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Archive for the ‘Farm Stories’ Category

Photo by Joel Sackett

Three generations of agricultural excellence at Suyematsu Farms on Bainbridge Island.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

“I guess I’m not going to be farming anymore,” Akio told Mike after repeated health problems and a difficult trip to the hospital.

Akio Suyematsu is the 90-year old patriarch of Bainbridge Island and Suyematsu Farms.  His parents had moved to the island from Japan before he was born, and he had lived his entire life farming the land where I now work, minus the shameful interval in the 1940’s when his family was swept off the island and relocated to internment camps for the purpose of “national security,” followed by a stint serving in the U.S. Army in the European Theater.  After the war ended, the family returned to their land and resumed farming.  Of all the Suyematsu children, eventually only Akio remained to continue growing what some consider to be the best strawberries and raspberries in the Puget Sound.

But his health is declining and gone are the days of weeding, planting, cultivating, and fertilizing his beloved fields of strawberries, raspberries, and pumpkins.  Try as he might, he could not bring himself to return to the fields he has seen through nearly 80 years of production.  I had the privilege last winter of spending a brief moment in the raspberries with Akio as we removed clips from the trellis wires.  After an hour out in the cold, Akio was too exhausted to continue and, to my knowledge, has not worked outside in the fields since.  To say that the brief moment of farming I shared with Akio was inspirational would be an understatement.  The man lives, breathes, and sleeps farming.  He is the real deal, an archetypal farmer who understands that life comes not just from the soil, but from the blood, sweat, and tears that growers pour into their profession.  What, then, is life for a farmer who is no longer able to be present with the soil and his crops?

When I heard Mike recount to me what Akio said, my reaction was unexpected.  I became incensed.  I couldn’t believe what Akio had said.

“Not going to be farming anymore?”  Utter nonsense, I thought.  Mike and Karen, my current employer, wouldn’t be farming here if it weren’t for him!

Every good farmer knows that life does not simply end with death, or in Akio’s case, with convalescence.  Life feeds on life.  Life grows from life.  Death produces compost that feeds more life.  What does a radish become once it enters our digestive tract if not the manure that becomes the compost that feeds the soil that supports the next crop’s conversion of solar energy into biodegradable biomass?  The linear, western viewpoint of life – and farming – terminating in death ignores the reality of the hardworking farmers who are only in business because of Akio’s endless knowledge, experience, and generosity.

Bainbridge Island Farms, Paulson Farms, Laughing Crow Farm, Butler Green Farms:  these farms only exist because Akio had the keen foresight and generosity to offer his land, tools, experience, and knowledge at well below market prices in the hopes that his legacy would survive.  Akio is legendary at these farms for his work ethic and humility, his stoic perseverance in adversity, his high threshold for pain, and his meticulously weed-free fields. There is only one Akio Suyematsu. But every legend is still a mortal.  As Akio’s mortal body undergoes what all of ours eventually will, let us not forget that the farms on Bainbridge Island owe to Akio their very existence and will be farming in his image long after he departs.  Mike, Carol, Karen, Betsey, Brian:  these farmers are the repositories of Akio’s knowledge and experience, they are his hands by proxy upon the land he worked, issuing forth a new generation of agriculture.  They are, in essence, his agricultural children.  His grandchildren are alive and well, too, carrying on the proud tradition of growing food from the soil beneath their feet:  Dana and Aaron at Around the Table Farm, Becky Warner of City Grown Seattle, Renee and Luke in search of land, and myself.

Regardless of one’s beliefs about an afterlife, it is a truism that the cycle of energy and matter does not merely end with death.  Our bodies are filled with the very same atoms that coursed through and composed the bodies of prehistoric dinosaurs and pterodactyls, of woolly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers, of giant sharks and ancient ferns, of massive redwoods and hulking Neanderthals, of ammonites and trilobites, of algae, fungi, and bacteria that were living billions of years ago.  Once our consciousness is gone, a mere memory in the eyes of our descendants, our energy and atoms will continue to cycle through life forms as diverse as the most colorful coral reefs and rainforests, for eons to come until the Sun devours the Earth in a fiery ball of plasma, the Universe collapses back upon itself, and we return to the stardust from whence we originated.

