1) ALL ABOUT WATER:
Thanks to everyone who helped water the field while we were waiting on the cistern fillup, and thanks to Steve Ireland for making that arrangement for us while poor CharlieJohnston was recovering from his back injury, and to Peter Marshall and volunteers from the Fire Department for doing the deed!
The field was watered by hand a total of six times over the week to ten days prior to the filling on Wednesday, July 6th, and hopefully some of that water made it down to the roots where it was needed most during this crucial time of plant development. Many thanks to those who assisted and or provided water. Sheila Nopper's Lee Valley hose pump was especially 'back-saving', allowing Mike to fill wine bottles without continuing to lift heavy containers!
The generous donation of new, super lightweight dripline to SPUDS from Denman organic produce grower (and West Jet pilot) Dave Pick was very easy to install. It is elevated along the fence line before it hits the field, due to the fact that by the time it was gifted to us our potato mounds were far above ground level. Thankyou to Graham Hayman as well for his assistance positioning all the hoses. Mike and I anchored the hose to the mounds with found wire from the recycling centre, which we used along the fence as well to hold up the line. We split old cedar shakes to stake the mainline tightly in place. The water distribution throughout the field is very, very even...a big improvement over our former system due in no small part of course to our decrease in plant numbers.Our plants (totalling around 280) have been watered twice now by the cistern, which released the equivilant amount of water on the field in three hours that it took six whole field waterings by hand to accomplish. We LOVE the cistern! :)
Field Management Subcommittee member (and genius!) Dave Graf has just rigged up a buoy system for the cistern which will now allow us to monitor the amount of H20 we are releasing on the field per watering, without having to get up on a ladder with our long dip-stick. While we are hoping for an additional 6 or 7 waterings from the cistern before receiving a second filling from the Fire Department, the amount of time it actually takes to release water is increasing as the pressure in the tank drops.
Graham Hayman has kindly offered to monitor the next several waterings while all FSC members are off island on holidays. In our absence, members Ron Dobie, Karl Goodwin, and Fox will be taking turns turning on the tank every three days. Graham will be turning off the tank each time so one person can be responsible for keeping an accurate record of water levels and flow rate as the tank drains.
The FSC has also mulched the entire field with additional hay to help retain moisture in the mounds, since our drip line is on top of the potato hill and must wick down to reach developing tubers. Fortunately, the heavy rain on Wednesday penetrated the soil all around our potato plants, which doesn't normally happen because the ground in our pathways is so compact.
2) TUBER DEVELOPMENT:
FSC members removed all flowers from blossoming plants this past week, in order to help concentrate plant energy in the roots. We are NOT seeing tuber development in the mounds randomly checked, which could be for a variety of reasons...
i) everything is behind this year by 2-3 weeks due to our cold wet spring
ii) nutrient level in this quadrant is still depleted given that it has been previously planted and our new four year rotation and cover cropping regime was only begun last year.
iii) maybe we waited too long to get to our first hilling....
iv) the tubers are forming closer to the original seed potato beneath ground level (in addition to all of the above!)
In any event, we will keep our fingers crossed for a decent harvest by the end of August!
3) COVER CROPS:
The field was buzzing with a kazillion happy bees when our hairy vetch and volunteer pea were blooming last month! They did indeed catch up with the grass that is also thriving in the field, although we worried they might not! The clover crop has been far less successful in the upper half of the field, and a mystery plant dominated the lower end of our 2011 quadrant, but which has provided great ground cover mixed with our clover there!
We did NOT plant clover between the rows as proposed after final hilling...conditions were not conducive at the time. Additional hay has been distributed between the rows instead to act as weed suppressant and moisture mulch. it will be several years now before we plant potatoes in this area again, leaving us lots of time to boost soil fertility levels through ongoing cover cropping.
After harvest we will need to decide whether or not to till the upper half of the field again for a replanting of a nutrient rich cover crop that can perhaps better suppress the growth of unwanted grass in the area currently designated for our 2012 patch.
Due to our earlier planting this year, we will be harvesting before the Blackberry Faire! Stay tuned for details, but the weekend of August 27th and 28th is likely, if we allow our plants to mature fully and die back naturally.
5) BLOG POSTING:
This year's photos are not all up on the blog...when I'm back from holidays at the end of the month I hope to have a great photo stream of our collective efforts from April on, finally ready for members to enjoy!
6) DENMAN WORKS GRANT and our WATER CATCHMENT SYSTEM:
Work on our water catchment cistern roof should commence around the beginning of August, by local builder John Tansley. Denman Works exists to promote community economic enhancement, so a portion of our grant is designated for materials and the remainder for labor costs. We have tried to source supplies as locally as possible, so some of the wood we are using will have been milled here on Denman. The job won't take long, and we'll be sure to document all progress, as Denman Works requires that we provide regular reports. Please see Dave Graf's draft design here on the spuds blog for general overview.
7) LUCKY SEVEN! If you've read this far, you are a perfect candidate for SPUDS Field Management Sub-Committee! This is just a reminder that anyone interested in helping coordinate field management is welcome and encouraged to participate. Mike and Fireweed, and Tanya and Dave have been meeting this year to coordinate and commiserate...some deliberations happen online, over the phone, or in the field! It's definitely a time commitment, so additional help is always welcome!
8) MEMBERSHIP: This year it was suggested that members commit to at least five or six work bees in the field per membership, in the interests of SPUDS Cooperative sustainability. It's always understood that not everyone can make it out to each and every scheduled event, so please get in touch if you'd like to be contacted to help with additional chores if you haven't been able to get to the field much this year. Every member is valuable, and we want to keep you onboard!
- We could use volunteers to sit with SPUDS display at the Blackberry Faire, and encourage interested islanders to join us!
- If anyone is traveling to the lower mainland, a pickup of our over-wintering cover crop seed from the distributor would save us a little cash over ordering it locally.
- fundraising ideas are always welcome too, including grant research!
9) PLANNING AHEAD: The FSC hasn't talked about a meeting of the whole membership after harvest, but hopefully we can plan ahead for 2012 with input from all members, sometime after the Blackberry Faire!
-Fireweed (for SPUDS FSC) Mike at home with all the blossoms from our 280 plants!