Bonafide Farm

Fall garden in!

August 28th, 2011 § 0

I spent today working on my fall garden—probably half a month late but what the hell. The half inch of rain we got courtesy of Hurricane Irene made the soil perfectly moist for planting. I sowed seeds of brocolli, kale and chard, bok choi, mustard and assorted greens. Then I covered two rows with wedding veil fabric. It’s pretty, but I don’t think it’s a great choice since it’s fragile and already ripping. Plus I ran out with only two rows covered.


One “submit order” click later and the real deal, Agribon 15, is winging my way. I am really excited to start experimenting with row covers. Particularly after tonight I turned over a ripe watermelon in the garden and smashed an entire palmful of squash bug nymphs that were hiding out there making lace patterns in the watermelon skin.

More planting to come—the faster-maturing salad greens that will take the place of the summer crops (beans, peppers, cabbage) as they fade.

Waiting on a hurricane

August 25th, 2011 § 0




August 23rd, 2011 § 0


Today we had a big earthquake not too far from here in Mineral, Va. It was a whopper for Virginia, a 5.8—the largest quake in Virginia since another 5.8 in 1897. I was at work, sitting at my desk, staring at my computer when the filing cabinets began to walk across the floor.

And just now an aftershock came through as I’m at home, on my computer. The casings around my front door and windows creaked, unflappable Tuck cocked his head to the side and regarded the vibrating that seemed to fill even the air around us, and then it was over.

The thing that amazes me more than the earthquake is how fast everyone knew about it, around the world! It was listed on Wikipedia’s Virginia earthquakes page within minutes of occurring. Just now that 4.2 aftershock was posted on the USGS site and the data tweeted by the Capital Weather Gang within 17 minutes of the event. I can get every bit of geological post-game with a half-second online search, and if that’s too much for me to process, there’s always some humorously competent professor on NPR who’s happy to break it down for me.

And that’s just the scientific stuff, the islands in the swamp of sensationalist journalism that proffers such astute observations as:

A helicopter inspected the Washington Monument, and it was found to be structurally sound, the National Park Service said. The grounds were being reopened late Tuesday afternoon, but not the plaza and monument itself, where the interior was being inspected.

U.S. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said to his eye, the monument was “clearly not leaning. It’s standing tall and proud.” via CNN


Christina Summers, a young mother who lives in New York City’s Greenwich Village, said she thought the shaking was caused by construction in a neighboring apartment.

“Holy cow! My couch was wiggling like those beds you put a quarter in,” Summers said. via Reuters

So much information, so fast. How far we’ve come from cowering before the power of angry, trident-wielding gods!

Or have we really? Now we just worship at electron altars—as the temples crumble around us.

I’m in heaven

August 23rd, 2011 § 0

With my perfect trifecta of summer foods:
Tomatoes, peaches and corn.


From Holloway Farms, via the Crozet GreatValu—thanks to a hot tip from a coworker. Best corn I’ve had in years.

Sunset surprise

August 22nd, 2011 § 0

While the sun was doing this off the front porch…


it was doing this off the back porch:


I never get bored here.

Row covers—and almost a fall garden

August 21st, 2011 § 0

If I’ve learned one lesson this summer as I attempt my first organic gardening season, it’s that I need to use row covers. The idea is that you plant your seeds or starts and immediately cover them up with material that’s impenetrable to pests but that allows light and water through. Obviously I missed my chance with my summer crops, so I thought I’d give it a go for my fall plantings.

My original plan was to make my hoops—the row cover supports—from nine gauge wire bent in a semicircle. However, a nice salesman at Lowe’s demonstrated to me that even with heavy-duty cutters, I’d probably break my wrists just cutting the wires. I am sure I could have gotten it done, but I’ve injured my fingers a lot this summer and they are sore and weak. So I looked for an alternative.


Mother Earth News suggested saplings stuck in pipes, so I picked up a few 3/4″ pieces of PVC and headed home. Once there I commenced to saw the pipe to 10″ lengths using the only tool I had, a jab saw. It wasn’t nearly as fast as a nice chop saw would have been, but I got a good workout and Tucker—who had to be right in the middle of the action—got to experience snow in August.


Once I had my pieces cut down, I took a maddox and buried them in the rock-hard dirt along the edges of the garden bed.


Then I headed into the woods behind my house for saplings. I have to admit it was satisfying to walk through my own property to find something I could put to use.  Through trial and error, I found poplar to be flexible and strong.


I also got in to a nest of seed ticks, which swarmed up my arm. Hard to see, huh? That’s because they’re each the size of a pinprick. And I’ve spent the last week going nuts with the 38 bites I suffered in the name of this row cover project.


But I digress. Once the saplings were cut to length, I inserted one end into a tube and then very slowly bent it over into an arc to meet the other tube. This bending was one of the most meditative things I’ve done in the garden as I had to go so slowly and listen to the wood with my hands as I bent my body into its curve, breathing into it like deepening a yoga pose. If I went too fast, the wood snapped and I had to start again.


Once the sapling was bent, I used cut pieces as locks to hold the ends in place.


Two days of labor (!) later, and I had four beds ready to go. All this messing around took way longer than I thought it would, but I am pleased with the result. I like the natural look, and that I was able to achieve my goal with materials partially found on my land.

Now I just need to get the energy to plant my fall seeds: greens, lettuces, broccoli—all the plants that like a bit of cold and that often do better when frost-kissed. That was on the chore list for this weekend, but it didn’t happen. I know that subconsciously I am dreading having to tend seedlings in the heat of August, and thus I’ve been putting it off even as I’ve been preparing the row covers. But I know I am running out of time, so motivate I must.

Maybe tomorrow.


And finally, an overview shot of the mid/late August garden. This gardening season has taught me a lot, but that’s a subject for another post!


On my windowsill

August 20th, 2011 § 0


First cabbage

August 16th, 2011 § 3


It split in the rain—yes, we finally got some—so was an emergency harvest.

Mr. Stripey

August 13th, 2011 § 0


I first grew Mr. Stripey in my community garden plot in Arlington, Va. I was taken with its coloration and sweet, mild flavor.

I’m picking Mr. Stripey from my garden right now, and he’s still a stunner.


August 7th, 2011 § 0

Saturday morning I went to collect the eggs and found these:


Notice anything unusual about that third egg from the left? It’s ginormous! To its left are two guinea eggs, and to its right are three typical-sized chicken eggs. Who says that pullets start out with tiny eggs? One of my girls is a rock star. Poor thing!

I accidentally cracked this giant egg on the counter, so I went ahead and investigated. As I suspected, it was a double yolker!


Way to go, little hen!

I don’t eat eggs, so I scrambled it up in some leftover bacon grease and used it as a high-value training treat for some down-stay practice with Tucker. He thought it was delicious!


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