This is Christopher Ira reporting on Project Mush-Mush. I've been lying low lately as I had issues with my rye grain spawn. I did establish a little colony of cardboard spawn and in the process of gathering materials to command an onslaught of bulk spawn making. I had great success with the first experiment. I had approximately 18lbs of straw and got about 5 lbs of mushrooms which didn't even include my first flush which was a write off due to the lack of light and poor formation of mushroom caps (lack of light will do that). So that's over 100% biological efficiency which is right in the middle of where I should be a far as yield goes. I'm curious how the cardboard spawn will work out.
I have worked at TapRoot Farms for 3-1/2 years. I do chores which consists of feeding and watering the animals and maintaining their enclosures. I do a twice daily check. The pigs have to have a steady zap in their fences or they could leave and trample crops, eat crops, or be a hazard on the road: this means that I have to whippersnip around the fences to make sure that the grasses don't lessen the zap. I have to check batteries and walk the wires to look for hinderances. Pigs like to dig in the dirt with their snouts and at times push dirt over the wire. I observe the livestock to make certain that the animals are happy and healthy and all accounted for.
I have seeded a lot of trays this year and I enjoy seeing the seedlings grow. This has been a great year and I have really enjoyed working with the TapRoot Team.
I will quietly celebrate my one year anniversary working on the farm later this month. Maybe I’ll eat lunch in the middle of a huge field of sunflowers. I’m tempted to comment on how quickly the time has passed, but as I get older all things seem to fly by. A Korean friend once said in unconventional English, “Time is so past.” He meant to say “fast”, but I like his version better.
Josh and I were coaching his son’s baseball team last summer when he asked if I might like to join the TapRoot Team. I said yes without really knowing what that meant. I had initial concerns at first. I had never been employed by friends before, and lacked all farm experience. I argued that I was skinny and weak. Almost one year in and I haven’t been fired yet, so either things are going well, or Josh is too kind to give me the axe.
The TapRoot Team and the day to day operations are real marvels. Everyone involved in sorting out each day is not only critical to the farm’s success, they are also an amazing group of people. We’re a big team, but it’s also a very big farm. There are a mindboggling number of things that have to happen each day. And each day is different. Everyone contributes until it is done. That may be the secret. It really is a pleasure to play a small part in the bigger picture. Input and contributions are always encouraged. I love how excited some of us can get when we think of a new way to do something better, or as we share stories of our day to day with each other. There is always time for laughter and support. I see why the word “team” gets thrown around so much.
As a rule, I am eternally stressed out. It is a fatal personality flaw. I worry that I won’t finish things on time, or well enough, or that someone else is overburdened, or that CSA shareholders will be unhappy with something they receive, or that I’m not doing my job, or whether or not something that hasn’t been done was my job, or that I will be late. I hate being late. Ideally, any work setting should be free of stress, but the very nature farming makes it difficult to do many things in advance, other than plan and prepare. The product is fresh, sometimes still warm from the field as it is prepared for shareholders, wholesale or market, which means that some things are last minute. Occasionally we have been known to chase the TapRoot truck down to put the last few things in the back. And I will admit that in my haste I have even driven away from the farm with the doors still wide open. The “down to the wire” reality on the farm has been the biggest challenge for me and my aforementioned stress issues. Before we can celebrate an accomplishment other things need doing. I have joked with Justine that each time we successfully get Jem away in the TapRoot van it reminds me of Star Wars and I have the urge to shout and cheer, “The first transport is away!”
As autumn approaches my mind always turns to school. I have been a teacher for 16 years. This past year was the first time since I was five years old that I did not return to a classroom in some capacity. My year on the farm has been a break from my “regular” life, if that’s a thing. Thankfully I have discovered that not having time to plan each day has also freed me from trying to plan ahead. It’s very liberating. It is much better to immerse yourself in the present. Besides, “time is so past.”
A special hello to everyone at Prospect, Emma’s and Fall River! Thank you so much for making me welcome in your communities.
Teri has mentioned to me a couple times about writing a blog post for the newsletter so here it goes.
For those of you who don't know, I'm usually the one behind the financial response emails or the quarterly statements. I've been with Taproot Farms for almost 2 years now and those two years have flown by faster than I can believe. In those two years record keeping responsibilities have shifted and systems have changed.
Just a few notes on the financial/payment topic.
I appreciate some of you switching to email transfers; they are working out great. For those of you who are using PayPal, cheque or cash; that works out great too.
In September I will be sending out quarterly statements. These statements are generated by our accounting software, Quickbooks, which is not connected to your online accounts in anyway other than Teri or myself entering data manually so if there are differences please do not be alarm. I am trying my best to make sure everything is as accurate as possible but there are things that do not get recorded correctly despite my/our best efforts.
While on the subject of things not being recorded properly, if you do notice something on your account that does not seem correct you are always more than welcome to email your questions/concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org I am in the office Monday to Friday 8am to noon so please be patient with me as it may take me a day to respond but I will get back to as soon as possible
While I'm noting things, things on the farm this year have just been beautiful. I am sure they always have been but this year I have vowed to truly slow down and enjoy everything it has to offer. Even my walks in from the drive way are refreshing. I get to look at the tunnels and the flowers, and I get to hear the pigs snorting away in the field. I think I have really just begun to realize how blessed I am to be part of such an amazing operation right here at home. We love to see people out on the farm so please come out an enjoy this beautiful slice of Annapolis Valley.
From time to time, we like to let our customers know whats happening, here on the farm. I've been doing a lot of weed management this summer, and am using some techniques that I thought some might find interesting.
A new tool we got this year, is a tractor mounted flame weeder. This has four propane jets, that floats a couple of inches above the ground and cooks the weeds as we drive over them. Backpack flame weeders have been popular on organic farms for a while, but not many farms have a flamer that goes on a tractor. We use it in a number of ways. The main way is flaming a bed, after its been seeded, but before the seeds emerge. That way we can cook all those little weeds, that have already come up before the crop. We've also used it on our potatoes. Because the potato plants are big and juicy, the damage to the crop is minimal, while the damage to the weeds is detrimental.
We also have an antique Alice Chambers 'G', cultivating tractor. It uses a tool bar underneath the belly of the tractor, with cultivating teeth on it. Because its mounted under the belly, your able to see where the teeth are, and can weed between rows, four at a time.
Of course, no farm can get away without weeding by hand. This is very labour intensive, but thanks to our team, we are usually able to keep it under control. We've also had one of our CSA members, Sylvia, doing a work share, where she pays for her share through farm labour. She's spent a lot of time weeding this spring and has made a huge difference in the field this spring.
<< Sylvia weeding carrots this past Saturday. She comes prepared with the necessary gear to avoid the rampant no-see-ums we are currently being harrassed by!
There is the 'many little hammers' method of weed control, where a number of tools, each with a different purpose, all play a part in managing weeds on the farm. Until they come up with one tool that can weed all of our different crops, we will always need many little hammers.