September 15th 2017
It’s been awhile since I last updated this blog and I’ve just been swamped with school and work since the quarter started. I’ve just returned to Davis after spending the summer abroad; I learned and experienced so much from backpacking Europe for the first half, and then later worked on a farm in Malaysia.
What did you do this summer dan? “played in chicken poop”
Despite being assigned to a small farm in a rural community, the experience I’ve gained from the fieldwork is a valuable addition to my skill set. Interacting with the local community also helped me understand their thought process and way of life. Some of the assignments I’ve been involved in ranges from trimming lime trees, planting, and transplanting, repurposing and recycling projects, making composts and fertilizers and constructing a chicken/goose coop. My mentor was an old farmer who I always just referred to as “uncle”; he was a very simple yet experienced farmer with about 40 years of farm experience under his belt. It was mostly a field learning experience on the farm with him and we would have great conversations and exchanges during our frequent breaks. He would talk about his vast experience as a farmer while I discussed sustainability and future farming methods.
The landowner mostly planted bananas on the hilly farm
Working on the field in the morning was a wonderful experience. Rising early was a difficult task at first, but I take delight in walking among the seeded rows and being rewarded with witnessing the new lives that have risen to meet the day with a cup of coffee in hand. The ability to work at a craft that requires an understanding of so much – from weather patterns to soil science, the habits and nutritional needs of the animals that will graze the fields and appreciation for repetitive tasks that need to be done daily. There is some beauty to the repetition and approaching it with a calm appreciation; while my hands are busy, my mind is free to observe and calculate to determine what needs to be done next and what will make the farm better.
Took us just a few days to complete the chicken/geese/turkey coop
Some of the initial obstacles I had to face include the different climate and geography in comparison to the student farm in Davis. The difficult part was the need to adapt the knowledge I’ve gained at the student farm and school and applying in an environment with a different local customs, climate, geography and farming techniques. Farming also requires a wide array of skills and knowledge and I felt that I’ve entered agriculture without sufficient necessary skills to be successful. But I realized that the actual growing, as complicated as it is, is only a part of what I needed. There are other useful and necessary skills such as labor management, bookkeeping, equipment maintenance, long-term planning, carpentry, supply chain management and pest management. So many different things farmers need to juggle in contemporary times, and we usually don’t have the resources to hire others who specialize in those skills. I realize it would be useful to obtain this knowledge during my time here in UC Davis and perhaps getting some working experience abroad before returning to Malaysia.
Didn’t go this week as I was swamped with school work and also felt very overwhelmed.
Also it’s Ramadan so I felt like I should take it easy for abit.
We’re almost towards the end of the quarter now and I have to admit that I really do enjoy working on the farm. It’s definitely helped me become healthier physically and also mentally. There’s just something about the tranquility of working on the farm that satisfies the soul.
Moved irrigation pipes with Alex today. What a chill guy to work with.
Today was eventful, I worked in the greenhouse for the first time! It was fun working with seedlings as I also intern at the nursery for the arboretum.
The tomatoes along the walls of the greenhouse looked gorgeous.
Then I learned what perlite was for the first time. Had to even look it up on Wikipedia because I couldn’t comprehend fully what it was even after Hannah explained it.
Compost, perlite, and peat moss are mixed to make the soil.
Nothing better than to get the hands dirty!
My family friend from Malaysia was visiting Davis today and I wanted to show him around the farm too but unfortunately, I was feeling under the weather so I decided to not to head to the farm.
But here’s a picture of the wonderful seedlings in the greenhouse I took on Tuesday.
Learned how to sanitize the tools and baskets today using bleach.
It’s getting pretty warm lately, I wonder how the crops are going to fare in this weather?
Didn’t feel too well today and decided to rest instead of heading over to the farm.
The shiny red beets emerging out the washer machine
Washed beets and carrots using the washing/packaging machine with Karoline and Hannah today. The weather was great!
How would you describe the smell of carrots?
Helped harvested Kohlrabi today. It’s the first time I’ve seen this vegetable and brought some home. It takes about 2-4 months to grow into maturity, so this batch was probably planted around last February.
