Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6-23-10: HMO Farm News Letter I wrote

Howdy Hungry Folks.

News from the Farm.

AFTER THE LONG WINTER, As of today we have in the ground a thriving plethora of veggies starting with 'maters, taters, onions, kale, mustards, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach, chives, squash, zukes, melons, eggplant, okra, basil, broccoli, cabbage and all of our favorite….MMMmmmm….GARLIC!!!

Might we add tasty Garlic Scapes to add for good measure?
This is a super specialty item and won't last long.

We have also mowed an alley crop system into our 6 foot tall cover crops and will be planting Monday into these no till blocks with peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cukes, sunflowers & more lil' maters into our intercropped alley cropping system.

The wind rows are performing marvelously and protecting our plants from the constant wind and direct sun. In addition our home grown 200,000 gallon above ground irrigation pond lovingly named the "skeeter breeder" is now pulling water directly from a snow melt creek and irrigating our 5 acres.

This monster consists of nothing more than 200 straw bales, a pond liner, t-posts and fencing to contain the volume. Truly awesome.

Living up to its name the breeder is its own ecosystem and has inspired us to put fish into the pond for pest management, fertigation, food, and super Frankenstein farming!

Lastly, a fresh harvest of delicious food has arrived straight from the farm to the coolers at the Hungry Mother HQ.  We are scheduling our harvest for about every other day, go and get some, Very tasty!!

Keep growing!
Well keep feeding you

The Hungry Mother Farm Team

6-13-10: Finding my # 2, Yardbirds and Work Horses

Well with all things being said my first year as a farm manager at Hungry Mother Organics is not going so bad.

By my estimate a combination of the weather has set us back maybe 2-3 weeks, another is not having a number 2 at the farm while the need to divert my time towards the community, markets, and developing the "backyard bonanza garden" at the farm stand is left unfinished or in the balance.

However I still love the work.

Another set back for sure was that I didn't get to recruit Matt McCue's farm mule Jeremy Lopez early on during the off season farm draft. He is another of our long time FVC farmer veterans and was my 1st round draft pick.

I really need a #2 so to speak of and now "nursery season" is rapidly morphing into "farm season and despite my long hours and 6-7 day work week its difficult juggling all the fastballs and telegraphed punches coming my way when the support I need is left unfilled.

But you know what? I am making it work, and making the best decisions possible, the bad ones occasionally occur but those mistakes only happen once and I am thankful for the learning curve.

Recently in the farm draft I recruited "yard bird"
He is from Sonoma/Santa Rosa, is a Navy veteran and is one of the guys the FVC and I have been helping get into agriculture over the last couple years.

Originally he was coming for a couple weeks prior to panning for gold in the Sierra's, but looks like he needs a place to crash for a season, hopefully I can help him make some money while gaining some much needed farm experience.

Thankfully Yardbird tends to look at the world a little cockeyed; and though this bird can't fly straight he sure gets a damn good job done.

For all intents and purposes I have been left pretty much to myself to run the prison farm, which is good, after all I am the farm manager and the learning curve is steep but not unbearable.

But it takes a team firing on all cylinders and if one piston doesn't fire, such as our marketing guy not selling eggs then the 40 dozen eggs per day start piling up and tasks fall more onto my lap and what valuable space we have for produce is usurped for unsold product that normally is able to sell itself.

A farm such this I am learning takes a whole team. When the support I need to manage the farm and markets is there its awesome, however I am having to run a farm when decisions needed to be made on the fly but I am forced to wait hours if not sometimes days for a resolution.

Sometimes keeping an eye on the inmates is a full time job on its own, and each time I have to leave the farm to run errands then break time begins until I get back. Which I feel as accountability speaking is the greatest drawback of HMO operating at the prison

Having Yardbird around keeps an extra pair of eyes on the guys, he helps with many farm and house chores as well as even taking Agadez the wonder pup out on walks.

Not to forget he plays a mighty fine guitar too.

