March is here along with thoughts and longings for Spring and greens. March feels like a breath of fresh air after spending our winter months hibernating in the house. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, we are really craving fresh food, specifically greens. I feel I could eat a large plate piled high with greens at every meal like a cow at the feed bunk eating her greens twice a day. Yes, I referred to myself as a cow. The farmer has compared me to a cull Hereford cow for years due to complications with pregnancy, childbirth and low milk production. And whenever a needle comes out to draw blood, the farmer will compare it and the needle size to bleeding sheep. Growing up on a farm and then becoming a farm wife, I’ve grown accustom to being compared to an animal. Everything is compared to what we are familiar with, which are animals and plants.
For all of us green hungry people, the farmer has planted a couple of beds of greens: lettuce, spinach, and arugula. Although, they are barely starting to emerge from the ground, I’m very eager for those first greens of Spring. They are planted in one of our cold-frames so there is no heat, just what the sun provides. We are at the mercy of mother nature. This past month it was too cold. We are looking forward to March warming up so our cold frames will too. Our farming son, who has the itch to grow plants just like his daddy, has planted lettuce and radishes in pots in the house. He is trying to beat his dad at getting the first greens of the Spring.
And the plastic has been put on our smaller cold frame so it is ready to start seeds. We start all our plants from seed right here on the farm. We will be starting seedlings this month too. Our growing season is officially underway!
I have my own garden and growing space. I call it the farm wife’s garden. When a farmer and his wife both like to grow plants and have different ideas of when and how to plant and what to plant, you need your own spaces. Or at least that is true for us. The farmer has control of most of the farm and I get the yard and my own gardening space. In my garden, I get to design it the way I like (it’s my work of art, my masterpiece), plant what I want, but I also have to feed the family and be able to do all of our canning from my garden.
In my garden (the farm wife’s garden), I’ve been doing a no-till growing method and mulching a lot with wood chips and straw. Last year, the garden didn’t produce very well and the quack grass took over. Reluctantly, I decided I would need to till again this year. I spent a couple of days scooping poop out of the chicken house and hauling it to the garden. I spread a generous amount of chicken manure on it and then attempted to rototill with our small walk behind rototiller. It kept getting bound up on the grass. Before I could even make one pass the full length of the garden, the rototiller die! Apparently, the grass was too hard on it and broke a piece that drives the tines. So we reverted to the tractor and big rototiller. It wasn’t able to get through the root mass either so we hooked up the renovator to break through the grass roots and loosen it up. Then rototilled. We waited a week to let the grass roots that remained to start to grow again and then tilled again. . . . . wait two more weeks and till again.
After this experience, I have a new appreciation of tools/equipment that are needed to make farming easier . . . or in my case large gardening easier. If you are new to small farming or just thinking of doing it, here is what I consider necessary tools and equipment: shovel, hoe, small tractor to operate rototiller, mower/whipper, renovator and plastic layer. A shovel is a must and used for so much on a daily basis. From irrigating, to dig holes, scoop soil to dig weeds out or just chop weeds down. A hoe (hoop hoe preferable, in my opinion) for planting and weeding; used a lot for weeding unless you cover your whole planting area in plastic. And a tractor and small implements to work the ground with ease, quicker and with less muscle aches. And our new piece of equipment this year is a plastic layer, a purchase I thought could wait until next year but the farmer insisted it was a need this year. I now know he was right. We have laid so much plastic so quickly and the plastic is so tight and neat on the row; much better than doing it by hand with a shovel. I am very happy with the farmers new toy.
Something new for me this year is straw bale gardening. I have read and heard about it, but don’t know anyone who has done it. So I’m trying it with just a couple of bales because I’m afraid of failing again – like my no-till, mulch gardening method. I’m interested in watching plants grow out of the bales and cover the bale like a hanging basket. If you are interested in trying straw bale gardening too and are in search of straw, look no more. We still have Organic straw bales for sale. Organic Wheat Straw
Enjoy your growing. And don’t be afraid to try something new! Life is one giant experiment.
June Happenings & Plans
We expect to have sugar snap peas, radishes, & zucchini ready this month.
Wood River Farmers’ Markets begin; Ketchum June 13th & Hailey June 29th Farmers’ Markets
The days have cooled and are shorter. It’s been raining off and on most of the week which seems to slow us down. It’s now too cool to sleep with windows open at night, at least it is for us. The house is chilly in the mornings causing us to start our days a little slower. The kids like to start their day curled up in a blanket on the couch doing their reading lesson before breakfast. After breakfast, I busy myself with a baking project or canning to warm the house and take the chill off. It’s the start of another busy September day of harvesting, canning and homeschooling.