Akio is still farming.  He is farming because Karen is still farming, carrying on Akio’s weed-free cultivation style while growing organic raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, currants, pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet corn.  He is farming because Betsey is farming, plowing the earth with her draft horses to produce some of the finest potatoes, garlic, and onions in the Puget Sound.  He is farming because Brian is pumping out some of the greatest volume and diversity of organic vegetables in the county.  And he is farming because Mike and Carol of Paulson Farms are continuing Akio’s tradition of composting yard waste and maintaining the farm’s arsenal of tractors, while milling locally harvested lumber, producing handmade soaps, and growing organic vegetables, nursery plants, trees and shrubs, and eggs.

I think it’s high time we stopped viewing death and illness as an endpoint, but rather as a transitional state.  Akio has passed a formidable torch onto a new cadre of protégés, representing a small but significant transfer of knowledge and culture in an all but endless cycle of life and death, growing and composting.  Meanwhile, the pumpkins and corn are sprouting in the fields, the raspberries are flowering and buzzing vigorously with the activity of bees, and the first strawberry harvest of the season is upon us.  As Karen told me today while heading to the hospital to visit Akio, “The show must go on.”

Because of Akio’s deep commitment to the next generation of local farmers, the show will go on.

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About a month ago, I contacted the executive director of a local farming organization to inquire about options for low-income and temporary housing on Bainbridge Island.  I was interested in renting a room in a house that had recently been renovated by her organization for the purpose of housing new farmers and interns.  The woman I spoke with seemed genuinely interested in my involvement with Day Road Farms and the Bainbridge Island Vineyards.

She asked me what my background was, what my housing needs were, what my prospective future in farming looked like, how long I had been working on the island, where I currently lived, how I was commuting, etc.  I told her that I was an ecologist and marine biologist by training but had been farming for five years, that my wife and I ran our own organic farm in Maine for three years before moving to Seattle last summer, and that I had worked for several different organic farms over the past few years.  I felt that the conversation was going rather well and that I had made a positive impression on her.

 

Then she said this:

“So, what’s your day job?”

 

What?  How was I supposed to respond to this question?  “Oh, my day job!  I’m so glad you asked!  Well, during the day I’m an investment banker and a lawyer, which helps to fund this absurdly expensive recreational pursuit, which I only practice at night when there’s a waxing full moon and Jupiter is ascending in Scorpio, of course.”

Last time I checked, farmers do indeed work during the day!  It’s not too often that you can find me out in the fields in the middle of the night (although I admittedly do work by headlamp once in a while).

This episode reminded me painfully of the time that a very close family member stated that my farming was merely a “hobby.”  Pardon me, but I have never known anybody else to practice a hobby for 10-18 hours per day, every day, and to be able to feed their family (and friends) and heat their house with the products of said “hobby,” thereby allowing a rather comfortable, warm, and well-fed lifestyle on an income well below the official “poverty level.”

What’s my day job?  What is that supposed to mean, anyways?  Is that some sort of thinly-veiled insinuation that organic farming is not a legitimate career choice or a respectable, full-time profession?  Was she implying that it is impossible to make an actual living by farming?

Frankly, I was embarrassed, humiliated, and insulted by her question.  I didn’t really know how to answer.  So I balked, and babbled… “Well, I have a Master’s degree in ecology, and my wife is a marine biologist who works for NOAA at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.  I taught high school for the past two years while running our own farm.”  I was getting nowhere with my explanation.  It was pointless drivel that only served to confirm what she had implied.

Clearly, I had taken the bait.  She caught me in a trap; by answering her question I was admitting to her that I also believed, perhaps subconsciously, that organic farming was not a viable profession.  I had bought into the rhetoric and ideology of our technocratic society, which espouses the notion that if you don’t spend your days either behind a desk and a computer in a sterile office environment, or toiling along an industrial assembly line at a manufacturing plant, or spend your nights serving those who spend their days in the corporate boardrooms, then you are not producing anything of real economic value.

 

Getting off the phone, I felt disheartened and defeated.  What message did it send about American culture if the executive director of a farming organization apparently did not believe that farming constituted a viable career choice?  I told Alia what she had said, and she responded firmly to me, with every ounce of confidence she could muster,

 

“Thom, you are an organic farmer.  That is who you are.  Your day job is organic farming!”

 

Alia was absolutely right.  I knew it immediately and had known it all along, but for some reason I could not bring myself to say it to the woman on the phone.  I am not farming as a lark.  It is not a “hobby” or a recreational pursuit.