Damn I like this guy, a guess a bird on the farm is worth more than two in the bush.

06-13-10: Yardbirds and Pack Mules

Well with all things being said my first year as a farm manager at Hungry Mother Organics is not going so bad.

By my estimate a combination of the weather has set us back maybe 2-3 weeks, another is not having a number 2 to help me at the farm so I can also create the garden at the farm stand. Lastly is the disorganized management above my pay grade. I should say no more.

However I still love the work.

Another set back for sure was that I didn't get to recruit Matt McCue's farm mule Jeremy Lopez early in the off season farm draft. I really needed a #2 so to speak of and now here "nursery season" is rapidly morphing into "farm season and despite my long hours and 6-7 day work week its difficult not being able to keep up on all the task.

But you know what, I picked up the "yard bird".
Thankfully he looks at the world a little cockeyed and though this bird can't fly straight he sure gets a damn good job done.

For all intents and purposes I have been left pretty much to myself without any substantial guidance from my manager which is good. However, when decisions have to made on the minute I have to wait, minutes, hours, sometimes days and beyond for resolution.

Having Yardbird around keeps an extra pair of eyes on the guys, helps with house chores and even takes Agadez the wonder pup out on walks.

Not to forget he plays a mighty fine geetar too.

Damn I like this guy, a guess a bird on the farm is worth more than two in the bush.

06-09-10: A Food Stamp Farmer Feeding the Masses

At this time I am on $200 MONTHLY in food stamps, still holding my breath for regular pay and literally feeding 9 mouths.

Add three more servings when myself, Yardbird and lil loyal companion Agadez need to eat.

But between myself, 7 incarcerated farmers, the "Yardbird" and HMO'S 1st volunteer "Petina" as well as our other HMO staff at the nursery "not on my food stamps" we are all striving to grow food and nursery plants which will fill the hungry bellies and imaginations of thousands more!

In these times its good to be able to stretch a buck.
But a whole heap higher than donkey dung BETTER to do something that can give back to thousands.

I won't pause despite potential poverty at this time.
My life, work, love, and ultimate joy is to live in a community created from the root need of food and sharing ideas, work and daily experiences.

You know my favorite part of what I do is to think of those lil' plants moving on to become something either monumental like be a child's first tomato, or the best slicer on a burger from the Sierra's.

Working normal retail, or the living out slow painful "Cubicle Death " has no interest for me. I need growth in my daily life.

A requirement of my occupation is to grow personally on a daily basis and enjoy the simple pleasure of ensuring others have safe, healthy nutritious food to put on their tables.

I think of my villagers everyday and choke back tears, I miss them.
They would be proud of me, I am doing what I promised I would when I came home.
They taught me so much.

Call me a pleaser.

06-02-10: Human Captivity & Firing Up

"They say slavery has been abolished but not for the convicted felon."
-Ice T

Well spoken and I certainly can not argue with this quote. After a lil more than a month here I'd even add beyond slavery, another human rights violation observed everyday is in the form of the food the inmates are forced to eat.

Seriously nasty, nasty stuff. Sure they are convicts, but still human beings.
Most have illness's, addiction, mental illness.
Most are not criminals coming in, only going out.

FDR believed food is a human right.
True, but the onus is also on the citizens to learn to grow food.

This reinforces responsibility, land stewardship, sustainability, community, grass roots economy and much more.

The weather is breaking, farm season is opening up with less frequent frost nights. The soil is warming up and my little tail wags to see tree buds morphing into leaves.

Today I mechanically carved out niches for an acre tater field, and about a 1/2 acres worth of onions, spinach, lettuces, carrots and "Hopi" White corn. Its good to be creative and use innovative strategies such as intercropping horticulture plants between standing wind rows of barley and rye.

Tomorrow we should be transplanting into the beds as well as be featured in the first part of a summer long series of stories which will be running in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Currently we are pumping water into our 200,000 gallon above ground irrigation pond created with nothing more than straw bales stacked 2 high, T-posts, reused fencing and way to thin pond liner which is bound to fail due to its thinness.