While the produce is slowing down getting ready to die off and be done for the year, our lives are still very busy in this season. There is the harvest of the red beans to be done. They have been cut and are waiting to be thrashed when the rain stops and they dry out. There is still the major harvest of the pumpkins, winter squash, daikon radishes, turnips and beets to be done. Most of the late season produce is slowing down except the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. They are still growing and producing strong. We are about done with picking beans for the season, the sweet corn, kohlrabi and cabbage are about gone, and the cucumbers, zuchinni, summer squash have slow their production significantly. The broccoli is about done for the season due to an aphid infestation.
September starts our fall juggling act as I like to call it. We are still harvesting and selling, there is more canning to be done, all the regular inside work and laundry needs to be kept up with along with all the yardwork. Then we add another year of homeschooling into the mix. The Other Half takes on most of the harvesting duties as of September. And I focus on getting the canning done and the family back into our fall and winter routine.
Although, September is busy it feels like life and tasks are slowing down. We are getting settled down for the year and getting ready for the cooler weather. It feels good to be settled! Although, I wish it would stay warm all year, but instead, we are forced to prepare for cooler temperatures and fall.
I have been very observant of earthworms this year or at least in the spring and early summer when there is lots of planting to do. I have read about how beneficial they are to the soil so now when I put my trowel in the ground or move a clump of earth or pile of wood chips, I like to see and count all the earthworms. They are the earth’s natural rototillers. The thought of all those worms under my feet doing their work just amazes me. They naturally till the land, compost, aerate and increase water infiltration.
And I have had the chance to put my trowel in the ground several times this year. We seem to have an issue with keeping the chickens contained in their pasture so they are spending a lot of time in my yard and garden rearranging and killing flowers. I have had to replant flowers so many times this year and I don’t think they are going to survive. So now I’m going with the idea of planting roses instead of small annuals. The fact that all the chickens won’t stay in their pasture has made me realize I should give up trying to grow small, delicate flowers. I’ll should get my enjoyment from chasing chickens and counting worms instead of enjoying the view of colorful flowers. By planting roses, I can now chase chickens, count worms and smell the roses!
When I see all those worms, it feels like I’m passing a very large good stewardship test, like a final exam in college. In early summer, it makes me proud and happy to have gotten all those slivers while pulling weeds out of the wood chips in the garden for going no-till. I’m doing a good thing for the soil, the earthworm population and this earth; even if it is just in my little patch of earth. I’m helping the earth little bits at a time if I can keep the chickens out my little patch of earth so they aren’t eating my proud little test or harming my visually appealing flowers.
Now that the weeds are out growing my energy level and ability to pull them, I don’t feel near as good about myself or my ability to take care of this little patch of earth. I feel that I’m failing this test, part because I can’t keep all the weeds pulled or at bay. But then I think about all those worms at work under my feet. That brings a smile to my face and reminds that worm are doing good even if I don’t feel that I am. It still doesn’t give me any more energy, but does make me feel better! I can pass this test even if I don’t get an A+++, which this overachiever would prefer but will settle for a lesser test score.
The attraction between kids and the soil just fascinates me. It’s like there is some higher power that pulls kids to that space of earth where there is no lawn growing and there is bare soil showing, like the natural attraction there is between cats and a sandbox. They just can’t resist the urge to get their hands dirty, digging, flinging dirt all over themselves and anyone near by, probably eating a little too. Our kids have always been interest in all the work going on in the garden or maybe it was just that urge to cover themselves in dirt at a young age, but they now show a real interest in growing food. I’m actually surprised that we haven’t plugged any pipes with a buildup of dirt from all the baths to wash off all the gardening and dirt digging fun off the kids. It is a regular occasion to bathe the kids during the summer and have the tub lined with dirt when the water is drained. We have said more than once that our kids are like chickens, they have to take their dirt bath or dust themselves daily!
They were all drawn to dirt at a young age and still love it. And now that our gardens have become fields there is a lot for them to be involved in. They get to do more than just dig and smear it all over themselves. And they want to be more than just involved in all we are planting, weeding, tending, and harvesting. They want their own garden space and they have it now. It has been amazing to watch them plant seeds in their own arrangements or designs, carefully and diligently weeding, watch it all sprout and grow into seedling. Then get excited to harvest the fruits or vegetables of their labor. Life is so thrilling!
Farm boy loves all aspects of it. And others like farm girl gets excited talking about gardening, but not so enthusiastic to actually do the work tending a garden. Our little farm princess loves to be involved and once again loves the dirt, but doesn’t have the attention span to tend a garden of her own yet. She is always there helping everyone else though, even if that means hoeing out the vegetables or watering the driveway and then yelling when someone step on her imaginary plants.. She’s helping, she’s dirty and she’s happy!
So give your kids a garden to create, grow and eat or at least a piece of dirt to dust themselves in. You’ll be amazed at what they can grow. And how they grow and learn with it. It doesn’t matter if they are proud of just that one plant or even if it is just weeds that they grow, lots of them are edible too! Happy gardening and growing!