Happy Garlic Ready for the Snow

Friday, November 12, 2010

Apollo and the Harvest Moon

Farm/Garden Tasks this month:

- get the last of the winter greens and baby roots sown

- plant 3000+ bulbs

- get the garlic and winter onions in

- sow cover crop in old summer beds

- start planning seed and deciduous tree/vine orders

The harvest moon has come and gone, we’ve howled and rolled pumpkins and soon the last of the winter crops will be in the ground. Apollo and Gremlin (our farm cats) seem more inclined to sleep on a blanket inside than in the shade outside, some wood smoke is drifting around the mountains, and the artichokes are starting to leaf out.

Sure signs that it is time to plant bulbs, get the winter cover crop in the ground, reflect, plan and prepare for the departure and eventual return of Persephone.

The coming months are a special time for the gardener, as plant growth slows down because of cooler temperatures and decreasing sunlight, our tasks too can slow. The pressure created during the bottlenecks of the past few months lets off.

With the cooler weather and fall moisture of the last few weeks, new windows of opportunity are opening. The soil is soft and digable, and the coming months are going to be perfect conditions for perennial plants to get their roots established, thereby setting them up for great success next spring and summer. With a little thought given to the seasonal rhythms gardening success can be so much easier to achieve, giving you greater returns for your energy.

By all means pack those beds with winter veggies, but if you want a beautiful low maintenance option, as well as one which provides winter erosion control/cover, habitat creation, and a cheap and easy shot of fertility and organic matter (again, beautiful!) a cover crop is the way to go. I use such things as field peas, bell beans, oats, , rye, and vetch to give me a winter cover and fertility boost. Without it, soil erodes and there is no improvement in structure or fertility (actually a decrease). Soil is alive and depends on its interaction with roots to keep it so. Not growing in the soil will actually harm it. So if you want great tomatoes next summer put in some cover crop now!


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Giant Proud Pumpkin

You've got to love the spirit of a haggard old cucumber vine in mid-September, tired by striving, putting the last of itself into producing some final fruits. The fall garden is quickly approaching:

Mammoth Grey Stripe sunflower heads laden and bent from the weight of ripe full seeds are being pecked apart, scattered underfoot by chickadees and finches.

The leaves of our vigorous wending grape are even starting to turn gold as are the few raisining fruits that have escaped the eyes of little children and other critters roaming the vines.

A giant proud pumpkin stands at our door in celebration of the approaching season.

The season of death and decay is always on the heels of the fruiting season.
Leave some gargoyle flower head or overgrown zucchini to rot crumble and fall in reminder, honor, and celebration of the cusp, the cycle, and your own life and times.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fall is not in the air but on the mind

We know we are in the thick of summer when all of the ingredients to make a farm fresh ratatouille are at hand (and how can it be ratatouille if it is not farm fresh?): tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini (courgette), eggplant (aubergine), bell pepper (poivron), carrot, marjoram, basil, and herbs de provence. For those of a more Southern Californian cuisine, we may think first of this as the salsa fresca season, a season truly worth celebrating no doubt!

Keep all these fruiting summer vegetable plants regularly picked and they will continue to reward you with their sweet, tangy, and intoxicating flavors. Let them produce submarine size zucchini's, pithy bitter eggplant, and fermenting tomatoes and they will punish you by cutting short their already fleeting season. And fleeting it is, so celebrate - this is about gratitude you know!

Of course summer is about the work at hand: harvesting, weeding, and pruning for these crops; but it is also about planning and preparing, for Fall's crops. Eliot Coleman is a longtime organic grower from Maine. He is the author of the bible of small organic market farming, The New Organic Grower, and most recently, The Winter Harvest Handbook. For six whole years in Maine, Eliot Coleman shunned the "regular" summer season and focused all of his energies on growing in the winter for local markets. I don't usually recommend that Westerners look to the East for wisdom, but in this case (and most of the times Eliot Coleman speaks) we should listen up. If he can do it in Maine, then it should be no problem for us here in Southern California to provide ourselves with fresh garden produce all winter long.