Despite the pond liner, Its Brilliant!!!

If all goes according to plan we will be collecting snow melt from the Sierra's until late July and then used in a gravity fed drip irrigation system for our vegetable crops.

On hot days I'd anticipate seeing incarcerated farmers running along in their boxers to cool off into the oasis. Our fat man has even offered the first belly flop.

Pretty rad place still, though working for my bosses is becoming more and more difficult due to their well….who knows.

However my incarcerated farmers are still incredibly loyal and hardworking. Though it is a prison farm, the real benefit for these guys is the open space w/out the hacks and good food we grow daily.

Its not easy, you can only expect so much output while paying 60 cents per hour. But you know the fact is they want to be out there, and they are 7 days a week, 8-12 hours per day.

In Carson I don't have any time left for personal things such as making normal friends so these guys are my friends. A motley crue for sure but you know we get along, I treat them decently, bring them food, work with them, and share a lot of laughs.

Though I am still not really being paid, my passion is the work. I even use half my monthly food stamps on the locked down farmers.

Gotta admit its weird being "boss", and I have to find balance between authority and friend. Some good advice was given recently by Michael O'Gorman who said, don't fire to much, but not to little either. So with that in mind….

A couple days ago, I caught a fella from the farm sneaking a few dozen eggs into the prison under his jacket. They are like gold on the inside, and there is a whole trade network based on this currency.

Sure I should have fired him but the man has been locked up for almost 20 years, most of it on the "hard" yards with murderers, rapists, etc. So I can't really say I blame him, I know it has been going on, but had no real proof.

Though he should have been canned, I decided to rip his ass, threaten banishment from the farm, but also show leniency. It worked. Taking away the only thing that matters to a man is a cruel exercise, he knows he did wrong.

Best part though, was that he shut down the whole smuggling ring. He went back into the prison and turned away all the business regardless of his peers threats for doing so. It meant more to be free a few hours a day than a criminal the rest.

Not to mention it also straightened out the other hooligans a little.

Come to think of it, it’s a bummer we won't see that fat guy belly flopping into the irrigation pond. Had t fire him to make an example despite being our best produce washer. But finding balance of firing to much or little was key. The man was screwing up by working too slow and eating too much food.

Damn he hated me afterwards, however I put a call in for him to his case manager and got him actually promoted to a better paying job at $1.50 per hour. All I had to say was that he was a stand up guy but I just didn't need him anymore.

Its funny, I have received hidden notes in school but never prison. He sent me one through the other inmates and thanked me as well as apologized for saying he was going to shank me as well as screw my girl friend.

When I wondered? Homey was on lock down.

Damn this place is fun. Really, what pleasure is there to be at the retail stand and deal with normal folk or some pimply kid trying to grow dope in his back yard. I can't say its fun either to grow for rich folk who can afford the best but seldom appreciate the workers who grow it.

I feed the common folk, inmates too apparently.


5-24-10: Two Farmer Veterans, One Pansy Division, A BBQ, Brothers B-Day

Matt McCue whom I met as a Peace Corps Volunteers I consider one of my closest friends, favorite people, and co-farmer veteran who helped start the FVC came to my farm last weekend.

We farmed, we jammed, he advised, I listened, and we BBQ'd for my man "Rude Dog" who was an incarcerated farmer who like the old song goes "from these prison walls I'll fly…..I'll Fly Away!!

Hate to see a good worker go, but good to see our "Saw'd off lil Midget" get out.
Hope he stays that way.

Bummer to lose my carpenter on the farm but damn good to see someone re-starting life as a free person. My hopes is that our farm brought him happiness and something to reflect on always as positive experience while growing food for others and with friends.

Back to matt. His arrival to the farm has finally marked the first occasion in our three years of farming together that he has visited "my farm". Sure he visited me in farm school, but that school, and with 40 others.

