The Mehaffey Marathon…”And They’re Off!”

Bill spreads compost into the main garden

Michael prepares the strawberry beds for planting


 It never ends, really. Months of preparation have gone into Mehaffey Farm’s next intensive phase — the planting. It’s the most physically demanding (and truthfully, enjoyable) time at the farm. It will go from now until mid-June, when the bulk of the crops go into the ground. After that, succession planting continues all summer.      

Let’s call this next phase the Mehaffey Marathon, which this year began officially on April 19, Boston Marathon, and Patriot’s Day, the day the first seeds and plants went into the ground. It was a picture-perfect day for working outdoors. Sunny, breezy and cool, but we were peeling down to t-shirts by early afternoon.      

 Since January, the work for me has been more sedentary, tending to the million-and-one details of starting a new business: ordering seeds and supplies, setting up systems, creating marketing materials, conducting correspondence. The men have been more active: tinkering with tractors and equipment, clearing trees, and building signs. I welcome this change of pace, and appreciate the strength and good health this life brings us.         

Planting strawberry crowns.


It feels really great to get back to the physical aspects of farming. I call it “Farm Fit,” a workout that involves every single muscle group and range of motion possible. Who needs to go to the gym, when the day begins hoisting 50 lb. bags of soil into the truck at the garden center?    

Bill and Michael hooked up the tractor and began harrowing compost into the strawberry and melon beds. More than 200 strawberry crowns were waiting to be put into the ground. Mike, Richie and I began hoeing up the raised beds to accommodate the new plants. Bill tried to work the ground where potatoes are going this year, but after getting the tractor briefly stuck, decided to wait a bit. Ross and Bill harrowed and composted the main garden, at least the parts dry enough to be worked. Peas must be planted! Those will go in later this week. Potatoes will go (hopefully,) in next week.       

Charger thinks that chasing a stick is farm work. 

Charger thinks that getting Rich to throw a stick is farm work…

One task leads to another…By late afternoon, we had hooked up the irrigation. We stepped back to admire our work: briefly.     

As dusk began to fall, Ross, Michael and Rich started fencing in a new area for the chickens to browse. Our goal this year is to free range our birds as much as possible, without allowing them to eat the garden and surrounding lawns! Chickens are amazing cultivators. Before the asparagus came up, we herded a dozen or so into a fenced area created around the bed, where they accomplished most of our weeding! We’ve now moved them to a weedy, brambly area next to the barn. Within a week, they’ll have cleared it to the dirt!      

The day ended after dark. Bill fired up the grill and we cooked a huge feast devoured by hungry farmers!


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