Little by little we are getting to cross things off our long and ever growing to do list: processing dry beans and taking stock of our seed inventory. Check. Check.
Our good friend Jill and Jeremy’s brother, Nick, came by to the farm just in time for processing the dry beans. The beans were harvested months ago and have been spread out in piles in the workshop behind the garage. Bolita beans and Colorado River beans. Just after the first frost, we clipped the plant stem at ground level and, starting at one end of the bed, rolled the plants up like loose, unwieldy tumbleweed/sushi rolls. These tumble weed sushi rolls (whole plant, pods and beans together) have been hanging out in the workshop ever since. To shell the beans, we initially tried using a borrowed leaf mulcher, this didn’t work so well as it ended up breaking most of the beans. Plus the leaf mulcher is loud and electric.
Our second method was more fun and efficient – certainly on our scale. We pulled out clumps of bean plants and laid them out on a tarp, then burrito-rolled the tarp so as to contain everything. Then we danced. A sophisticated study of jumping, pacing, stomping, twisting, and boogie woogie – all to find which resulted in the most efficient bean shelling. Then we unrolled the burrito tarp and manually sorted out the large bean plant debris, and poured the beans and chaff into a bucket to be winnowed. After cycling through this process several times, a tight procedure was mastered in the end. Lucky for us Nick has just returned from university in Norway, where he has spent long hours studying late into the night at dance clubs in Trondheim. Having a dance team on the farm not only provided us with the motivation to finally tackle the beans, but it made the process go quick quick and very merry. Thanks Jill and Nick, you both dance something fierce. We have an estimated 10-15 lbs of each variety.
We’ve also finished sorting through our seed inventory. Taking stock of our seed is important and will help guide us in making orders for new seed for next season. It’s also been a good chance to reflect on how well certain varieties grew over others, and decide on whether we want to grow the same variety next year. But primarily, poking through crinkly, folded up envelopes to peek in at BEAUTIFUL seeds is just ridiculous fun.
We have been able to save a good deal of seed from our crops this year, which is very exciting. This is seed from plants and varieties that did especially well here and we enjoyed growing and eating. We spent a considerable amount of time learning about the procedures for selecting for and saving seed, mainly from the good book “Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners”. Farming with only 3 acres and lots of neighbor gardens, there are limits to what seed we can reasonably save. Some of the seeds we’ve saved this year include different varieties of dry beans, blue corn, popcorn, fennel, tomatillo, a few lettuces, and amaranth.
One more thing as relates to seeds: some good people are looking for help putting together a film about seeds. The same people who brought us “The Real Dirt on Farmer John” and “Queen of the Sun”. Check out their kickstarter video here and maybe consider helping them out if you are able.
We had a chance to attend the Stone Barns’ Young Farmers Conference in the Hudson Valley of New York. Holy smokes. Stone Barns is glorious. We are grateful to have both received scholarships to attend, we learned a whole bunch, energy levels are high. It was also a excellent chance to reconnect with close friends doing magical things. During the conference, Jeremy got to try his hand at cross-pollinating pea plants. There were sessions on seed saving as a farm enterprise, swine husbandry, CSA management plans, composting, and orchards and pruning. Crop rotations, cover crops, chicken and pig butchering, farm business management plans, growing in greenhouses, soil nutrients, the Farm Bill. And more. Even a work songs workshop, in which we sang together and harvested turnips, possibly nothing is quite as fantastic. The conference offered us an incredible diversity of topics to explore, a huge community of motivated, beginning farmers, delicious foods prepared from the farm, a seed exchange, fun-spirited contra dancing, and unequivocal exposure to hipster fashion sensibilities. Thank you Stone Barns.
We also did some walking meditations in the city. Lots of bicycles. And people. And pretty kale in planter boxes.