I farm to feed my family, to heat our home, to clothe and to shelter us.  I farm to protect the soil, water, and air that sustains our lives, and to conserve the wildlife that adds depth, beauty, and a spiritual connection to the planet we inhabit.  I do not spend my daylight hours praising Gaia in drum circles, making hippie jewelry out of flowers, or doing rain dances.  I farm outside in the sweltering sun, in the pounding rain, the silent snow, and the biting wind.  I farm from dawn to dusk, until my hands crack, blister, and bleed, until my back cramps and my fingers go numb, until my body aches in fatigue or shivers from the cold.  And then I farm some more.

I farm until the daylight dwindles, the crickets chirp, the coyotes sing, and the bats emerge in the sky.  Most days, I farm until I can no longer see the soil beneath my feet.  And then I exhaustedly turn the nighttime over to the owls, raccoons, and skunks, and I crawl, covered in dirt, into bed to dream of seeds, soil, and fruit, before I wake up the next morning at dawn to do it all over again.

That is organic farming.

That is my day job.

And I love it.

 

A month later, I spoke to this woman on the phone again.  Remarkably, after discussing the housing situation once more, she asked me:

“So, what’s your day job?”

 

This time, I answered without hesitation:

“I am an organic farmer.  I have been farming for five years.  I am now farming on Bainbridge Island.”

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We have begun the long process of pruning the grape vines at Bainbridge Island Vineyards. As we work among the rows, carefully selecting next year’s fruiting canes, I marvel at the diversity of life that abounds in the vineyards and surrounding habitats. Most conspicuous, of course, are the birds. Canada geese feed in the fields while widgeons flock overhead in the hundreds, filling the air with the whistle of wind through wings and their distinctly squeaky call, comically reminiscent of a rubber ducky bath toy.

The more elusive species, often heard but not seen, add another layer of complexity to the vineyard ecosystem. As I head out to the vineyard in the early morning, a song sparrow greets me from a nearby bush, warbling proudly, and the croak of a ring-necked pheasant echoes from the peach orchard beyond the ponds. Later in the afternoon, an Anna’s hummingbird chirps, unseen, from a nearby treetop, while a varied thrush issues its buzzing call at the edge of the pinot noir. The ponds themselves are inhabited by a variety of waterfowl behind a screen of vegetation, with predominantly widgeons, mallards, and geese by day, but hooded mergansers and scaups ducks by night.

Large predators, what ecologists often refer to as “indicator species”, also grace the vineyards with frequent visits. Bald eagles, osprey, and hawks soar overhead intermittently during the day in search of prey. At night, one can occasionally be woken by the chilling screech of a barn owl or the haunting cries of a pack of coyotes making their way across the farm.

Even more remarkable than the abundant birds and mammals are the microcosmic ecosystems that inhabit the vines themselves. Each vine is host to a menagerie of tiny flora and fauna. Perhaps because we use strictly organic practices in our vineyards, the vines are covered in a lush carpet of moss providing a home for mushrooms, snails, worms, and in the warmer months, a plethora of insects and spiders.

I’m not certain whether these creatures add to the quality and character of Bainbridge Island’s estate grown wines, but they most certainly add to the character of the vines and the unique personality of the vineyards.

 

 

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Oxbow Farm

For the past two months, I have been working at the Oxbow Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment, nestled within the Snoqualmie River Valley floodplain between Seattle and the Cascades. This organic farm works at the vital intersection between organic agriculture and environmental conservation, feeding several hundred people in the greater Seattle area while engaging in active habitat restoration and education programs along the Snoqualmie River. Needless to say, a tremendous diversity and abundance of wildlife inhabits the farm, ranging from furtive coyotes and bears, to majestic eagles, hawks, and falcons, to cacophonous flocks of songbirds and waterfowl. Recently, the Coho Salmon (and the tail end of the Chinook Salmon run) have been heading upstream to spawn.  We’ve been catching glimpses of them jumping in the river, presumably to either knock parasites from their bodies or loosen eggs in preparation for spawning.

