Have you heard of Johnson grass? If you haven’t, all you need to know is that it’s the worst weed on earth. We’ve got it up at our new land, and that Johnson grass was, until recently, about to go to seed. Each plant can produce a staggering 30,000 seeds. It also spreads underground, by rhizomes; if you till it up, you chop the rhizomes into a thousand tiny pieces that will grow into a thousand more weeds. It’s awful stuff. Last week we spent the better part of a sweaty day individually cutting the seed heads off the patches of Johnson grass. You can go ahead and laugh, but this stuff is serious, and we didn’t want it to spread.
Of course, we could have just mowed it all down, but we don’t have a tractor and didn’t have a way to mow three acres on short notice. So we were desperate. Then, just two days later, a neighboring farmer (and mentor of ours) offered to bring his tractor over so we could mow the whole place. We didn’t even pause to laugh at ourselves; we just said yes and mowed. It looks so beautiful now, all tidy and Johnson grass-free!
We feel ourselves in the midst of a major shift. For too long, we’ve kept our farm dreams bottled up. On rented land, we were wary of investing the time and money to pursue those dreams, but now, with land of our own, we can finally let them loose.
It’s just a vegetable farm, you might think. What could we need other than a sunny field and some water? Well, we need a barn. And the barn has to have a walk-in cooler and wash tubs and tables for sorting and packing produce. And while we’re building a barn, we might as well include space for hosting workshops. And maybe visiting school groups? Really, it should be a full-blown commercial kitchen where we can turn excess produce into pickles and kraut, and also host cooking classes. And, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to have another kitchen outside, for the summer, when it’s too hot to cook inside, and that kitchen would be a convenient place to put an outdoor shower, and maybe the water from the shower should pipe down into a retention pond, for a frog habitat. And if we’re going to have frogs, then we’ll want to make sure they have bugs to eat, so we should probably border the whole farm with hedgerows of native plants.
Right, and speaking of plants, we need a greenhouse, with heat, for starting seedlings. And we definitely need several—like, probably six—big hoop houses, so we can grow year-round and have crops to sell all winter. What else? An herb garden, a place to make compost, an asparagus patch, an orchard, a long table for farm dinners—which will need shade, so we ought to put in an arbor of muscadine grapes—a mulberry tree, and also a fig tree or two. And at some point I guess we should build a house. Oh, and dig a well!
It’s almost too much. It feels a little like falling in love.