Tuesday, May 22, 2007

War!

It looks like war!

I mean sometime in the night there was a sneak attack.

Actually, the first attack might have been two nights ago but I guess by now we know all about faulty intelligence.

(we are considering appointing a blue ribbon panel to examine intelligence failures but first things first. And the first thing is to assess the casualties).

Casualties were in the thousands.

The thought of it makes me ill.

But there is no time to mourn. This is a time for action.

In fact we held a war council first thing this morning and immediately went into action.

Why, you might ask, why didn't we take action before we were attacked? Of course, its easy to play Monday morning quarterback and yes we are forming yet another blue ribbon panel to get to the bottom of this and other issues but first let's do this weeks farm news.

1. We are down to the home stretch. Less than two weeks until first delivery. It is now time to decide on a pick up location. Last night I went through the information I have from every shareholder and divided the shareholders up into seven different groups. One for each pick up day and one for the people who haven't yet been put into a group. Early next week I will send out an e-mail with your pick up spot. If the information is not correct get back to me (there is no need to contact me if I have the correct information).

2. If I do not have you down for a site I will also send out an e-mail. In that case get back to me with the site you plan on using the first week. (You can change pick up sites every week by giving me a day's notice).

3. The pick up locations are listed on our webpage. I haven't changed it yet but we are going with the Dupont Circle site from last year, the building at 16th and P. This might move a block sometime during the season. The Herndon site, though, has moved. Instead of to the left of the bank as you face it we will use the parking lot behind the bank. Otherwise, all locations are the same as last year.

4. Here is how the pick ups will work:
A. You show up to the location during the pick up times.
B. On the first pick up day I will give you a large canvas tote bag to carry your vegetables in. (it will help if you bring half a dozen smaller grocery store type produce bags. Several people have given me the url's for buying these bags made out of cotton instead of plastic. I will find the url's and get back to you).
C. At the site there will be a board with a list posted of the days vegetables and how many of each, each size share gets.
D. The day's vegetables will be placed in a row in large bins.
E. You line up and file past each bin selecting the amount of vegetables from each bin that your share gets.
some terms you mights see
ayce -- all the members of your share can personally eat in a week)
handful -- terms like this always refer to my mine. I have rather large hands.
some -- less than a lot but more than a smidgen.

The first month there are going to be a lot of greens in the share with some rather inexact measurements. Let's try not to get uptight about my failure to give you exact measurements. The goal here is to divide up what we have growing out in the field amongst the shareholders in a way that satisfies everyone. Part of my job, besides planning and growing the vegetables, is to figure out how much to harvest each day. I attempt to plan for more than enough vegetables for everyone to eat. Here's how it works.

Each year I plan for x number of people to be members (shareholders) in our farm (x this year equals 800. 300 two person shares and 200 one person shares. We are real close to that number right now including the 30 shares that have been requested but not paid for).

Every year I plan for growing the amount of vegetables that x people will eat each week, plus 20 percent extra.

For things like broccoli this is pretty easy. I figure that two servings of broccoli (the amount a two person share would get in a week) is a healthy head of broccoli. Since I can't really divide a head of broccoli for the one person share I also plan for a head of broccoli in the one person share. That's why the one person share costs 3/4 the price of the two person share. The one person is getting about 3/4 the amount of veggies of the two person share (the same with vegetables that can't be divided like broccoli or eggplant, half as much with things like greens and string beans).

That means each week that broccoli is in the share I'm going to need 500 heads of broccoli (200 heads for the 200 one person shares and 300 heads for the 300 two person shares).

Unfortunately, even with the best of planning 'things' happen. And they happen pretty regularly. So, to try to account for 'things' I add 20%, meaning, instead of planting 500 broccoli plants, I plant 600.

Which sometimes, considering what happened last night, isn't always enough (I'll get around to that in a moment).

And this is really one of the things that makes a CSA different than going to the grocery store and paying for your vegetables at the checkout counter.

From my experience, the usual figure for the 'things' equation is 20%. Meaning, instead of 600 broccoli out in the field 'things' happened to 100 broccoli plants before we get to harvest them. Which gives you, the shareholder, the amount of broccoli I planned to go in your share. That's good, everyone gets enough to eat.

But, what if this year's 'things' are really bad. What if instead of the usual there is a plague of harlequin bugs and instead of losing 100 plants we lose 300. What then?

What happens then, with a CSA, is there are only 300 broccoli to divide between 500 shareholders. Which means maybe instead of getting four weeks of broccoli you only get two week. Half of the shareholders get broccoli one week and the other half get broccoli the next week. And so on.

But on the other hand, what if 'things' don't happen. What if we get all 600 heads and not only that, this year the rain came just when we needed it and there weren't any pests at all and the temperature was perfect and what if this year each head was twice as large as usual.

If that happens with a CSA we now divide up instead of 500 heads, we divide up 600 heads. And instead of giving out heads that weigh x we give out heads that heads that weight twice X.

In other words, unlike the supermarket (or farmers market) in bad years the shareholders get smaller shares because the harvest is smaller. And in good years they get larger shares because the harvest is larger.

But each year, with a CSA, we're all in it together, good, bad and average.

Understand? No? Well, don't worry. I will be trying all season long to make this point and other points that make CSA's different from your average supermarket experience.

Now let's get back to the war.

Out here on the frontier we are constantly in danger of attack. If its not one thing its another. Especially when it comes to something as tasty as vegetables.

It seems that humans aren't the only critters that like broccoli (or sweet corn or beans or... well a lot of things).

In particular there are two critters out there that do not in anyway honor the human concept of property rights.

I think I've mentioned the ever popular white tailed deer several times now.

Unfortunately, last night we had an encounter with another varmint. The groundhog (Marmota monax). Officially called the woodchuck, the groundhog especially loves young tender plants. Things like baby broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pac choi, string beans, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers. In fact I think it will eat anything we eat and it will eat it at a much younger age.

Last night, while I don't have a picture or even an eye witness account of the dastardly deed, over 2000 plants were mowed, should we say chomped, down.

I'm blaming the groundhog for this act of vandalism. I think a groundhog went out there last night under cover of dark and attempted to make us go hungry this season.

And while we don't actually know the groundhogs motive yet (could it be because we are free to walk on two legs and its forced to travel on four?)

We need to do something now.

If it (they) ate 2000 plants last night, it can eat 2000 again tonight and then next night and the next until we just X out broccoli on our vegetable list for the season.

And while we do have the extra seedlings to repair last night's damage we can't keep it up for ever.

We need to deal with the cause. The root-cause, if you will, now

And, unfortunately posting the garden with no trespassing signs just isn't going to work.

Even if the woodchuck deemed to read human, I don't think it would listen.

And while I have had people in the past suggest I try to come to some sort of a working agreement with groundhogs, you know, grow a field for the humans and a field for the wild animals, that strategy hasn't actually worked.

It seems that Marmota monax as a species refuses to concede the right to define rules of property and behavior to any other species, especially not to humans.

So, what do you suggest I do? How do we preserve the broccoli in the field for us, the humans, and how do we deny it to the woodchuck?

(And before you give me those suggestions, here's another philosophical question for you. Do you really think its fair, you know, us humans, telling all the woodchucks and deer, the species that have refused to come to a working relationship with us, the humans, that allows us to enforce our will and rules on them despite what they think? Do you think that's fair?)

--

Leigh Hauter

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