If you’ve been following my process, you know that my vegetable forms will not be fired, yet instead be filled with soil and seeds. In order to do this, I have been gathering different soils from the area and making a perfect blend. Until my soil is fully dried out, so the introduced seeds will not prematurely germinate before they get sealed up, I have been storing them in several large bins and holding them at a leatherhard stage.
The fact that it is February in New York has presented some slight delays in the collection of local soil, to say the least. Here is an image of the farm in Gardiner where Farmer Jerry was generous to let me dig some of his soil
It was a nice clear and crisp day, but about a frozen as it looks. I managed to scrape some mud off the top and fill a 5 gallon bucket and haul it back to the studio to dry out. The mud caked to my boots was par for the course. My theory: you never know when you might need your shovel and galoshes (not just because I was raised on a farm, but this has certainly shaped my theories, as you might imagine)
My trip to the garden supply store for local potting soil was not much different.
As you might imagine, bags of this stuff are stored outside, and quite frozen under several inches of snow. It took a crowbar and some muscle work to pry them loose from the pile, like loaves of ice. The guy who helped me tried twice to get me to take some mystery toxic stuff instead from another nearby pile that suspiciously had not frozen. McEnroe Organic soils come from just across the Hudson River and are certified organic. I will take my chances with the thaw, thanks.
Meanwhile, back in the studio I have spent a good deal of time drying these different soils out, breaking them up and then mixing them together for a nice blend.
Next, I am preparing to fill my forms with a variety of seeds I acquired from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
Here is a list of the ones I have so far:
- Ashworth Sweet Corn
- Chioggia Guardsmark Improved Beets
- Detroit Dark Red Beet
- Early Fortune Cucumber
- Early Summer Crookneck Squash
- Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts
- Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
- Provider Bush Green Beans
- Purple Top white Globe turnip
- Rainbow Chard
- Red Russian Kale
- Royalty Purple Pod Bean
- Table Queen Acorn Squash
- Waltham Butternut Squash
- Watermelon Radish
My choice in the varieties of heirloom seeds has to do with a number of factors. I considered the length of time they take to grow and how hearty the seed itself is ( I am not using tomato or carrot seeds for example, which are tiny and wouldn’t likely stand much of a chance underneath a layer of clay during its germination stage, etc). While the forms themselves in some case reflect an actual representation of seeds that they may contain, I am adding an element of risk and surprise to each form. If you have ever signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, you understand that like with the advance agreement, you have accepted to partake in the farm’s loss, risk as well as bounty thoughout the season, good times and bad. In return, with a CSA, you will be rewarded weekly with a set amount of food from that week’s harvest, not knowing exactly what you will recieve. I participated in a CSA with
this past year. You can sign up or learn more about the programs at Phillies Bridge here
These are some examples of what it looked like when I would go pick up my harvest each week.
You would weigh out a set amount based on the size of your share. Sometimes you would go home with things like escarole or rutabaga, or something else you might have never heard of. Sometimes you could even pick your own, depending on the crop of the week..
ANYHOW, back to the project (whew I got a little daydreamy of summer just then.. did you notice?)
Would you believe that there is a great deal of clay underneath all this lovely farmland? Yup. Clay has a nice way of holding a nice layer of nutrients underneath all that topsoil, even if it is not ideal to farm directly in, a small amount mixed in actually helps. (plus, I’m biased, as you can see why)
Thanks for reading my ramblings and stay tuned!