Apparently, many of my friends had never seen nor heard of it before as well. It could be eaten raw or cooked. It tastes somewhat like the stem of a broccoli.
I just love yanking things out of the ground, it’s very satisfying.
The name derives from the german word “Kohl” which means cabbage and “Rubë” which means turnip. So it literally translates to cabbage turnip, very creative.
Harvested asparagus for the very first time today. Had to cut through unkempt weeds in the asparagus rows to find decent and tall ones. We had to bring a bucket of water because once harvested, asparagus dries out very easily. I was told that asparagus are able to grow about 10 inches overnight. It also takes about 10 years for it to fully mature and harvestable. If left unharvested for too long, however, it will start flowering and the offsprings will send signals to the parent plants that reproducing is not necessary.
Asparagus are able to grow over 10inches overnight!
I later helped Hannah set up the irrigation pipes in the North-West Field. The initial process of setting it up correctly is vital because errors would make the process much difficult. This is because the pipes are considerably heavier once the water is pumped into the pipe. We have to flush water through the pipes first to get rid of the dirt and dust within the pipes. I learned about the “Water Hammer effect”; where if the water pumped is turned on too quickly and too sudden, it would cause the water to speed through the pipes and ricochet back, potentially bursting and damaging the pipes in the process.
It’s my first time assisting with the irrigation pipes set up.
Testing the integrity of the pipes.
Hannah hard at work.
Started out the day by harvesting a pound of chocolate mints. Considering they’re not very heavy, I had to go back on the North Field a few times.
Shoveling dirt on the mulch layer; I do enjoy getting my hands dirty!
After that’s done, I helped transported the white mulch layer from the tomato rows in the North Field to the Summer Garden. After laying them down, I had to shovel dirt about every few inches on the mulch layer.
Today I learned:
- Weeds are just unwanted plants.
Began the day by heading out to the North Field to assist with harvesting carrots. These carrots were planted around November-December of last year.
Harvesting carrots with the crew
We later washed, packaged and sorted the carrots using a really amazing packaging machine.
Today I learned:
- Carrots were predominantly red. The orange carrots that we’re all accustomed to is a product of mutation.
Caught a cold on this week. Decided it was best to not to head to the farm. The weather was mostly rainy all week too. Luckily it wasn’t pouring on the day that we had a picnic on the Eco-Garden. On the contrary, it was really beautiful outside on that Friday afternoon.
Another beautiful day on the North Field at the Market Garden
We had a wonderful picnic and shirt printing on the Eco-Garden during the only day it was sunny that week.
Hopefully, it’ll be sunny for the following week and also for picnic day weekend!
- Orientation, safety training, and tour around the Market Garden.
- Met Leigh, Sara, Raoul, and Hannah today.
- The first day working on the Market Garden. Started around 8:30 in the morning.
- Headed over to the greenhouse first to prepare the seedlings for transplantation.
Blooming seedlings in the greenhouse!
- Before heading to the fields, Raoul showed me how to handle the seedlings before transplanting them. We dip the seedlings for about 15 seconds in water mixed with fertilizers to give the seedlings a small boost in nutrients before planting them on the fields.
First time on the back of a tractor!
- First time on the back of a tractor; begun transplanting rows of tomatoes.
(Have to find out the 3 kinds I planted)
- Learned how to handle and laying down drip tape along the rows.
- After we finished we headed towards the strawberry rows on the north field to help with site preparation of the black mulch papers for strawberries to help kickstart a process called “soil solarization”; this practice helps manage weed, pests & diseases in the soil. Ended my shift at 12 pm.
- Met Whitney, Daisy, Steve, and Claire today.
Sorting and washing the harvest for the CSA orders
- Harvested Radish and Bok Choy on the summer field with Rebecca for the CSA.
- Proceeded to sort out and wash the day’s harvest for the CSA orders.
- Started around 9 am and ended at 11:40 am.
- Met Aryana, Rebecca, and Wilson today.