One of Eliot Coleman's main lessons is of "plant positive" gardening. This approach to gardening and farming cuts to a simple yet unfortunately little respected or understood premise (see health care system in America). It is the idea that plants like all organisms are adapted to resist pests and diseases, they are meant to thrive and produce abundantly here if their basic needs are met. If children are given love, support, diversity, healthy food, wilderness, and activity they will most likely thrive. Plants need good soil, sunlight, a diversity of organisms, water, and air. If they are given these things they will be strong and able to resist the forces of nature that threaten them. They will "go forth and multiply" as the saying goes. This simple premise is the foundation for all the hopes of attaining a truly sustainable agriculture. Corn for example is a summer crop, it cannot germinate in cool soils, and heat is required if the plants are going to grow vigorously and producing an abundance of sweet ears. Wait for April or May to plant corn, when the soil is warm and the hot summer is approaching for its maturation stages. Timing planting and maturity of crops to link up with the seasons in which they naturally "want to grow" is an essential first step in growing a crop in a "plant positive" way.

For crops other than the true heat lovers (tomatoes, beans, melons, corn, cucumbers, etc.) this means Fall, Winter, and Spring are often the best times to garden. Most of our favorite garden veggies (i.e. carrots, cilantro, spinach, potatoes, beets, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radish, chard, leek, garlic, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts) naturally thrive and taste better in the cooler weather found during the California Fall, Winter, and Spring. Not only this but we actually get some rain during these seasons, this coupled with cool weather can really cut down on how much precious water we need to garden successfully.

I love gardening when it is not as hot and dry as the summers here, and I anxiously await the crops of the cool season. By all means, celebrate the bruchetta and ratatouille of summer, but if you also to wish enjoy potato leek soup, sweet root vegetables, brassicas, and greens in January start planning and planting now. For example today in the Camp Stevens Farm and Garden we are sowing the seeds of broccoli, cabbage, artichoke, fennel, lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, carrots, and beets. We should be enjoying these crops in the coming months, and you can too if you come visit us this year.

So if that zucchini you planted in May is languishing (and it will after 3 months!) or the lettuce is getting bitter (and it will after 10 cuttings and a hot July!) don't just let those things rot and go to seed as the garden waits for your spring fervor next year. Get out there, compost that pathetic crop residue (or feed it to the chickens), dig the soil again, and add some compost. Think of the garden in California as a never ending eden, as space opens up fill it with the crops that correspond to the season, and enjoy garden fresh produce all year in the sun while people in Montana shovel snow to get to their winter carrots. This is the land of milk and honey, now what great cool season crop would you like to enjoy this year?

Oh yeah, order flower bulbs and garlic if you want to plant them this Fall,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

roots, shoots, leaves, flowers, and finally fruits

Think of the produce that we strongly associate with summer and you are likely thinking of a fruit or seed: Zucchini, Melon, Tomato, Bean, Pepper, Peach, Corn, etc. The summer months are the fruiting months of the year. For plants to produce fruit they usually require time and warmth. The other plant parts naturally precede them, ripe tomatoes don't just pop out of the ground. First there are roots and shoots, leaves, flowers then fruits. It has taken a succession of success' for our little tomatoes started in March indoors (check out the photo gallery link on this page to see them as babies in our late winter nursery) to get to the point now 4 months later that they are just beginning to ripen a couple of their fruits. It was a cold, wet, late spring and it has been a pretty cool summer, this delays ripening which is why people in mild coastal climates sometimes have a hard time with tomatoes.

