Arc 721, 23 Ashan
Elisabeth was waiting for William and the others to return to the farm after placing the first set of rain barrels. Realizing they might be a bit, she decided to follow up with Delilah on a few agricultural matters they were working on. The Munny daughter had been indispensable to the young mage, offering advice and coordinating matters between Elisabeth and her parents to make sure everyone was in the loop on certain things.
After locating her at the back of the house, the young woman waved at Elisabeth. “Hey, Lizzy! Good to see you. Want to see your baby trees?” she asked, waving her hand over the table she was working at. Upon the table were perhaps three dozen tiny canvas bags, full of dirt and orange Faldrass sand. “So, three dozen ‘nuts’ that we got from the woods yestertrial were viable for planting. They are now in here and we are going to keep the canvas bags in frames, surrounded by warm sand. We should see some sprouting soon enough. We had originally thought to place frames inside some of the buildings to keep things warm but the sand seems to be doing a great job. Plus, it stays warm all the time, and temperatures inside the buildings can fluctuate. Seedlings like this need constant heat.”
Smiling at the thought of baby trees – she had no idea why that thought made her happy – Elisabeth nodded, then remembered something else she wanted to follow up on. “That’s great, Delilah. I confess a bit of curiosity at how things are going with the potatoes and rubrum berry plants as well. it's been a few trials since we brought the berry plants back...” The younger woman laughed a bit, waving her hand, indicating for the young mage to follow her. “Your curiosity is adorable. Follow me.”
Walking towards the other side of the house, Elisabeth noticed a few more areas set up. One large frame held the rubrum berry plants that she and Delilah had dug up from the beach several trials prior. “You recognize these lovelies, I’m sure? So, as I told you when we brought them back to the farm, they will propagate via runners from the main plant.” Leaning over, she pointed out one of the said runners that had come intact with a parent plant. “See there? Runner…and…” Pulling the runner up away from the compost/sand material the plants were growing in, it was clear to see tiny little roots growing. “Root systems are already forming. These plants will do a great job at supplying the settlement with berries when they are mature. Once a new plant has formed with its own root system, we can snip the runner. We were really lucky that it was this type of plant. They root so easily that it won't be long before we have a ton of them.
Elisabeth considered the information a bit and then thought of something. “So, I think the other good thing about having them here is when these plants start bearing fruit, we will know that the others back at the original site are too, and we can send people to go harvest? Does that sound reasonable that they would mature at the same time? The parent plants I mean, not the new little ones.” The Munny daughter nodded, considering the young mage and the plants, casting a glance back and forth. “I think that’s entirely reasonable and a great idea. I’ll make sure to let either you or Balthazar know when that happens. Possibly a bit later in Ashan when the weather warms up a bit more. With the warm sand here, things tend to grow faster, and growing seasons seem to be much different. Well, different at least. Things were growing in Cylus, even though there was snow on the ground. That sand is something else.”
Moving over to the other side of the house, Elisabeth noted a long table filled with Faldrass sand. Nestled in the sand were the potatoes they had collected from the woods. “These are a bit trickier because we don’t know much about them, but mother surmised that if they were growing out in the middle of the Ashwoods that growing them here wouldn’t require much. We are starting with the assumption that they are just a different variety of potato and using the same growing techniques. They are also innately warm, which helps with growing.”
“Lizzy”, as Delilah liked to call her, nodded her understanding, wanting to retain as much information as she could about what she was being told. “So, you just stick them in the ground, and they make more potatoes?” Laughing, Delilah replied. “Not exactly. First, you need a sunny spot. That’s why these are out here, away from the house. They need more heat to jump-start the growing process and once the foliage erupts from below, it likes the sun too. But what we are trying to do here is encourage the potato to grow sprouts. They like heat for that and the sand provides that. Normal potatoes take about a week for those to appear.” Grabbing a basket underneath the table, Delilah reached in and produced a normal-looking potato, holding it out for Elisabeth to see.
“See all the white spots with the bumps? That’s what we are looking for. The sprouts will turn into the buds of new potato plants in time. Once they appear, we will let them grow for about a week. That’s done, we will cut the potatoes up, leaving us sections with at least two sprouts, and let those grow for a few more trials…. and then on to planting." Pointing to the large frame nearby, low to the ground, she continued.
“We will plant the potatoes with the sprouts upward, in lots of sandy, warm soil, and wait to see what happens. Potatoes are generally a very forgiving plant but take a bit of time to grow. I anticipate we will have a lovely crop of potatoes here by the end of Ashan, maybe the beginning of the next cycle? Hard to say. Things tend to grow here faster.” Elisabeth nodded, laughing a bit. “I feel like we’ve said that a lot recently, but it’s true. They do. I think relatively soon, I'm going to ask Balthazar if we can take a crew out to the Ashwoods and harvest potatoes. Since these will take a while to grow, I'd like to utilize what's out there now. They are under the ground so obviously, they aren't being used by any wild animals as a food source. I feel confident we could harvest a large amount of them”
Delilah thought about it for a moment and offered up a corresponding thought. "I think if that happens, we should separate out the smaller potatoes and let those be the 'seed' potatoes for the crop. It won't take much to create a giant section of potatoes, and we can rotate them since, at least, normal potatoes can grow almost all arc long."
Elisabeth offered up a look of slight confusion, to which the younger woman addressed. "So, consider this frame we are going to plant the potatoes in. Think of that as a field. We plant one-third of the field first. Since we estimate about 90 trials until we have mature potatoes, we will plant the second-third of the field 30 trials after...and the last 30 trials after that. So the first third will be ready around the end of the cycle for harvesting. Right after harvesting, we will replant. 30 trials after that. the second third will be ready. Repeat. Make sense?" Elisabeth nodded, finally understanding what she was hinting at. "So we are always having a fresh harvest of potatoes instead of planting the whole field and then having to wait for another 90 trials for more. I understand!" There was certainly a lot more to gardening than she realized.
Joelen’s voice called out from inside the house, asking for Delilah’s help. “Oops! Gotta go, Lizzie. You’ll have to come back soon and tell me how Balthazar enjoyed his surprise yestertrial. You two are so cute! Bye!” And with that, she was off into the house and Elisabeth departed back to the settlement, thinking about everything she had learned.
Gardening, and agriculture by extension since it was more gardening on a large scale, had a lot to do with logistics and planning. That was something she hadn't expected but welcomed learning. Truthfully, everywhere she turned in the settlement, she was learning more and more...and that was a good thing. The more she learned, the more she had to offer others. Elisabeth was just glad there were people like Delilah in the settlement willing to teach her.