Today was the final round of clearing the field at our Parr Field Garden Project. We want the field to look nice since it is school property and the site is used by the public. Hopefully there will not be too many people that let their dogs run around in this area and make messes for our land preparation again in the Spring.
We gather up all the dry materials from the field and relocate them to one of our ‘carbon cache’ systems. In the Spring we will be looking for nitrogen sources to make compost from this carbon and will continue our soil fertility programs.
Today we engaged in the process to clear the field before the winter comes. We like to gather up all the dead plant material from the field and pile it up in a corner to begin the composting process. We call these piles “carbon caches” and will later mine these piles to combine them with a nitrogen source (green weeds, manure, food scraps) to make our compost piles over the course of the year or longer.
Not all of our dead plant material goes into the carbon cache, however. In the picture above you can see us piling up the dry bean plants that we will burn in the old stainless steel washing machine drum, also seen above. We will harvest and sift the ashes which will become “culinary ashes” that we will use to make posole (hominy) or add to corn meal for a nutritional boost (the alkalinity from the ashes releases niacin and other amino acids).
We will use the ashes for nixtamalizacion (the process of cooking maize in an alkaline solution) and can also complete this process using lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide).
We are happy to announce this year’s AIRE Youth Garden photo contest winner, Aaliah Gow and her family. We were able to provide seeds at an event at Enos Garcia Elementary where we were able to meet Aaliah and her family. They took a packet of our native seed in addition to many packets of other seeds we had donated for Family Night at the school. They had never tried a garden before and related the surprise in learning how big the plants get, how much vegetables they harvested, and how much they will have to think of spacing the crops next time. Here you can see a sample of pictures they submitted over cell phone. They also sent us many more pictures as proof and in pride of their harvest. They had carrots, zucchini, onions, jalapenos, green (purple) beans, tomatoes, and broccoli. I was impressed at the pictures I saw knowing that they had never tried a garden before.
We only received one entry for our photo contest this year so of course they win the first place prize of $50. We would like to thank Lenny Foster for volunteering to judge the photos. We did not have to follow through with his offer since there was only one entry. But in the two years that we have hosted this contest, I feel that this entry represents the essence of what we were trying to accomplish: to motivate young people and their families to try a garden with a little incentive…
Congratulations Aaliah and family!
Today we bring in the maize from the field. We have six rows that are about 80 feet long. We have never planted this variety in Taos before, the last time it was grown was in the north valley of Albuquerque, NM about two years ago. Some of the ears of corn are really big and some have incredible colors as seen a couple of these photos. We will be saving some of the ears that exhibit red to black kernels in hopes of establishing this variety at the farm.
Many, if not most, of the ears of corn are mostly white with some red and blue colorations. Many look orange but are actually red with yellow streaks in the kernels as seen below.
We save the prettiest and biggest ears of corn for decorations in the house. We might pull some seeds from these in the future but most likely they will remain as decorations. Many of these ears have straight rows, full pollination, and no insect damage.
Today is Dia de San Geronimo, an important feast day in the Taos area. There will be dances and celebration at the neighboring Taos Pueblo. We awoke this morning to a layer of ice on the windows of the cars signifying a frost. We are not sure how intense the frost was, but likely the season is officially over. We will now have to bring all the dry crops in such as maize and beans, allow them to dry completely, and then process them for food and seed. It was a good season and the end comes with the anticipation of winter and a sigh of relief that our hard work paid off and that we were mostly successful in the growing season.
Today we gathered at Parr Field to harvest our fruit crops that could be damaged if they are subjected to frost, which could happen any night now… Above you can see a picture of our red chile that is spread out to dry but we also harvested a bunch of green chile to roast and freeze. This is chile we have been breeding for the region, it seems to be doing better and better each year.
We also had to bring in our squash to avert any potential of frost damage. We had a meager harvest of squash this year compared to last year. Last year we brought in over 400 pounds of squash! This year we will be lucky to have about 30 pounds. What was the difference between last year and this year? There were many, but our predictions point to the fact that we likely watered about half as much this year than last year. We had some problems with the irrigation system that did not allow us to irrigate in the way we would have liked. We also suffered more squash bug damage this year than last year.
It seems that when dealing with squash bugs, you have to be more vigilant as the years go on if you are planting squash in the same area. I believe this is because future generations of squash bugs are able to persist in soils and garden areas that continue to have squash growing, year after year. This is a good argument for crop rotation, fallowing, and utilizing diversity in your garden to limit the influence of insect damage.
Nevertheless, we have enough squash to run our processing workshops and to have seed. Looking at the “glass half-full,” it can be said that the squash that survived limited irrigation and the influence of the squash bugs will be stronger than the average seed that we obtained last year that did not have to weather such pressures.
Today we complete the compost pile that has been many weeks in the making. Today we topped it off with a truckload of sheep/goat manure from a nearby source. We layered the manure with cut alfalfa and wet each layer. This is the last episode of building this pile for this year. We will let it over-winter and tear it apart in the spring and then put it back together for another round of decomposition. The thermometer below shows that our pile is a little carbon rich and not achieving the higher temperatures it would if it had proportionally more nitrogen (manure). This is a good sized pile of compost, we hope to employ a front-end loader on a tractor to mix it or else we will do it with a shovel. It will likely be ready for application by our main planting time next May…