Understanding this helps us as gardeners and cooks to grow and eat seasonally. Lettuce for example is a plant who's leaves we eat, so it grows quick and easy most months of the year. Stick a seed in the ground, 60 days later you can have a mature head of lettuce. If you wanted to eat the flower or seed of the lettuce (has anyone done this?) you would have to wait longer. This is actually one of the problems we have with lettuce during the summer, the heat tells the plant that it should flower and form seeds and this causes the part we like to eat (the leaves) to become more bitter, this flowering is often referred to as "bolting". Of course because we can harvest leaves as baby greens at a very young age, and we can grow bold resistant strains of lettuce, and we can plant successions of lettuce (every two weeks here), we can enjoy lettuce all year. Lettuce is extremely winter hardy even here in Julian well into the low 20's. Even if tomatoes could survive this (and they can't) they would never produce fruit in these temperatures, nor would anything I can think of. Even in the warm winter parts of San Diego, I am told tomatoes are not very productive, fruits of plants need heat!

These biological premises are at the heart of why we eat seasonally and how gardeners and farmers can hitch their wagon onto nature's train and grow successfully.
Yours in Plant Positivity,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Seed in Child's Hand

The Summer Solstice has past, at Camp Stevens this means that raspberries are starting to trickle in. If the spring blossoms didn't get frozen off the trees and weather permitted good pollination, we should begin enjoying the early stone fruits (fruits in the rose family/prunus genus with single "stone like" pits). Despite an erratic spring with late freezes, wind, and rain the stone fruit trees in our orchard seem to be performing in 2010. The veggies at the farm and gardens are cranking along providing us with all the lettuce, peas, and root vegetables we can consume and we are beginning to see the first of the exciting summer produce in the form of the ubiquitous zucchini. Tomatoes and basil are not far behind. With the added growing space that Volcan View Farm has provided, Camp Stevens has really been able to start making a dent in the dream growing our own produce this year, and as we look to the future it seems possible to grow even more.
Outside of the Farm and Garden, we are completing our 2010 Counselor Training Program. It was a busy 10 days and it looks like we have a strong new crew of Counselors and Staff to run our summer program. They seem excited about working with children in the wilderness and on the farm and in the garden. In an effort to meet our stated mission of "reclaiming an active stewardship" of all that sustains us, we at Camp Stevens are trying to help children re-connect with their ecology. I think this group of young leaders is more equipped than ever to help accomplish this goal, they represent the youth of this world who are rising to the challenges of this world, and it will define their generation. This summer they will help children explore the freedom and wonder of the wilderness, enjoy the fruits of the soil and the sun, and learn about each other and diversity in general. We hope that this may serve as a seed for some children, that through them we may begin the much needed process of re-educating ourselves to our ecology, re-developing an eco-literacy if you will. I hope you all have an excellent Summer and take advantage of all the wilderness and culinary wonders that this season affords.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Cruelest Month

Apologies for a month of not posting! May it turns out is the cruelest month. What happens right about now is that we are in the middle of the bottleneck times, meaning a huge amount of work has to get done in a short amount of time, blogging has unfortunately fallen by the wayside.

Most of our summer crops have started going in the ground and will for the next week or so. All of our favorites: Sweet corn, Melons, Peppers, Winter Squash, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Tomatillo, Beans, Zucchini, Basil, and a myriad of summer flowers. Additionally, we are continuing to plant the succession crops like greens and root vegetables. Irrigation, weeding, and mowing are becoming regular chores. Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Apricots, Cherries, Pluots, and Raspberries in our orchard are starting to plump up and many of them need to be thinned. It is an exciting time too as our first spring crops start to come on. We have been harvesting 20 -30 pounds/week of greens (mostly lettuce, arugula, and spinach) for the last 4 weeks. The asparagus has been especially abundant and tasty this year (almost exclusively to the enjoyment of our staff), and some early broccoli and cabbage are starting to flow from the garden. The ensuing weeks and months will see peas, more and more greens, the first of the beets and carrots, broccoli, cabbage, then garlic, raspberries, apricots, plums, more greens, more root vegetables, peaches, more raspberries, more plums, early corn, zucchini, early tomatoes, tomatoes, more beets, zucchini and more zucchini, more carrots, beans, more peaches, cucumbers, summer onions, potatoes, more corn and tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and carrots and beets and parsnips and leeks, more raspberries, apples, pears, pumpkins, kubocha, greens, greens, greens, roots.............yeah!