While heading out to harvest basil earlier this week, I spotted a bald eagle perched right along the edge of the Snoqualmie River directly across from me (Oxbow Farm borders the river).  It flew downriver a ways and then doubled back to perch in a tree along the edge of the farm.  I couldn’t tell what the eagle was doing along the river, as it startled and flew as soon as I stopped for a better look.  On my way back from harvesting, a tiny songbird darted overhead, chasing what appeared to be a falcon, probably a peregrine.  The peregrine and songbird engaged in some impressive maneuvers as the songbird harassed the peregrine, which evaded the tiny mobbing songbird with amazing agility. After swerving back and forth overhead across the farm, they hit a tree line and the falcon suddenly braked and swooped upwards.  In the next instant, it reversed direction and dove at the songbird, turning the tables and engaging its own aggressive pursuit of the small bird.  Shortly after, they disappeared behind the tree line, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see who won this aerial contest of speed and agility.

On a more melancholy note, yesterday I observed one of most somber avian behaviors I have ever witnessed.  During the summer, we had a huge abundance of Canada geese on the farm.  They flocked back and forth to and from various waterways in large V-formations daily.  I always love watching them fly overhead, especially when they perform barrel rolls to drop altitude rapidly in preparation for a landing.  Most of them, I suspect, have already begun their autumn migration southward, and the sound of their calls have become increasingly rare.  But yesterday, I, for the first time ever in my life, observed a single lone goose flying overhead.  I have never seen this before:  a goose without its flock.  Unlike the geese flying in flocks, whose flight is very direct, focused, and rapid, and whose calls are quick and excited, this one flew much more slowly.  It was constantly searching back and forth with its head, looking frantically in all directions and honking in what I interpreted to be an apprehensive call.  It almost sounded desperate in its search for others.  For such a gregarious animal, it seemed utterly alone.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a strong sense of loneliness before from a wild animal.  It reminded me of the immeasurable importance of social relationships for gregarious animals.

My own time spent working at Oxbow Farm has been highlighted by incredibly positive social relationships with my co-workers, a group of energetic young farmers exuding unmatched enthusiasm for their challenging trade, with perpetual encouragement and mutual support for one another.  The most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at Oxbow Farm have less to do with how to properly care for soil, nurture crops, and sell produce, than with that lone goose I watched flying, lost and bewildered, overhead:  community matters.  Farming is as much about growing and fostering healthy connections with other human beings as it is about fostering living soil and growing healthy food.

I sincerely hope that goose found the community it was searching for.  Thank you Oxbow Farm, for helping me to find my own.

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(Continued from Farming Lessons Learned Today, 04 June 2010)

When I first heard Pica scream, my initial reaction (since it was a single brief shriek), was that she had been stung by a bee of some sort.  She often wanders over to the pigpen where she feasts on rotten food scraps left over from last year (disgusting dog), and last year there was a very active yellowjacket nest there.  So I put down my trellising line and walked over there casually, expecting to find her running towards me with her tail tucked, perhaps in need of some Benadryl to alleviate an allergic reaction.  Instead, I came face-to-face with a large, lab-sized coyote (i.e., similar in size to Chestnut).  It turned briefly and ran a few yards, then stopped and looked back at me, wary but not at all afraid.  My immediate reaction was of course that it had caught Pica, but I saw nothing in its mouth.  I was struck at the same time by a deep fascination with the animal that was casually trotting away from me through the forest.

I ran to where the coyote was initially standing, expecting to find her remains but I found no trace whatsoever.  Meanwhile, the coyote was making its way towards our field.  I badly wanted to follow it; it was the first coyote I had seen in Maine, despite hearing their haunting songs frequently and being as close to within 10 meters of a pack without seeing a single animal through the shadows (in contrast, I had seen many coyotes in Santa Barbara and even been surrounded by a pack once while taking the dogs for a walk in the foothills).  The coyotes in Maine have been incredibly elusive and ostensibly shy; their scat and tracks appear frequently on our forest trails and their howls, yips, and cries often wake us in the middle of the night.  So I was torn between tracking the coyote and hunting for Pica.  If Pica had been eaten, what could I do about it anyway?  But to see a coyote up close and track it through the forest:  that’s a rare experience.  In the end, my better sense won out.

I began to scour the place for any signs of Pica or a struggle, while yelling Pica’s name.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I returned to the driveway to find her there, cowering and emotionally scarred it seemed, but physically intact and unharmed.

