“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”
From the FFA Creed
This year has been so hard for us. We have learned some hard lessons about diseases, vectors, host plants, transmission, the timing of plantings, and the life cycles of pest insects. I have prayed that our guinea fowl would eat all the squash bugs in time, just to have our squash plants decimated by squash borers a week later. We have struggled to stay ahead of the pests, to keep the deer out of the field, to minimize losses. Before we got our strand of electric fencing up, we lost whole varieties to a single hungry mule deer. I do still have some green chile plants, but only about 10% of what I originally planted. I hope she enjoyed the heirloom varieties. We had the same bear that was trapped and relocated last year return to do exactly the same thing as last year, plus kill some of the neighbor’s poultry. One of the last things I want as a mother of three under three is a hungry old bear wandering around getting used to people with my half wild toddlers around. And then there’s the pumpkin he ate…
My job, as the anxious farmer, isn’t just to patch the leaks and build the fences and write eulogies for our winter squash. I also have to come up with lessons learned and ideas to improve for next year.
Move to a new of farm land. Let this field go fallow.
Hope that our deer fencing grant from NM Dept. of Game and Fish materializes.
Grow some crops in a traditional flood/furrow setup, reserving plasticulture and drip for specific crops.
Experiment with green plastic mulch and potentially use fabric cloth for melons.
Do not allow weeds to stand over the winter.
Hope for a freeze hard enough to kill bugs, but not so hard that it kills figs or pomegranates (ha!).
Spray neem oil on corn silks when they appear.
Other ways to diversify/improve:
Build new coop and purchase 100 chicks to have eggs next year.
Build a permanent poultry/livestock structure between lower fields for guineas, turkeys and pastured pigs.
Consider floating row covers for squash.
And soooo much more.
I have to focus on the positive and on the improvements that we will make. I have to make sure we use the lessons that others have learned to maximize our yields and to provide more food at a reasonable cost for local families. As food prices continue to rise in the grocery store we want to be able to feed as many people as we can.