Focus, the task at hand, today, get the sun crops in the ground, weed, weed, weed, harvest, thin.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"A working man would consume 10 pounds of potatoes each day"


- Introduction to Organic Gardening Workshop!
- Prepare and plant for early corn (hope for no more freezing weather)
- Plant out early girl and moskvich early tomatoes
- First zucchini and cucumber planting

It's spud planting time on the farm! I was fortunate enough to have an excellent group of hard working and fun students from the San Diego Waldorf High School up here last week to help prepare the soil for and plant these tasty tubers. We planted the potatoes at the same time as we put in our summer crop of onions, right next door. In order to assure abundant tuber formation from the plants this summer, we weeded, dug the soil deep and wide (you'll understand why soon), and amended with a lot of well-finished compost. (We also added a dusting of Steve Soloman's recipe for "Complete Organic Fertilizer".) Next we dug an 8 inch trench down the middle of our four 50 X 4 foot beds, plopped in whole potatoes (8 - 12 inches apart), and buried them. Potatoes are truly fascinating both biologically and culturally as this excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Book of Garden Secrets, points out:

Growing potatoes in your garden can be very rewarding, as the yield from even a small area can be surprisingly high. And besides, nothing you buy tastes as good as the tiny, creamy new potatoes dug straight from your own garden. Once under way, potatoes require little attention except watering because their foliage is so vigorous...
Potatoes have an especially colorful history. They are native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia and are still grown there in greater variety than anywhere else in the world. Andean potatoes come with blue, brown, purple, or red skins. Different types tolerate a wide range of climactic conditions, and some can even produce a crop at an elevation of 14,000 feet.
Before the potato famine, many Irish people lived on a diet of boiled potatoes and milk; a working man would consume 10 pounds of potatoes each day. This might sound like a pretty boring diet, but surprisingly 7 pounds of potatoes plus 1 pint of milk will meet all your nutritional needs for a day...

Despite the fact that most people eat potatoes as a source of starch, potatoes are high in protein...In terms of amount of protein produced per acre, potatoes rank second only to soybeans though the quality of this protein is higher than that of soybeans.

If you were looking to grow a few crops in a small space to provide you with maximum sustenance, this relative of the tomato would be an important ally. However, relying on it alone or one variety alone could prove fatal, as it did for the Irish in the mid -1800s. The lessons we take from the potato famine teach the importance of diversity in our food system. Sadly, in recent decades this diversity has been undercut by the economic demands of industrial food production, the consolidation of power within this industry, and the patenting and engineering of crop genetics.

I like to think that planting a diversity of spuds and other food crops is a small, peaceful and essential act of subversion. That it testifies to the fact that we have what we need here to live without the industrial food system. When we start to grow food for ourselves, in harmony with our ecology, we reduce our dependence on an industrial food system that does not produce food in harmony with our ecology. The global food system and the food we buy from it is one of the leading (if not the leading) contributors to greenhouse gases worldwide; the fossil fuel based fertilizers it uses are the leading cause of water pollution and river mouth dead zones around the world; its threat to bio-diversity in and out of the food system cannot be overstated; and we are losing our top-soil (the important stuff we need to grow all food) at alarming rates. Good farming and gardening practices, on the other hand, sequester carbon, build soil, increase regional bio-diversity, and keep our watersheds and ecosystems alive and healthy.

The implications of these divergent choices should be clear.
If you are interested in reclaiming and protecting a little bit of your ecology get out there and plant some spuds!

Here at Camp Stevens we like to play a game around the dinner table where we ask kids what plant part they are eating. When potatoes are a part of the meal the answer can be hard for them to find even if they know the basic plant parts. "Root" is the most common answer we get but tubers are not actually roots.

