July Farm School: Pickin’ Someone Else’s Patch

We lucked out with weather again at farm school in July. It was a sunny but mild day.  June had brought some hot weather to the Sonoma Valley and the starts we’d planted in May had flourished in the heat.

a row of eggplants

Some of the tomato plants already had green fruit on them. All of the rows of tomato plants had grown above and beyond our initial trellis so we added a second layer of trellising to push the plants up rather than out. So far, every farm school session has taught us new skills so it was good to repeat a task like trellising again, to remember how taut the twine should be and remember how much order the trellis brings to what was a pretty wild-looking patch of plants.

It’s easy for me to forget that farm school is really more like farm vacation than real farm work, but I got a reminder in July when I put my foot in my mouth at farm school in July when I said that I loved working with tomato plants and being immersed in that fantastic green-tomato-leaf smell. The nearby farm worker set me straight explaining that when he works with tomatoes all day, those fragrant leaves leave such a sticky reside on his hands that he has to use a soap intended for auto-mechanics to get it off.

I can’t remember these particular potato varieties. I think the potatoes on the right are Rose Finns.

To my surprise, we also got to start harvesting this month from the summer squash and potatoes plants that were planted in late April before farm school started. My parents always grew summer squash so I opted to work with potatoes and it was like an Easter egg hunt. We loosened the soil around the potato plant and gently turned the plant on its side, exposing a slew of fuchsia-skinned Red Lakota potatoes in the dirt.

I’d expected the potatoes to still be attached to the main plant, like a carrot or a beet, but instead, most of the potatoes were loose in the soil. We ran our hands through in the soft dirt to make sure we unearthed all of the potatoes and tossed the plants to the side. The potatoes were so young that we could scrape the skins off with our fingernails.

I can’t wait to get back up to the farm next month.


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