In the field: setting up

Fresh City beds

So far this week has been about getting started. The weather had been perfect earlier this week for preparing the beds at Fresh City. Compost had to be added to each of the 100m beds. Trenches, which are the foot paths between each bed, had to be measured and dug out. The various varieties of kale seedlings that have been hardened off in the hoop tunnels were planted. It is all about team work on a farm. For planting, 2 people carry the seed trays and space out the plants by placing seedlings about a foot apart. Right behind those 2, another 2 people follow and do the planting. When it comes to creating the beds and foot paths, 2 people dig the trench and 2 people start filling wheelbarrows with compost and dumping piles on the beds. In an ideal situation, another 2 people would rake in the compost, but there were only 4 of us. All four of us watered each seedling. Fish emulsion had been added so my hands smelled fishy all day.

Hats off to farmers everywhere. Farming is tough work. I enjoy it, but I can’t imagine breaking my back every day. For now, once a week at the farm is enough strain on my body. I have a lot of respect for farmers.

Earlier this week I was also working on preparing smaller beds with BUFCO. We added vermi-compost after pulling up weeds and other debris. We also transplanted some seedlings and we seeded directly.

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At one location, we installed a tunnel cloche.

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Clearly, BUFCO and Fresh City do very different things. With BUFCO, growing food happens on a much smaller scale, but it requires a lot of time for packing up the car, unpacking at client’s homes and then packing everything back up. At Fresh City, I’m mostly interacting with urban farmers. The workflow is never-ending, meaning you are assigned a task and just as you are finishing the task, the next one is assigned. With some tasks, your muscles are screaming, but there isn’t time to feel defeated. You keep pushing, knowing that at the end of the day, you can soak your broken body in a hot bath. It feels amazing. With BUFCO, I’m learning about square foot gardening. I’ve read about it, but now I get to see it in action. I’m looking forward to seeing this technique in full swing later this summer. There is also a lot more interaction with eaters (clients, versus farmers). Arlene (owner of BUFCO) has a great rapport with her clients. There is a lot of input from the clients as to what they would like to see in their garden. It’s proving to be great working with both organizations.

Connor (farm manager at Fresh City) knows so much about plant biology and how to grow. He also knows a lot about pests. By chance, I have figured out what had bitten me several weeks ago. Hubby feared that maybe we had bed bugs because I had all these bites – red, itchy, burning bumps. He even ripped apart our bed, and I boiled our sheets, but there really were no signs of bed bugs. I came across a bright red bug at the farm and brought it to Connor to find out what it was. I had never seen a bug that red before.

Chigger

 

Without hesitation, he told me it was a chigger. Chiggers are the larvae of mites. They are commonly found in soil, on weeds and tall grass, and in dense foliage, barks and leaves and also on straw and fences. Chiggers do not burrow under your skin, as many people believe, nor do they feed on animal blood. Chiggers feed by inserting their mouth parts into your skin at a pore or hair follicle and inject their saliva. The saliva dissolves your skin cells which the chiggers then ingest. Itching occurs within 3 to 6 hours followed by the familiar red welts. The welts continue to develop and the itching becomes severe over the next 2 to 3 days. After a few days the chiggers will drop off and then molt into the nymph stage, at which point they become predators of small arthropods and their eggs. Meanwhile you continue to itch madly. Despite the terrible itching and ugly red welts, chiggers are not dangerous to humans in the US. However, in Asia they can transmit diseases such as scrub typhus. The longer the chigger feeds, the larger the welt becomes.

The red welt caused by a chigger bite is often mistaken for a mosquito bite.  Unlike a mosquito bite, a chigger bite will continue to grow as long as the chigger is still feeding.  If the welt becomes large enough, you may be able to see a white dot at the center of the bite.  The white dot is not the chigger but the stylostome that has formed under the skin. The intense itch caused by a chigger will usually cause the host to scratch which in turn will disengage the chigger.

According to the Oklahoma Station website, a warm, soapy shower will wash away the chiggers from your skin. If you can do this within a few hours of encountering chiggers, the symptoms can be greatly reduced. If you wait too long to bathe, your chigger bites will continue to develop even though the chigger is no longer feeding on you. This may be where the myth came from about the chigger’s ability to burrow under your skin. If you get chiggers, do not wear the same clothes, socks or shoes again without washing them to prevent possible further chigger feasting.

To learn more about chiggers, visit the Animal Discovery site.

As awful as the chigger ‘bites’ were, I’m actually glad it was just chiggers and not bed bugs!

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