Though they do form underground, tubers are technically modified underground stems, potato "eyes" are actually the traces of what would have been leaves on the above ground stem. When we plant the potato, roots and more stems will form from the spud. To maximize yield we want the soil to be loose and deep so that the underground stems can spread far and wide, producing lots of tubers. The photosynthesizing leaves will send carbohydrates and proteins down the stem and into the spud. A potato tuber acts like a storage chamber for energy. This adaptation has proven useful to the potato and humans alike as we can dig the potatoes, plant some to propagate new plants and eat some for energy.

Culturing potatoes for maximum tuber production is a bizarre and fascinating practice, during the growing season we we will do whats called "hilling" the plants. Once some shoots have come up and the stems are about 1 foot tall, we will bury all but a few inches of the leaves and stems, creating a hill. We might hill the potatoes one more time before the plant goes into dormancy for the winter, its above ground foliage dies and sends the last of its nutrients into the tubers below ground. At this point we can dig the plants out of our hills and enjoy watching mountains of potatoes tumbling out of the loose soil, the stems we buried have now formed an abundance of tubers in our hills. Its like striking a gold mine!

If we each do our part the world will be our garden,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snow! April! Southern California!

Garden Tasks This Week:
- Incorporate cover crop for 3 sisters field
- Pot up last of the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants
- Harvest asparagus, artichokes, fennel, and overwintered spinach
- Mow cover crop for melons, tomatoes, and peppers (work soil when it dries down)
- Weed garlic

It is a misnomer that Southern California is a desert - in fact most of the areas west of the mountains should properly be described as semiarid grassland, chaparral, or coastal sage-scrub. The extreme aridity seen in the true Southern California deserts such as Anza-Borrego, Palm Desert, and Joshua Tree (Sonora and Mojave desert regions) is mitigated west of the mountains by Pacific moisture/humidity. That said, while water is not "severely" limiting to life most of the time" (Dimmitt, Biomes and Communities of the Sonoran Desert Region) in most of the urban/sub-urban areas of Southern California, it is certain limiting to non-native species (especially of the garden variety).

This year, there-fore Southern have a lot to be grateful for. As I sit writing looking out at our gardens from our office at 4200 feet in the San Diego mountains snow is falling and the precipitation of this last storm looks to push us over the 33" mark for the year. Truly a sort of blessing or whatever you might call that, something to be thankful for anyway. I've seen the results of ample Southern California moisture written in the deserts already this year as they are the first to burst forth after almost a decade of dessication, not that it bothered them. Brittle brush blooming as if it had been all along. The coastal slopes all around us are rich, green, and lest we forget, fleeting. We are in for an amazing dry season, this is our one and only ecology in full effect, forget the Easterners who drowning in weeds can't see the ephemera of it here, who I've heard describe the west as "brown and poky". When the now verdant "eastern looking" pastures of our west once again turn tawny, deep ochre, red and burning on the edge of the sea, lets love that too.

Now is a great time and this is a great year for the gardener to pull out a little lawn or other water hungry and minimally useful landscape plant and replace it with something more appropriate to Southern California. Food crops are always a great option to lessen our dependence on the ecological disaster that is the food system, but if you are interested in landscaping with native plants (and you should be) check out Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano or Las Pilitas in Escondido. Both nurseries have awesome websites and a huge selection of plants that will not only naturally thrive here and meet any of your landscaping needs, but also provide habitat for native wildlife. Through over-development, we Southern Californians have taken so much habitat away from the native birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles of our region that it is a crime against nature to not give back when we have the chance. I can imagine an urban-wilderness interface in Southern California which respects the habitats and corridors of our wild neighbors. Where the health of our gardens and lives are maintained by an ecological balance. One in which we fulfill our role and responsibility as stewards of our ecosystem not exploiters. Where we grow food for ourselves in our communities and foster the complex and beautiful communities of the wild, that we let wilderness back into our lives.
We're all in this thing together,

Friday, April 9, 2010

How many bees in a pound?

