This weekend marks the official start to our growing season

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Planting for spring

and so it begins…

It the middle of February, technically still the dead of winter, but our unseasonably mild winter has every gardener itching to get outside and into the dirt. This weekend marks the official start to our growing season for cool weather crops, but we’ve had lettuces and spinach in the patio pot garden for weeks and they are now ready to harvest. Seems odd to be eating fresh greens this time of year when root crops and squash are the mainstay of any menu.

Seeds of other cool season crops and ones I know I want to grow are planted in pony-packs, peat pellets and flats and are incubating inside the farmhouse. Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bell peppers and cucumbers are sitting inside on warming mats and in a few days we’ll have the beginnings of a summer full of fresh organic food.

The farm already has a huge garden complete with compost pile, raised beds, fencing for vine crops, berry patch, fruit trees, a chicken coop and a rain collection barrel. Whoever lived here before had no interest in living a sustainable life or even gardening for that matter. It has taken me years to clear out the debris, trim or remove overgrown and useless trees and rejuvenate the soil to the point where it could sustain life. But, we did it. The soil is rich and friable, crawling with earthworms in every spade that is turned. This is a huge accomplishment – soil that is alive!!

In a few weeks the soil will be over 45 degrees; dry enough that I can till and work in the mulch and compost that was laid on top during the winter months; warm enough to plant the first seedlings outdoors. I’m excited. Along with the seedlings, root vegetables like beets, carrots, radishes and turnips will be directly sown.

Besides the garden, I ordered a dozen meat ducks today; six Pekin and six Rouen; both prized for the quality of their meat. The hatchery, Metzer Farms, was kind enough to let me trade my replacement Sebastopol gander for an equal value of ducklings. On March 23rd, as we travel north to a sheep show, we will pick up our brood, keeping them warm and safe during the weekend show in a large dog crate. In 49 days, give or take, my friend Sandy and I will be processing the ducks and preparing them for storage in my freezer. I will give thanks for the time they have spent with us, the pleasure they have brought to our farm and the nourishing meals they will provide throughout the year. Life on this farm may be short, but it is valued and we give thanks.

By mid-May the lambs Brianne has shown all spring will be sold to 4-H members in our county, destined for the county fair. Meat chicks bought in April will be old enough to move into their chick condo! Actually, it’s a converted rabbit hutch we use when the chicks outgrow the brooder box. There they will live until old enough and big enough to move out into the coop. At 6 to 7 pounds they too will be processed and wrapped for freezer storage. It’s a cycle of life that is the life’s blood of this farm.

Plans are still in the works on when to bring in this seasons pig. With a third of an acre, raising livestock is a juggling act of time, pen space and scheduling with Sandy and my local butcher, Kent. If I bring everyone in at the same time, the barn and life in general becomes very chaotic. But, if I wait, Kent will be busy processing animals from two county fairs. By the time he is finished the pig will be larger than I want. I’m thinking of bringing in the pig after the two fairs are over, raising it through the late summer and fall and butchering it between hunting season and the holidays. But, like I said…I’m still thinking.

It all sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same number of animals we’ve had for several years. My neighbors love this time of year. And, with built in babysitters who love taking care of the baby chicks and getting fresh eggs and veggies for their trouble it’s a good deal for me too. So, we begin…again!

Creative Commons License photo credit: nkmtl

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