Dreaming of June

Look at the Blueberry plants!  Oh!  One more year and we can stop pinching the blossoms and start eating them fresh!  Can’t wait!

BlueberriesAnd it looks like the strawberries are really going to make this year.  We’ll have jam, we’ll freeze some, we’ll eat mountains of them fresh with spinach!  I mean, here it is, pretend June 1st and we’ve already eaten so many of them…

Strawberries

And the green beans!  We’ll be busy canning all July to handle the crop that’s out there.  Bush-type beans planted 8″ apart in a grid as demonstrated by Jeavons really do well.  It helps that this row received 6″ of compost and another 4″ of mulch in the last year.

GreenBeans

The potatoes are really coming on.  We’ve already hilled them twice and have high hopes that the drought will hold off this year.  Last year the drought started around June 15th and the potato plants withered quickly.  In fact, I started digging potatoes before July 1.  This year I don’t want to dig the main crop until at least August 1.  Just soon enough to plant our fall crop of broccoli in the same row but late enough that a fair portion of the potatoes will keep.

Potatoes

The rhubarb is doing well but the plants are a bit crowded.  I need to move them to a new home.  I really don’t know where to put them.  The rest of the row is just odd plantings.  Some onions, some lettuce (it’s about to bolt), some marigolds.  I may put in a little buckwheat in this row.

Rhubarb

But this year is THE year for tomatoes!  I’ve never seen anything like it.  We put down layer after layer of chicken manure, horse manure and 10″ of well-composted wood mulch last year and this year I have the best crop of tomatoes ever.  The peppers were looking a little leggy early on but they are bearing now.  The jalapenos are long and flavorful.  Takes 2 pieces of bacon to wrap one popper.  If you look carefully, you can see we planted oregano between plantings of tomato and pepper.  That kind of planting brings in a lot of wild pollinators.

Tomatoes and peppers

Well.  One day winter will pass.  One day I’ll be out working in the garden thinking, “what was so bad about winter?”  But today, looking out at a foot of snow and more falling from the sky, I’m wondering if it will ever end.  You can see a brooder in the potato picture above.  That brooder has 140 chicks in it.  I say chicks but they are nearly a month old.  They should be on pasture.  I may have to sacrifice two rows of the garden to make a pretend pasture for them…feeding them hay daily.

It is nice to have an excuse to sit down for a few days though.  You can assume I’m working when I disappear from the blog for a few days.  I have been working a lot lately.  Let me know if the snow gave you a chance to do some dreaming.

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Green Acres of My Life

My father has known me for 36 years and, next to Julie, qualifies for the title of “Best Friend.”  He’s pretty well in tune with my likes and dislikes.  Dad said, “You should watch the first episode of Green Acres and write a blog post about it.”  So, Dad.  Here it is.

Now, before we get too carried away I invite you to watch it for yourself.  Julie found herself crying in laughter and sympathy with Lisa (Oliver’s wife).  Oliver’s enthusiasm and naivety mirror my own.  In fact, though we lack a hole in the floor leading to the cellar, the show hits a little too close to home.

Oliver reads the blogs of his day, USDA bulletins, every spare moment of his life.  That sounds familiar.  He spends every moment growing anything he can including mushrooms in his office desk drawer.  His job is just something he does well though mechanically and without enthusiasm.  He lacks that feeling of accomplishment, purpose and fulfillment.  That good kind of tired you get after a day of physical labor.  He says:

“A farm would give me a feeling of accomplishing something.”

and later…

“This has been the dream of my life: to buy a farm!  Move away from the city.  Plow my own fields.  Plant my own soil.  To get my hands DIRTY!  Sweat and strain to make things grow!  To join hands with you, the farmers…the backbone of our economy.”

Like Oliver, I wanted a real farm like the one I was born on.  Unlike Oliver I actually bought the one I was born on (er…well, the one my parents lived on when I was born at the hospital).  Like Oliver I bought a run-down house with sheds that are falling in on themselves, failing fences and odd bits of junk everywhere.  Unlike Oliver I wasn’t suckered into it.  Like Oliver I have a beautiful, sophisticated, thin, blonde wife.  Unlike Oliver my wife came along willingly…and doesn’t have a Hungarian accent.  Like Oliver, I bought with big, unrealistic expectations, no experience and inhuman optimism.  That optimism has been just about beaten out of me.  Maybe this year we can limit our losses to just a couple thousand dollars then turn things around to positive numbers in our 5th year.  I don’t know.  The infrastructure needs are so great.  It looks to me like Oliver just pours money into the farm every episode.  My pockets aren’t deep enough for that.  Fortunately I don’t have a Mr. Haney in my life.

Look.  I don’t have any help for you if you have decided to get your hands dirty and join the backbone of the nation.  You’ve picked a tough row to hoe.  I think we can do it (or I wouldn’t be trying) but it’s not easy.  I have to suggest that Oliver’s adjustment would have been easier if there had been no house at all…if he had only had the sense to send Mr. Haney packing then take a match to the empty house at the beginning of episode 2 and build new.  My land itself is a fixer-upper.  I don’t have time to deal with the house issues.  Neither does Oliver.  I like to encourage my farmers that they can succeed.  You can.  But try not to put yourself behind the 8 ball from the beginning just because you were born somewhere.

Channeling Lisa, my wife, lovely as ever, upon viewing the farm as we return from a business trip to Florida, looks at me from the passenger seat and says, “Let’s go back.”

Green Acres offers a response, “Keep Smiling.”

If you’re going to do this, Keep Smiling.

Playing in the Rain

RainyDay

Sunday we had a strong wind out of the South, warm temperatures and an inch of rain.  The kind of rain that paints the ground green.  Mom was out of the house so I took the kids on an adventure.

I have to cut wood.  Have to.  I have a number of trees down and I’m running out of time.  But we don’t have to kill ourselves cutting wood.  I told the kids I would use one tank of gas in the chainsaw while they dragged limbs and stacked firewood and then we could have some fun.  Well, we had fun the whole time.  Dripping, soaking, pruny-fingered, wet sock fun.

Our chores behind us, we tromped off through the pasture to the branch to see how deep the water was.  It was deep.  And swift.  Normally the branch is just a trickle.  It’s the weak point in the fence that the neighbor cows use to come steal food.

Branch

We threw sticks in the water and watched them float away.  We probed the water to see how deep it was.  I warned the kids of the danger.  The youngest fell in anyway.

I have a million things to do.  I don’t have time to splash through the puddles, exploring pastures I have played in my entire life but if I don’t do this now, when will I?  The farm is a family experience…I have to experience it with them.  That’s kind of the point.  I can sacrifice sleep to get the taxes finished.  The kids won’t wait.