I've been the official Camp Stevens beekeeper since I came back here 4 years ago. Having never kept bees before, it has been a challenging and at times frustrating road. Three days ago, two parcels arrived at our doorstep, each contained about 11,000 worker bees (3 pounds of bees) and 1 queen. This is "a nice fat package" - enough to start a new colony in a new world - in this case, our garden. The package bees are ordered in the winter and ship in the spring, right around the time that a wild hive might naturally swarm. Swarming is an amazing behavior and is the way that bee colonies divide and propagate. When conditions and nectar flows are good, a healthy established hive may choose to divide. The workers will make a new queen and half the hive will leave with the old queen, striking out to find a new location suitable to build a hive. Ideally they are successful in this endeavor, the old hive continues with its new queen, and new hives continue the legacy of their mother colony further afield.

Keep your eyes peeled because this is a very busy time for honey bees. In a year such as this when rains have been good, the quickly reproducing honey bee is likely to take advantage of ample nectar flows. We should have the opportunity to see plenty of swarms. When honey bees swarm they are at their most docile; in fact it is a great time to capture a wild hive, if that's your game. Often you will just see a cloud of bees flying together, when they are either leaving an old hive location or heading to a new one. Sometimes during the move they won't know exactly where they are going yet, so they find a spot to cluster and wait. In this case you may be lucky enough to see a giant ball of bees hanging from a branch or bench or bush. They are simply waiting, while scout bees go out and find a new place for them all to live, after which they will move in. If everything goes well, they will succeed in their new location, pollinate the wildlands and gardens in the area (a large area, say 5 miles), build lots of comb, raise brood, make honey and bee bread, and someday divide themselves.

The value of bees and other pollinators should be obvious to us, not only as gardeners, but also as people dependent upon ecology and the sutainence it produces for us. It is a shame that so much of the habitat essential for bees and other native insect pollinators and predators has been taken by development (us). I beg people to reconsider removing wild hives from their yards and from our communities. Most colonies are incredibly docile and focused on what they want to do, which is to harvest nectar and pollen from flowers. You might find that a wild bee hive is an easy and enjoyable thing to live with. It is amazing to watch these hard working ladies buzzing in and out of their home and foraging all over your yard and neighborhood. We too are a part of this system... let's try to remember this, and to appreciate it.

Gratitude and Humility as we wade into the water,
Ryan Wanamaker

Friday, March 26, 2010

Accelerating Toward a Bottleneck

The hours of daylight following the vernal equinox and the budding and blooming seem to increase with the workload on the farm and garden. This is not a coincidence. It is as if a door is opening during the next couple of months through which much of the planting of 2010’s growing season must pass. This door will close, and with it the opportunities for getting many of our favorite summer veggies (corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) in the ground will also pass.

During spring, I often find myself oscillating between exuberant, joyful anticipation and unavoidable anxiety about how to make all the pieces of this year’s puzzle come together, as we accelerate towards the bottleneck. A rough estimate suggests that I have about 13,000 square bed feet (this number excludes paths) of vegetable ground to prepare, amend, plant, irrigate, weed, etc. This does not take in to account the tasks of starting seedlings in our greenhouse, potting them up, and hardening them off before transplanting them into prepared soil; almost all of this work will be happening in the next couple months, and the orchard, berries, vines, and other perennials too will demand some attention. Sometimes I wonder and worry a little – how will it all get done? But then I remember the answer – one piece at a time.

The puzzle is really starting to come together now that the soil at the farm is starting to dry out. I've been waiting not so patiently for the opportunity to get in there and start preparing the first of the beds for potatoes, onions, early season tomatoes and the first succession crops. This was a great week for it and I spent most of my days at the farm incorporating the winter cover crop, preparing beds, and planting our first carrots and beets.

The saying, "april is the cruelest month" only really makes sense to farmers and gardeners, everything is beautiful and you want nothing more than to sit in the sun and enjoy it, unfortunately it is also one of the busiest months and if you hope to enjoy a great summer garden you'd best put in your time. Furthermore it is already getting late in the season, most of my broccoli and cabbage are already in the ground, potatoes and onions will be in by mid april, early tomato starts are about 6 inches tall, peppers are germinating in the greenhouse, and we should harvest our first lettuce and spinach in about a month (not counting overwintered crops). So get out there, a little planning and a little bit of early season work will make the busy months of April and May that much easier and/or allow that much more to get done!