I imagine she was at the pigpen, saw the coyote heading in her direction, yelped out of fear and ran away as fast as she could on her three legs, before the coyote even realized what she was.  Coyotes are incredibly intelligent and premeditating hunters; the coyote was likely after the decaying pig head still in the pigshed and was not in a hunting or pursuing mode of behavior.  Like (good) human hunters, they probably don’t attack potential prey frivolously but rather engage in very well planned and intentional hunts with sophisticated social stalking and attacking behaviors.  If they encounter prey when not in “hunting” mode, they probably generally ignore it, as it is not worth the additional energy expenditure to incur that added risk of a failed hunt.  I can only guess this means that the coyote didn’t realize Pica was missing a leg.

The coyote (presumably the same one I ran into yesterday) was in our back field almost all day today, feeding on something in the grass and forbs.  At first I thought it might be eating wild strawberries (our own berries are beginning to ripen and are falling prey to a pesky chipmunk and slugs), but the wild ones aren’t ripe yet.  The coyote seemed either very distracted or bold, allowing me to walk out onto the porch and watch it in plain sight.  It was so consumed by whatever prey it was pursuing in the field that it appeared to pay no attention to the audibly clucking and crowing chickens a few hundred feet away.

Brent and I investigated the area this evening after the coyote departed, saw many tracks and trodden upon patches of grass, found some fur, and some scat that suggested it might be eating seeds of some sort.

The photo was taken through a spotting scope; you can barely see the trunk of our maple tree that we planted at our wedding just to the right and above/behind the coyote.  The coyote had brilliant yellow eyes and a white and black crescent stripe arching across its back, as well as a distinctive black stripe along its tail.  I have no idea whether it was a male or female, but Brent said he saw the coyote early in the morning a couple of days ago with a companion — perhaps a mated pair, or two young males that recently left their pack?

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I went running at dusk with Cassie and Misha at the Bangor City Forest last night.  Running at dusk at the City Forest is always an adventure as I often encounter unsuspecting crepuscular wildlife browsing in the middle of the more remote sections of trail long after other hikers have left the park.  It is not uncommon to turn a corner or crest a hill in the trail and come face-to-face with a deer (or two), a grouse, or a rabbit, which immediately startle and take flight to escape the bipedal primate and his pack of domesticated wolves.

Last night, while traversing the northern part of the forest on the Rabbit Trail, which is the trail farthest from any parking lot (about 3 miles away) and therefore the least traveled, I came across a porcupine, a common denizen of the forest that we had encountered in the past.  Misha loves to chase small brown mammals and based on past experiences, I don’t think she can tell the difference between a groundhog (good idea to chase – especially from our gardens), a fisher (bad idea), and a porcupine (very bad idea).  She had been stuck by a porcupine’s quills in the past, but I don’t think the memory of that experience would deter her from the momentary delight of a good chase (on a related note:  Chestnut has been sprayed by skunks on three separate occasions, indicating his inability or unwillingness to learn valuable lessons from his past foibles).

The problem with porcupines, from a dog’s perspective is that they know they are well defended and, when faced with a potential threat, simply expose their tail to the attacker and casually lumber on like a miniature, well-armored tank.  Skunks exhibit more or less the same response.  This behavioral tactic makes it inevitable for a dog in pursuit to catch up to the porcupine, unlike most small brown mammals that Misha persistently chases but never catches (e.g., squirrels and chipmunks being the most common examples).  And so the dog receives her just rewards.  Of course, I would not allow Misha the pleasure of a home surgical procedure to remove the quills (a two-person operation, without anesthetic).  So I sternly yelled at her to “Leave It!” until she relinquished her pursuit.

Proceeding down the trail, I rounded a sharp bend not 200 meters later; in the middle of the path appeared a large black animal, the size of large goat, except much heavier in build.  The animal turned towards me, revealing the large powerful snout and heavy jaw of a bear.  Fearing that Misha and Cassie might reveal a streak of reckless boldness and attempt a suicidal chase of what could only be considered a potential predator (after all, I have seen Misha run “playfully” after an entire pack of coyotes before), I yelled at the dogs, “Wait, leave it, heel,” pulling out every command in the book that might help them to reconsider.  The black bear was clearly disturbed by our presence and turned to face us fully, sniffing the air and eyeing us cautiously, merely 10 meters away.

