Monday, February 16, 2009
Change Afoot on the Farm
It's only February and - who knows - it may just snow again before we're done, but Spring is surely in the air and in our bones. A cold white winter spent musing on what's next for SSF is showing itself here and there about the place.
We are taking another run at this food gardening thing, older and wiser and, frankly, practically scared to death that the mysteries of gardening are simply too complex or nuanced for us. So, here we go again. We've got seed packets in waiting, we've set steel shelves up against a southern window, ready for tiny pockets of earth to nurture sprouts.
Our sloppy but fenced garden, now cut to a hopefully-manageable half-size, is all but fully carpeted in landscape cloth. Our plan is to erect cloches (mini greenhouses made of plastic stretched over PVC piping) over the raised and double-dug beds in the next few days to dry out the soil and give our transplants something resembling a hospitable abode by late March when they should, theoretically, be ready to head outdoors.
These efforts are born of experience, failure, and a lot of careful reading and inquiry. I have mentioned previously that the great thing about gardening west of the Cascades is that everything can grow here but that the downside of gardening west of the Cascades is that pretty much everything can grow here. The battle of weed control is hard to exaggerate. It has overtaken us 3 years running now.
The second challenge of this area, and our site especially, is dense clay soil low in potassium. We could make pots with our soil. So, we have to bring in lime and compost to build the soil's nutrients and cloche the beds now, in February, to dry it out for at least six weeks before planting. Liming has to be done in the fall, so this growing of food takes planning. But nothing motivates planning like failure, so after 2-3 dismal "harvests," we actually dove into our location-specific literature with gusto and discovered a few things. Like liming and cloching and the necessity of building and using a coldframe (also on our to-do list today).
Indoors, we've exchanged our dining room view of the farm for those steel shelves and our beloved first piece of furniture - a giant 2-person chair - for our first spinning wheel, a small used Ashford bought from a friend. With 6-9 permanent sheep and a depressed fleece market, the realization that learning to spin, at a minimum, is essential finally hit home. This coincides rather serendipitously with my son's discovery of knitting, so next fall and winter might produce some interesting and previously unexpected farm items.
We will be launching our line of gourmet infused olive oils at our local farmers market in mid Spring and baking bread to sell alongside our eggs down at the farmstand that Mark has generously offered to build in the coming weeks as well. The white paint on a little farm sign he built dries as I write this; with a little luck SSF will announce itself in true sandwich board style by later today.
But, the February sun is shining down on our little patch of messy paradise, so it's time now for me to head outside.