Ryan Wanamaker

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drunken Plum Blossoms

Southern Californians have to be careful when we hear old gardening sayings; they usually originate in the Eastern United States, and their relevance to our distinct climate can be marginal. That said, March came in like a lion and appears to be going out like a lamb. Early in the month we were hammered by cold wind, snow, sleet, and rain. Now, on the eve of the vernal equinox, with the days lengthening and temperatures gradually warming, it is official: spring is in full effect! Here in the mountains and in our orchard it is magical... the honey scent of native manzanita blossoms mix with those of our plums, crocus appear like the spring elves that they are, and daffodils dominate the forest and orchard stage alike.

Yesterday as I balanced on a beautiful wooden orchard ladder finishing up my stone fruit pruning in the late light of a real spring day, I felt drunk on the smell and feel of it all. Standing in a sea of small, delicate plum blossoms with the courtings of all woodland wildlife drifting on a desert breeze I felt that Julian in Springtime is heaven. I felt lucky, and grateful.

Good gardening is about gratitude and humility above all. Most of what we need is already here: sun, soil, water, air, diversity, and all the associated processes of growth and decay. It is too easy to become confused by the complexity of it all and by the feelings that we are, or need to be, in control. In this confusion, we forget that nature provides for not just the woodland wildlife, but for all creatures, including gardeners. It is in forgetting gratitude and humility, and interfering with healthy, natural systems that we encounter most problems.

Thanks for reading,
Ryan Wanamaker

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Camp Stevens Farm and Garden Blog!

Thanks for checking out this first post for our brand new Camp Stevens Farm and Garden Blog!
I hope this will be a good venue for letting you all know what is going on in our fields, orchard, and gardens, and how you can get involved.

Around the gardens here, winter is always a time when there is no shortage of ambition. Seed catalogs clutter the tables and visions of colorful carpets of spring greens, frilly carrot tops and warm, loose soils fill my mind. Coming into the new year, we have completed many seed orders, comprised of over 100 different varieties of peppers, lettuce, beets, onions, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, and more and more vegetables. We are just beginning the real work of starting seeds in our greenhouse, preparing soil, and planting... the 2010 growing season is off and running!

It is shaping up to be an exciting year. Camp Stevens will be continuing its relationship with Volcan View Farm, just down the road from us. We will take on the management of their two main fields for the production of row-crop vegetables, to supply our kitchen with bushels of locally grown, fresh, organic produce. As we wait for the soils at the farm to dry out, we have been filling up the better-drained soils in the camp gardens with lettuce, peas, broccoli, fennel, chard, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, cabbage, and spinach; we are looking forward to an awesome spring harvest. If you get a chance to visit us soon, you will be treated to the spectacular and ephemeral display of our orchard in bloom.

Besides bringing exciting plans, 2010 is turning into one of the wettest years Julian has seen in a long time. There are few things more satisfying for a gardener than when he gets some seed in right before a nice long gentle rain, and 2010 has offered ample opportunity for this! The moisture has delayed some of our plans, for we must wait for soils to dry out before working them, but in southern california we are never allowed to complain about rain (unless, that is, it washes our houses away).

And for all of you, it is not too late to plant bare-root fruit trees, if you can find any available. Also, southern californians can still squeeze in some great cool-season vegetables, like greens and roots, while we start gearing up for those sexy summer crops. So get out there while the soils are moist and the climate is mild -- it is Spring in southern california! This is the time of year when things naturally want to germinate and grow. The plants we put in the ground during this time of year invariably succeed with much less coddling and work than those planted later in the year. This is due to the elegant principle -- one which should be a guiding principle for all human endeavor -- that whenever we hitch our wagon onto nature's train (in this case, the train of gently warming weather, increasing daylight, and the amazing presence of moisture), she will pull for us.

If we all do our part, our world can be a garden,