At that moment, I noticed why she was standing her ground:  a much smaller black bear emerged behind her at the edge of the trail, partially hidden by the brush.  She had a cub!  The urgency of her situation was instantly clarified.  I peeked behind me to check our dogs’ disposition:  they were both dutifully and thankfully maintaining their heel.  I emphatically repeated the commands to the dogs.  Turning back towards the bear, I knew I had to frighten her and her cub off before we could proceed on our run.  I had absolutely no intention of continuing in that direction on the trail, lest we unintentionally place ourselves between the mother and her cub and incur the wrath of a protective mother.  But I also wasn’t about to turn my back to the bear and return from where we came until I knew for certain that she and her cub would not follow us.  Taking a couple of deliberate, assertive steps towards the bears, I yelled loudly “Go away!  Get out of here!”  The cub immediately disappeared into the thick underbrush, but the mother was undeterred.  I could clearly see her massive feet turned inwards and the immense, sharp claws that protruded from her fur.

So, human communication apparently didn’t work.  I thought to myself, let’s try more practical approach.  What would a black bear do if it wanted to establish dominance over another bear and claim a territory?  Opening my arms as wide as I could, standing as tall as possible, I flared my fingers into claws, opened my mouth, and let out a primordial roar.  Taking two more steps towards the bear, I growled again and waved my arms in the air.  The bear conceded her turf, turned slowly away and followed her cub into the underbrush.

Needless to say, we rerouted the remainder of our run that evening through sections of the forest far from the bear and her cub.  As the evening grew darker and shapes and shadows began to take on the appearance of animate creatures in the twilight, I began to imagine bears, wolves, and cougars emerging from the forest, stalking us like deer in the deepening night.  On more than one occasion, I stopped suddenly dead in my tracks as a large shape materialized on the trail, only to discover a trail signpost or bench.  I thought back to all the times I had run these trails in the dead of night without even a headlamp to illuminate the surrounding forest, acutely aware of the possibility of wild predators lurking just beyond the trail.  The similarity to SCUBA diving in dark, shark infested ocean waters, with behemoth leviathans – real or imagined – lurking just beyond the edge of visibility, reminded me with a shock of adrenaline why I loved and craved both of these activities.  I finished the run through an intensifying thunderstorm, soaked by a downpour of rain that spattered through the forest leaves as the sky overhead was periodically illuminated with flashes of lightning.

On the home front, the coyotes have been very active in the areas around Orizaba Farm lately, serenading us with their haunting, chilling howls and cries almost every night.  The lightning bugs have come and gone, temporarily illuminating the night sky with their flashing bioluminescence that converts our long field into a well-lit runway on a dark new moon night.  The relentless buzzing of cicadas during the daytime heat has since marked the peak of summer.  Wild turkeys regularly forage in our field in the early morning, and a mind-boggling diversity of birds eludes my feeble attempts to identify them by song or shape.  I am certain the exciting wildlife encounters will continue to take us by surprise as we continue to explore the state of Maine and the wilderness of Orizaba Farm.

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04 June 2010

1) If your soil tests indicate that the soil is low in Ca, Mg, and pH (acidic), but high in K, don’t add wood ash, which is a common alkaline liming agent.  Instead, add a dolomitic limestone (CaCO3 and MgCO3) to raise the pH and add Ca and Mg.  Wood ash contains K2CO3, which will cause the potassium levels to rise dramatically, creating an apparent Mg deficiency due to competition for cation exchange at root binding sites.

2) If you sow seeds in a 2-dimensional block (versus in rows), and you space the seeds at half the final spacing in all directions (with the intention of thinning to every other seed), then you will end up thinning approximately three times more seedlings than you originally intended (oops!).  Thinning to 1/2 the original seeds in the linear dimension translates into (1/2)^2 the original seeds, or 1/4, in two dimensions.  Instead, when planting in a block pattern, space rows within the block at the final spacing, but plant seeds within each row at half the final spacing in order to thin half the seedlings later (assuming all germinate, which virtually never happens — hence thinning).

3) If you hear Pica scream from over by the pig shed, and then walk over there to find a coyote, don’t automatically assume she has been eaten, even if it is in your best financial interests.  She may have escaped unscathed somehow, despite her ambulatory impairment (she did).  You however, may not survive your marriage by claiming your wife’s 2nd favorite non-human disappeared without a trace down the gullet of a wild predator.

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