The Scoop

Landship Foods is inspired by the conviction that growing and eating healthy food is one of the most important things we can do for both ourselves and the broader communities of which we are a part. The name comes from the language of pre-industrial Europe. Before the enclosure movement and the associated rise in notions of private property swept England, the suffix “-ship” (as in "relationship," or "friendship") referred to an object or an abstraction with collective duties and mutual rights. Thus, the term “landship” suggests that land was an entity through which humans were joined to each other by a set of rights and responsibilities. I advocate for a revival of this awareness.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Challenge and Celebration

The nine days since my last post seem more like nine weeks. I have had a lot of help from co-workers getting transplants in the ground, and as I sat down to write this I was tempted to write a post about the miracle of seeds and the blessings of many helping hands.

A post of that celebratory nature would not have been ill-founded, but I also want to make sure that I air the challenges of this venture as well as the rewards. Many of the transplants were battered senseless by the 40+ mph winds that swept through our fields for days on end. Those not entirely swayed by the tsunami of air had a rough time coping with the three nights of frost which followed each day's barrage.

So, I will replant, direct seed more than planned, and coddle the surviving crops as best I can. I have descended from the apex of optimism - or perhaps brash confidence - to the realization that a hoophouse is necessary for the prime summer vegetables here in the high desert. In the meantime I will mulch heavily, deploy row covers with reckless abandon, and pray that June 18th marks the beginning of summer this year in Thoreau.

Photo credit to the peerless David Altman

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brief Homecoming

After a week of living in relative isolation in the desert, I flew back to Georgia for my sister's wedding. It was an amazing trip: friends, family, smiles, and of course, good food and drink. The homebrew pictured above turned out to be plenty drinkable. Jami and Brad made it through all of the chaos with admirable calm and are now sipping umbrella-shaded drinks in the Caribbean; Congrats!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Collard season or tomato time?

When I first showed up at basecamp, I was anxious to see how the beds fared over the winter; but I was even more interested to see the compost pile. It looked dark, felt fluffy, and smelled sweet; a homeopathic xanax for the young farmer's soul. We immediately got it spread and incorporated into the vegetable beds. Even in the desert, it helps us to retain moisture without getting soggy. A solid foundation for the plantings to come.

Even though things look good, I am never completely confident about the upcoming season's success. "Marginal" is the word that I think best describes conditions for life out here in the high desert. Most things grew well last year, though, so I work on faith and a little experience.

I have previously been tempted to define this time of year in the same way that a climatologist would. Temperamental, possibly "wet," and windy; all this suggests spring. But yesterday morning when I checked the thermometer at 6:30 it read 26 degrees. The mercury then rose 10 degrees every hour so that by noon it was a sizzling 80 in the sun. Even though there is no humidity, 80 can really fry because at 7,500 feet there is so little atmosphere to dampen the intensity of the sunshine. The early morning was ideal weather for cool season crops: carrots, lettuce, collards. By noon it was tomato time. To me, it was like cramming a whole year into one day: winter at night; a brief spring in the mid-morning; grinding summer all afternoon; and a glorious fall about dinner time.

Needless to say, this makes planting choices quite difficult. My conclusion is that one must hedge their bets here. Plant lots of varieties, in several different plots, at staggered times. Be prepared to lose some, but make sure to learn from your mistakes. Constantly tinker.

On that note, I should get back to work...