knowing what to buy

10 lbs of twine will last how long?

It seems pretty obvious that in order to be a successful farmer you need to buy as little as possible.  It is also important that you have the correct (and most well-made) tools you need to get the job done – multiple farmers have stressed the importance of this to us.  We’re just starting out, so we’re in a position where we do need to buy a lot of things for the first time, but we’re not entirely sure which things we need.  The situation is slightly complicated by the fact that we have or have access to well-used versions of some tools.  Does it make sense to spend money on a really nice, ergonomic and pleasant to use wheel barrow when you have an old but usable one someone was kind enough to give you?

Our strategy is to say no for now – does not make sense to buy a better new version of something if you already have one.  We’ll use what we’ve got for a year and then re-evaluate based on real-world experience.

Tonight I ordered row covers for the seedlings we’ll be planting in a couple of weeks (frost protection down to 28 degrees, which seems just doable on our timetable).  There were several kinds to choose from, but I stuck with one website (Johnny’s Seeds) so as not to get overwhelmed.  There were several kinds of hoops to choose from.  I picked the cheapest.  They had several kinds of fasteners, though I can see us just burying the edges or holding them down with a 2×4.  I bought some though just to test them out.  Seems like a good time to experiment.  I also got 3 different kinds of black mulch – 2 biodegradable and 1 that will (supposedly) last several seasons.  In addition to wanting to try out different types of things to find the “best,” wanting to save money, and wanting to save the embodied energy and materials in products we may not need, I’m also needing to grapple with the idea of buying bulk.  So far I have been able to resist the urge to buy large amounts of things we don’t know for sure we will like (except for the twine ; ).  So thumbs up there.

I am wondering if I really need that California harvesting knife, or the (untreated) wooden stakes to remind us what we’ve planted where.  Or the special right-angle trowel for planting transplants.  We’ve got to make this somewhat pleasant and convenient, right?  Where’s the balance?