You might not usually think of winter as the exciting season on a farm, but that’s probably because the sight of a very large truck driving across your back four acres billowing 9.1 tons worth of clouds of a powdery grey substance isn’t something that makes you giddy.
That’s right, We Got Lime, and without it, our little farm dream might be more than a little longer in being realized. Land needs lime. As our soil test came back a scary 5.3–that’s “sour ” in farmspeak, our land needed “sweetening”–that is raising the pH in farmspeak. Not only do virtually all vegetables appreciate growing in a soil pH that hovers around neutral (that’s 7, for those of you who forgot your high school chemistry), but the most hateful weeds–the kind with abundant seeds or sharp hard thorns or both, the kind that cattle and goats won’t eat–thrive in sour soils. Less pernicious pasture grasses have a better chance to establish themselves in a sweeter soil. Making life harder for spiny pigweed is a definite bonus of liming our fields.
As for me, I was giddy enough to stand around in the field gawking and snapping pictures and swelling just a wee bit with pride. After all, only real farmers get their fields limed by enormous trucks. No more sprinkling handfuls of the stuff on garden beds for us!
And real farmers would have harvested their cabbages long before the truck started its criss-crossing of the fields. Me, I scurried about with a wheelbarrow in the limey clouds conducting an ECH. That’s Emergency Cabbage Harvest. I wasn’t about to let the last crop standing go to waste! Which is how I got limed, too. What’s good for the farm is good for the farmer, right? Ah, sweet lime! Rain on me!
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, just look what’s been arriving in the mail!
That’s right, seed and farm equipment catalogs. Just the thing to jumpstart spring fever. This time last year, in a fit of optimism, I ordered about 40 seed packs from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and a handful of exotics from other seed companies. I say optimistic because we were living in an apartment at the time, and hadn’t even made an offer on any piece of property yet. I was sure we’d be breaking ground by April, though! And so it was.
We planted about 1/10 of them and stored the rest in our sauna of a sunroom (Clueless Farmer Blunders of Season One numbers 9 and 4, respectively). Which is why we started thinking maybe we needed some sort of a growing plan for 2012. But where to begin? Luckily, we did not have to start from scratch. Other people have written books on it! And we were lucky enough to find THE book, the one we wished we would have had from the start.
The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook is proving to be an essential planning tool for us. It is in this book that we first saw comprehensive charts and spreadsheets for growing our business, season to season. For planning what to grow where, and how much of it and when. And all according to an actual financial goal that the book guided us to set, one that allows us to meet the bigger goal of how we want to live our life according to our values.
Of course, the book is borrowed from a fellow Madison Farmer, in this case, Susan Vidal of Brightwood Vineyard and Farm. The Hutchesons of Sunrise Gardens were also kind enough to share their planting plan Excel file, painstakingly cultivated over the years with the knowledge born of experience. Dreams need helpful, friendly, generous mentors. More on that in another blog post to come.
Almost every surface of our living space is covered in catalogs and print-outs of planting guides and drafts of growing plans. My bedtime reading is the latest edition of “Acres USA,” the subscription a Christmas gift from my sister. This month’s issue is all about poultry. After reading an article on choosing the best layers for a backyard flock, I felt confident in placing an order for our new egg-laying chicks.
You see, while we’re getting a good supply of eggs for ourselves from our broiler-birds-cum-laying flock, our newest pardoned bird, Scruffy (see #7 from Top Ten Clueless Farmer Blunders), started crowing last month. That’s right, Scruffy is a rooster. As Dottie, Marilyn, Cleo, Red, Angel, and Flo are already overwhelmed by the affections of Roo and Buddy, we don’t want to add Scruffy’s budding affections on them. Because my sewing isn’t up to the task of making more chicken aprons. So Scruffy will have to get his own hen harem, and we’ll have eggs galore. In a couple of weeks, we’ll welcome 8 peeping pullets, a full assortment of Hamburghs and Kraienkoppes, plus an Indian Red Jungle Fowl, the closest thing to the ancestor of the modern domestic chicken we could find. We decided against the Birchen Bantam, as it might scare Scruffy Bird. Heck, it might scare us.
It might make a good Livestock Guardian Chicken, however. Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, down in the basement, Amir is trialing our sauna-ed seed to see which ones might still be fit for planting. The peas, favas, molokhiya, and lettuces are ready to go!
The 60+ degree sunny days in February have us a little worried. Could spring be right around the corner? Say it isn’t so! Even dreams need some down time. But that Excel Sheet is a cruel taskmaster. To me, anyway. To Engineer Amir, it’s a fun pastime. I have my blog. He has his Excel. Together, we dream up a farm in winter.