Monday, April 16, 2007

Hunter's Greens Updates & Notes From the Margin 4.16.07

Dear Once and Future CSA-ers, Courtiers and Fellow Tilters at Windmills,

On Friday, April 20, Hunters' Greens will have a table at the Clark County Center for Community Health from ten to two. Stop by and see us, send your friends. The Center is located at 1601East Fourth Plain Boulevard. It is a new building in the Veterans Administration area where St. John's Blvd. meets Fourth Plain.

We are into the time of anxiously waiting at the farm:waiting to see when the rains will stop and when we can get back in the fields, waiting to see how many shares will be purchased. The bright spots are that the peas are now about three inches high and Jim's experimental greenhouse garlic starts are bursting out of the seed blocks. We're up to about 30 firm share commitments, still looking for 20 more.

The word on the street is that there will be hearings on the Comprehensive Plan Update in early June. Meanwhile, write to those Commissioners and if you're feeling particularly literary,a letter to the editor.



We're not sure about you, but we could use a little break from discussing the depressing world of local politics. So we'll take a short hiatus to write about something a little more exciting, TOMATOES!!!

Now vine ripened fresh local tomatoes may be just a twinkle in your eye in April, but Jim has been applying his most creative coggling and appropriate technology skills (what folks these days call sustainability) to bringing you this year's crop.

You see over the years, we have struggled to figure out how to germinate tomatoes. Tomatoes need about eighty degrees. Now, the conventional solution is to buy an electric germination mat that provides bottom heat to the flats of seeds, but they are a little pricey for our depression era/ Scots/ Dutch ancestry to justify. Also we tried to figure out ways to utilize heat we were already generating.

When we lived at the house on the corner we heated the house with a woodstove in the basement. The basement was a place Diane didn't mind getting dirty, so Jim arranged the flats of tomato seeds around the woodstove and the heat that warmed us, warmed the tomatoes. But our"new-old" house doesn't have such a convenient arrangement, and so for years Jim has struggled to find an alternative.

This year's experiment is showing promise. We call it "Tiny Jim's TomatoTeepee". Jim took four, nine foot long, two by fours and tied them together on one end with rope, he then spread them out to form a rough teepee frame. On the south side he hung clear plastic. On the rest of the circumference he hung a hodgepodge of sheet metal and a reflective foil insulating paper (all reused materials available on the farm,nothing purchased). He wrapped the whole thing with a fibre glass insulation blanket left over from sheathing the granary roof. During the day we pull back the fibre glass from the south side to let light in the plastic sheeting.

Inside the teepee Jim installed a small wood stove some elderly friends had passed on to us, and used some rusty old Fifield House stove pipe to vent it out the side of the teepee. He arranged metal shelves on metal posts (inflammable and hard for seed eating mice to climb) around the wood stove.

Jim seeded some flats of tomatoes and peppers, put them inside plastic sacks to keep them from drying out and set them around the wood stove to warm. Within a couple days the flats were covered with mildew, and Jim's heart sank that the experiment had failed, but he whipped off the sack sand put the flats back, in hopes the mildew would die.

This meant that we had to devise a way to keep the flats moist. Fortunately an old refrigerator produce bin was lying about that was just the dimensions to soak the seed blocks when they got dry (watering from above might dislodge the seeds). Jim picked up on a tip from fellow farmer James at Purple Rain Vineyards and decided to soak the seeds in warm water to keep the germination warmth going.

Well it hasn't been a picnic. The first and last thing Jim does everyday is feed the tomato teepee fire. A number of times the shelves have fallen over and spilled the seed blocks. There is no room to stand in the teepee, so Jim comes in every evening with sore soggy knees. But we are successfully germinating tomatoes and even peppers.

Often Jim thinks of organizing our essays into a series of ongoing"columns" on different subjects. The title for the column this essay would fall under, we would call "A penny saved... wisely?" The title poses the question of whether our latest coggle represents "A penny saved is a penny earned," or is "penny wise and pound foolish."

Certainly in terms of labor, the electric germination pad would be a wise investment. Now that we are burning wood just to germinate tomatoes, we could ask, " does the contribution to global warming trumps the salmon fry being chopped up in hydro dam turbines?" And we could ask whether burning windfall limbs and leftover scraps from lumber being used in restoring historic building might be considered "carbon neutral."

And then we can ask, "What is the value of the joy that we experience in using our creative urges to design novel solutions to pesky problems?"

As you can see the calculus of these choices is not simple, and we would argue it is better left to intuition than reduction to a mathematically calculable formula, but then we guess that's part of why we're writing you "notes from the margin."

Well, our two pages are up, so we'll have to save the tale of how Diane turned Jim's last failed coggle into too many tomatoes. Can a CSA have too many tomatoes?

Until then, Sustainably yours,

Jim and Diane Hunter
p.s. Don't forget the Earth Fair and to write your commissioners

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