To be honest, Production'ly speaking me and the boys at the prison are weeks behind in field production. We finally planted out about an quarter acre of Kale, Collards, Cabbage, Broccoli and spinach. So far the weather has been miserable, gardens are being destroyed by the freezing nights and frequent late spring powdery storms. Though we have pushed thousands of plants we are sitting on tens and tens of thousands of beautiful orphan plants looking for some ground to call their own.

Good observations Matt also made were to go ahead and mow in our cover crops, alter our seedling mix for better germination as well as start field planting….grrr!!...that one I only wish.

Currently planned for the field production we are going to plant two successions of mixed taters amounting to about a 1/2- 3/4 acre, another acre at least throughout the season in lettuce, spinach, then we will also be doing an acre of sweet corn, 1/2 acre of sqaush-zukes-cukes and a late June planting of our winter crops of pumpkins, winter squash, and onions.

Currently we have a 1/2 acre of beautiful garlic, as well as 5 4x50ft beds of veggies seeded in: beets, radishes, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce.

Before this weekend we will be also planting out beds at the Farm Stand in cabbage, kale, radishes, lettuce, mixed herbs, perennials, artichokes, broccoli, chives, and flowers. Not to mention this week we have finished the 2nd 22x40 high tunnel, dug 20 3x25ft garden beds, transplanted thousands of tomato plants to 5 gallon pots, and yes continued managing our flock of about 500 birds sputtering out a paltry 40 dozens eggs per day.

Whew….And I thought the awesome mountain bike rides behind my double wide that I steal on the National forest trails on a weekly basis would keep me busy enough….guess not.

On a home makers front, I have also hosted my first two guests over for dinner this week. A co-worker and a volunteer who works with us.

For memorial day weekend I am driving 5 hours to Santa Cruz and will be hosting 25 farmer veterans on Matt & I's alma mater farm on the University as well as some other stellar farms with the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Agadez you ask, is doing very well is 7 months old, 70 lbs and is voracious for all farm rodents.

You all know the tale, its damn good to have a home, a loving pup, friends, family, and great crops to brave the shitty on and off spring weather.

Keep your powder dry and your plants dry and warm, then shred the trails all other times.

Happy 21st b-day nubb'n!!!
Love ya bub'

5-17-10: A good Field Day

HERE it is.

It is my mothers birthday, # not important but the date is; May 17th.

Its odd to think that two years ago officially marks the date I broke my back.

What a long strange trip it has been since that fateful fall.

To celebrate this ominous occasion today, I put my first field crops in the ground. After reading my winter blues rant, or even knowing the last two years has been all travel and no roots.

So planting a farm of my own today was monumental. After being deprived of doing so back in Niger after the fall, this to me was a very big deal.

A day to really live in the moment and appreciate life.
There is nothing I would rather be doing now.

Its late in the season, though the schedule has been hectic the wintry weather been uncooperative to say the least, but the timing has not been there, its really difficult coming into a season mid swing with a rotating mix of incarcerated farmers most without any farming experience. But that's life.

So far I am managing god knows tens of thousands of plants, seven farm workers, two locations, a new home, an energetic puppy, while also attempting any chance to mountain bike or play music.

Damn its good to be settling roots.

Back to our field: Our plant out was 8 beds, 3ft x 160 ft, it took us four hours. Not bad considering we planned it out on a whim.

My goal is UC Santa Cruz speed, last year at CASFS this job would have been done in an hour, two at the most most if we were lazy.

Farming at CASFS reminds me of the old adage while working in Colorado as a raft guide. You learn that you never have a crew as good as the one you train with….it makes a difference when everyone is learning and striving to perform optimally….most days!....or at least not trying to get dunked in snow melt rivers at 0800.

Damn funny how quality of workers skills and knowledge farming plays in production!

I can't write much more but just wanted to briefly remark on the birf'day of me mum, the anniversary of a bad break in life and our farming activities.

But you know life is like the river. Ride the wave trains, rest in the eddy's, then get out and do it all over again the next day.

It really Freak'n Rocks here!