine (softer, easier to work with lighter)

 

Then he cut off the split tips with the nails in them- to have clean, split free ends and not to bother with pulling out the nails.Image

Then he cut 2 pieces at 1ft long and 6pieces at 2ft long

He nailed 2 of the 2footers & 2 of 1footers into a rectangular box.  The 2 footer edges over lapped the edges of the 1 footers.  Unfortunately he moved so fast I didn’t get to photograph every step… but I hope you follow.

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Then he nailed the remaining 4 2footers to the bottom of the box using 4d galvanized nails. These are rust resistant and small enough that they will keep the wood from splitting, but large enough to hold your box together when it is full of heavy, wet soil.  Because the wood was irregular enough he just pushed the bottom slats together and nailed…but it is important to note during this step to leave a little space between the slats for water to drain out, but not soil.  I usually stick a quarter between the slats which has always proven to be just right.

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And there you have it.  Here is one I made from Redwood and screws in 2010 (in front) and the new Pallet one (in back).  Image

Similar—-but there are few subtle differences.

*The new one is a bit wider than the other.  As far as size go, I pretty much try to maximize my table space.  If you table is a 3×6 (which many tables are) you can fit 9 2×1 flats on it.  That should be more than enough (much more in fact) for all your seedling needs.  Remembering, when you start seeds in wooden planting flats you will need to divide them or thin them before they reach the garden, so leave space in you table(s) for transplants.  This is basically bio-intensive gardening, but more on that later…here is the next step if you are eager.

*The other difference is that my new flat is mostly oak and the older one is Redwood.  Both have their pros and cons

Oak- Hard, Heavy, Durable,Rot Resistant, Brittle-(Available in Pallets)

Pine- Soft, Not Rot resistant, Light weight, Cheap or free-(Available in Pallets)

Redwood- Light weight, doesn’t spilt easily, VERY Rot Resistant-(Must buy)

Wooden Flats are a great thing to add to your garden shed if you find yourself starting seeds every year.  They are pretty simple to make, relatively cheap and last many years, not to mention they are NOT plastic.  They work beautifully to hold moisture and give ample space for those babies to grow.  Many farms use them, which is where I learned about them.  Here are a few I stumble across while ambling through a sleepy farm in Colorado last spring.

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Yes, I take pictures of other people’s planting flats, I told you I was a farm tourist.

Good Luck and I hope you help rescue one more lonely pallet from the back of your hardware store and put it to good use.

When you are ready here is a link to how to make potting soil for the flats and one on how to plant into them properly.  Let the sowing begin!!

Transplanting Tomatoes- breaking all the rules

I just posted all about the does and don’t of transplanting, but I want to add something about tomatoes, they defy our rules!!   Most Santa Fe gardeners as far as I know, grow or buy tomato starts, (planting them from seed in the garden after May 15th rarely yields fruit).  They take a long time to really get going and love hot days and cool nights, so greenhouse grown starts are really the way to go.  If you have tomatoes that are tall, leggy and spindly, they may have not been getting enough light in your window sill.  But not all hope is lost, as tomatoes are incredibly adaptable and can be brought to life in the field in a magical way.

Strength is at the top, bottom leaves don’t look so good.

Tomatoes are what is called adventitious rooters, meaning they will sprout roots from leaf nodes if they are exposed to soil.  This is due to a hormone called Auxin in the stem.  Light kills Auxin, but when it is buried under ground it works to stimulate root growth, which means…you can break off the bottom leaves of the tomatoes, leaving just a few a the top

Pinch off lower leaves with clean fingers nails, or very sharp scissors, gentle now, don’t just pull leaving open tears in the stem!

Now make a nice deep hole,

Place it in there gently by the roots, I am holding the stem to show where the ground is level to, I would never carry a plant by the stem!! And neither should you!

and bury the tomato all the way up to the top leaves

Now it is nice and strong and won’t be toppled by the wind

out of where you pulled those leaves off, roots will grow!

Don’t forget to make a moat around it to catch water.

Nice moat for catching water

Also you may have noticed in the pictures that this little guy had developed a flower in the greenhouse

Clean pinch, goodbye flower

So I just pinched it off before transplanting.  A plant needs to get good and strong before thinking about reproducing.  More flowers will come when this guy is big a strong and can support fruit.  So there you have it.  Tricky little tomatoes, but oh so wonderful.

I had big plans of planting all 70 of mine Sunday, but the blessing of rain slowed me down, not only is it wet work to plant in the rain, but mucking around in the garden in the rain creates a mess and can compact the soil badly.  Better to wait a couple of days to let things dry out and get back to that ‘moist as a rung out sponge’ feel.  Works for me, I will harden them off and plant them this Friday or Saturday– both are fruit days FYI!!

P.S. After I wrote my whole post on transplanting, I came  across a similar article in Organic Gardening, so if you still need some guidance, they mention a few things I left out, they are the pros after all! Happy Planting!