It was a somewhat quiet week on the farm last week. The Sustainable Farming and Food Systems students are done with their Summer Internship, although we had a couple of students who came out because they missed the farm so much :)! I even took a long weekend to enjoy a camping trip with my family. And even though taking a 3.5 year old on her first camping trip is exhausting, it was a much needed break from the grind of a farm season. We still have our youth workers through the end of this week, so we plugged away at as many projects as we could get through. We took a break from a lot of the ongoing hand weeding and focused some of our energy on some lingering housekeeping. The barn and classroom got a great cleaning and we got mostly caught up on a project that is usually done in the late fall, sanitizing our seedling trays. “Why do we sanitize our trays?” I’m glad that you asked. Even though our plants don’t spend a lot of time in their trays, we want to make sure that we aren’t harboring any diseases that may linger into the next season. It’s not the most glamorous job but it’s an important one. Another glamour-free job that we started to tackle last week was moving rocks. The joke around hear (any many of my friends) is that the best crop on the farm are rocks. Some of the rocks in our fields (ok, most of them), make transplanting, direct seeding, weeding and even harvesting a real pain. We move them out of the fields into big piles at the end of our beds, always thinking that we’ll get to moving them. Well, that usually doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. This past week we moved about 2-3 tons into our massive rock pile. My estimates is that we’ve pulled about 20 tons of rocks out of our fields since we started farming this land. So, if you were looking for some rocks for a project around the house, just let me know:)
Praying Mantis Student Video Post by Jake This video of a praying mantis was captured by Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Student Jake at the TC3 Farm. Jake describes some of the characteristics of this fascinating beneficial insect, and the video captures some of it’s interesting behaviors. Problems viewing the video? Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JkJnL_ssdA&feature=youtu.be
Holy smokes, we made it through last week without any rain until Friday night. What a relief! That meant lots of busy work on the tractor. We were able to get a field mowed that has had standing water for most of the season. The next step is to get it plowed so we can … Read more
Northland Sheep Dairy Farm Tour – Student Post by Ben
As part of TC3’s integrated pest management (IPM) program for the summer of 2017, the class went on a field trip to Northland Sheep Dairy. Located in Marathon NY, amidst beautiful hilly countryside, Northland is “a 100% grass-fed seasonal sheep dairy powered by draft horses & mules and some committed, hard-working farmers,” to quote their website’s welcome page, which you can find at www.northlandsheepdairy.com. We were joined by a class from Binghamton University Acres Farm and the VINES program from Binghamton, and we made for a very large group altogether.
We were introduced to the farm by Northland Sheep Dairy co-owner Donn Hewes, the man with a passion for and in charge of the draft animals used for power in the fields and property. He showed us the barn where the animals are kept and explained a bit about the nature and nurture of these horses and mules. These included Percheron and Belgian varieties of draft horses, and Suffex mules and Cleveland Bay mule crosses.
It was a treat to be able to see an operation that implements work animals on a farm, as we have learned that there are a variety of benefits of an integrated farming system. The horses and mules not only provide work in return for calories taken directly from the farm they live on (in grass and hay) but also cycle those nutrients through their manure, and reduce the need for external sources of energy (diesel for tractors, grain based feeds). The horses and mules are fed on a permanent pasture system, which means that the land for grazing is always for grazing, as opposed to cropping it one year and grazing the next or some permutation of the like.
Well, another week has gone by and we saw more rain on the farm. It was so wet that I thought that we weren’t going to be able to get any transplanting done last week but we were able to sneak in a few beds on Friday. The talk among my farmer friends is whether … Read more
A Plant Identification Tour of the TC3 Farm – Learning Common “Weeds” – Student Post by Make
Today’s post is a plant identification tour of the TC3 Farm. All the species we will discuss today are potentially “weeds” on the farm. But what is a weed? A weed is simply a plant that is growing where it is not wanted (even a single tomato plant growing in a field of squash can be identified as a weed). The plants being discussed here are all things that grow on the TC3 Farm and can sometimes be found where we don’t want them. Gardeners and farmers alike know all too well the main problem with weeds: competition with their cultivated crops which reduces yields.
Here are some things to think about as you learn to identify your weeds. There are other attributes weeds possess that often get ignored. Weeds can be used for sustenance as mentioned in an earlier post (http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2017/06/19/harvesting-wild-plants-at-the-tc3-farm/). Weeds can be medicinal and are used in traditional medicine. Specific weeds under certain conditions can be used productively in a sustainable manner to properly manage your soil and environment (add organic matter, habitat for beneficial insects, encourage healthy soil biota). Other weeds need to be suppressed because they can harbor certain pests and ultimately leave you open to crop failures.
The first weed in our plant identification tour is known by the common name Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense). It is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family. All parts of the plant are toxic to human health when ingested and can lead to death (its fruit which can resemble tomatoes are the most toxic). The most identifiable characteristic are its spines on the stem and underside of its larger leaves. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October. The plant can spread through seed and rhizomes (sexually and vegetatively). This plant can harbor and sustain Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), Eggplant Flea Beetle (Epitrix fuscula), and Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) just to mention a few. Leaving the Horsenettle unchecked can lead to lower crop yields for Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Eggplants. Hint: The plant should be removed preferably with gloves as to avoid the stinging spines which can become embedded in your skin.