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Two weeks ago, when the
snow and deep freeze hit our farm, spring ground to a halt. It wasn't
until this past Saturday that I felt like we were on the upward swing
once again. The snow is finally melting faster than it's falling, and
here and there bits of plant matter are beginning to poke above the
Hazel catkins loosening
and disgorging their pollen are nearly always the first spring bloom on
our farm. Like everything else, I noticed the first catkin just about
blooming before our snow storm...then the hazel bush went right back to
sleep. But with highs above forty forecast for most of the next week,
I'm betting the maple sap will start flowing and we might even hear frogs as our snow finally melts away. I sure am glad we don't live in the North!
I'm stealing Mark's spot
to hit up our readers for timely advice. This morning, I became
convinced that Abigail was going into labor, but now I'm not sure if
what I'm seeing counts as contractions. At intervals, I'll see a ripple
slide across her baby bump, often with a bulgy kid-part pushing out in
an ungainly fashion. Once, I put my hand there and felt a hard kid hoof.
Is this simply kids repositioning pre-labor, or do those movements
count as contractions?
Other signs of imminent
delivery abound. I caught Abigail arching her back like a cat once this
morning, she's been yawning frequently, and she seems intent upon
scratching the top of her head against the fence. Actually, our usually
standoffish goat even came over and lay down right in front of me, then
put her head in my lap asking for a head scratch. Meanwhile, Abigail has
also been adamantly chasing our little doeling out of her immediate
vicinity. Otherwise, though, she seems content to eat hay and chew her
cud as usual.
One of the soil additives
that I'm researching this year for my upcoming book is bokashi --- a
method of composting food scraps in a sealed five-gallon bucket at high
speeds with little or no smell. The jury's still out on whether this is a
trendy technique primarily of interest to apartment dwellers, or
whether land-based homesteaders should also give it a try. I suspect that after reading the book and doing a few experiments of my own, I'll be far more loquacious about my feelings on the topic.
Plate roof seems to handle snow a little better than the barn.
you don't want to destroy soil texture, burn up organic matter, and
decimate your microorganism population by plowing or tilling the soil,
what do you do to counteract compaction? Of course, your first step
should be not to allow compaction to begin in the first place. I've
trained everyone in our household (except Huckleberry) to only walk on
our permanent aisles, staying out of the growing beds in our garden, and
that goes a long way toward keeping soil compaction to a minimum. In
addition, if you're not tilling, you're unlikely to be working the soil
during wet weather --- another leading cause of compaction.
The extreme cold temperatures
have caused one of our doors to warp.
I give myself about a
week of wiggle room in my planting calendar, figuring that a few days
early or late won't impact the seedlings much and can allow me to fit
each planting into a much more favorable weather period. On the other
hand, I sometimes use that week of wiggle room for the sake of my own
sanity instead. For example, I planted a flat of tomatoes, borage, and
cabbage a little earlier than I'm supposed to as a way of keeping the
is-it-really-still-white-outside? blues away. Huckleberry was less than
impressed at the way I continue to fill up the sunniest spots with
seedling flats, but I reminded him that he's not really supposed to sit
on the table anyway.
The previous round of seedlings
are doing well, with only the fennel yet to sprout. Age might be a
factor, but it's also possible that the fennel are just taking longer
than the members of the mint family --- after all, my lovage seedlings
only started poking out of the ground a day or two ago.
I've also been pleased to
see absolutely no damping off, which could be due to a number of
factors. Honestly, I think the most relevant is the time of year and
weather --- my earliest plantings often tend to skip that problematic
fungus, presumably because it hasn't woken up in the wild yet. But it
can't hurt that I've been soaking the seedling flats in bleach water before planting,
and that I've been more careful about taking off the clear lids as soon
as I notice the first sign of germination. The latter technique lets
the surface of the soil dry out just enough to keep seedlings happy but
fungi out of the picture.
We ended up damaging our
truck battery with all the recent draining and jumping and had to
replace it with a new one..
After a warm weekend that
began to thaw our accumulated snow, another couple of inches of snow
fell Tuesday and set back my belief that spring will actually come. The
solution? Ignore the outdoors and write!
Second, I'm excited to announce that my fourth paperback,
The Ultimate Guide to Soil: A Gardener's Tips and Tricks for Organic, Nutrient-Rich, DIY Humus will be hitting bookstores in spring or summer 2016! I originally tried to sell Homegrown Humus
to my publisher, but they felt like cover crops were a little too much
of a niche subject. And when my editor came up with that alternative
title, I couldn't resist saying that I'd expand the book to include much
more than the topic I'd written about so far.
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