I really hate to say it, because last time I did things changed in a bad way, but I think Spring really is here. Heavy frosts last week and one hard freeze kind of muted our jubilation over its early arrival, but this week things are warmer, rainier, and more like one would expect.
I took my coffee out to the front deck this morning while Mike misered away his last precious moments of glorious snoredom. Sleeping, in this house, is often a privilege granted only by the pets residing here. Normally, as soon as it begins to get light, at least one, if not three, ecstatic dogs pounce on the bed to wake us. It is as if they want to sing out, “Wake up! Wake up! The sun rose again!” Yeah, thanks. Oh, and thanks for washing my face for me with your tongue too. Where’s my coffee?
I did my morning routine: let dogs out, potty, shower, make coffee, water houseplants. It occurred to me, still in my early morning half-awake fog, when I watered the new potted petunia Mike bought me for my birthday that it really was warm out. Yay! Coffee outside this morning!
As you recall, we put a deck on the front of the house this year. Previously, there was none. Now I am not talking about replacing what was there…there was NONE. No deck, no porch, no steps, nothing. The front door from the inside was a door to no where– and that was about a five feet drop. The new deck is small, but I love it. There is a bistro set with a bright yellow umbrella where I can sit and recall taking espresso at Deux Garcons in Aix en Provence a few years ago. There is a bench with bright Hawaiian floral printed pillows that remind me somehow of the mumus my mother used to wear as I grew up. And there are pots, lots of pots. Empty pots that await soil and flowers because it has been too cold to plant them up.
Ahhhh. My porch, my coffee, my new flowers from Mike, my dogs playing in the yard. (My, that sounds selfish. Still, they are my pleasure too.) Yes, we have a yard now too! Mike hired some local boys to clean out the cow shed a few days ago. He was busy, it needed to be done, and they made the mistake of asking if he had any work they could do for pay. That’ll teach ’em! It worked out great for the all, though. When they finished mucking the 16 X 58 calf shed, the three of them built the dogs a fenced in area at the front of the house. The structure is temporary, made from metal posts and cattle panels, but it provides a larger area for unsupervised fun. The two larger dogs, not being spoiled quite as much as Fritz, love it! I have to say, I do too.
Sitting at the bistro table, on the porch, watching the dogs turn donuts in the yard in a mad game of chase is great, but not nearly as great as seeing the sea of green that now surrounds the house. I sat musing about which flowers I wanted to plant where, how to build a walkway to the drive that could be mowed rather than weeded, and even scolded myself for not yanking the morning-glory weed (yes, weed) that draped itself across the Japanese Barberry Mike hates. Yet as I sat there I also became acutely aware of the sounds of Spring around me. A wild turkey or two gobbled a mating call in the trees not 200 ft from the house and a little beyond that, two deer vocalized. Song birds chattered away in the branches above, happily rustling the branches as they jumped from place to place. Sammy the Cat meowed a greeting to the cows mooing in the distance and above all this clamour came another sound. A human sound.
Apparently Mr. Jones is planting his fields this morning, and even if it is only seven o’clock, it should be a welcome sound of Spring in the country. I had to remind the city girl in myself of that as I sipped my coffee and selfishly enjoyed the cool morning air, the scent of the honeysuckle and all those sounds around me. This is not a park refuge, I am not a weekend hermit on a religious retreat. This is a farm.
It is also planting season and Farmer Jones (or whoever it is) was on it this morning! The loud engine noise his tractor made echoed from the creek below us, its volume enhanced by the cliff walls. I actually had to stop to figure that out, because to me, for a moment, it sounded like the 405 freeway lined with semi tractor trailers on a workday morning. The juxtaposition of that sound, that motor driven, squeaking sound, against the backdrop of Nature actually disturbed me. That was a realization that surprised me, having grown up less than two blocks from a freeway interchange. I wanted the sound to go away. I wanted to listen to the birds and the deer and the cows and the dogs. That noise, that infuriating human-made noise, as Mike probably would tell me, was the necessary sound of money being made. It too is a sound of Spring.
Like Farmer Jones, Mike will climb on his own tractor again today and disturb Nature’s sounds too. He broke only a portion of the ground for pasture before the cold hit, though the sweet corn is not up yet. Hopefully the new pasture will provide hay in the late summer, so I am glad he finished that. He also broke a field for sunflowers and cucumbers– an experiment I convinced him to try near the asparagus field. He still needs to prep the fields for soybeans and there is field corn to plant and the produce garden to prepare. Unfortunately, a bearing is out on his plow and he feels rushed to fix it before we get too far into the season– especially since the greenhouse plants are at a near perfect height for transplanting. Breaking the produce garden, to me, is the priority. Mike would disagree. I would also like the garden closer to the house, Mike would disagree with that too.
This year the produce garden will be even further from the house than before due to the crop rotation Mike practices. It will be larger too, I think. It seems that for something like $2.60 more Mike picked up 150 lbs. of potatoes for planting instead of the 60 lbs. he originally intended. He also has seed potatoes for pink, golden, and purple fingerling types. Barring any disaster the potatoes should produce about 1500 lbs of potatoes…for two people, their friends, and a local restaurant. I think we will have potatoes coming out our ears, but a bargain is a bargain. For the price of a few of ten pound bags of Idaho potatoes we might purchase at the local grocery, we will have ample.
There will be kale, spinach, fifteen varieties of heirloom tomatoes, another fifteen varieties of peppers this year too, as well as okra, squash, zucchini,…. you name it. Hopefully, we won’t have a drought this year and buyers will line up for our morning-picked food. We are checking into starting or joining a CSA program, but for this year, the produce garden income will remain coming from the farmers market, the restaurant, word of mouth, curbside, and friend sales.
As I mentioned, many of the plants we will move were started in float trays in the greenhouse back during the winter. In a few weeks we will spend days planting them by hand into the garden, and then constructing the Florida weave to support some of the plants, followed in the summer by hand harvesting. Mike uses his cultivator to clear weeds between the rows, but there simply is not time (nor energy) for hoeing around every single plant. A lack of a ready source for water other than rainfall disallows planting under plastic mulch. The result is lower production due to weeds, which frankly, given the amounts we plant and can, I am rather happy with. Again, Mike might disagree since he always likes a bumper crop. But, with labor intensive as it is in gardens such as this, and on produce farms in general, we Americans still do not like high food prices. Because of that, Mike expects to realize only about sixty to seventy-five cents a pound (wholesale) for our tomatoes. We will also have more than we can possibly eat, can or freeze for ourselves.
In fact, we are in that position now with asparagus. The asparagus came on a couple of weeks ago because of the warmer than usual weather. It has not hit its peak yet and I am already tired of it. I love asparagus…just not every day. With a thousand plants in the ground and a short season, that is exactly what it is. We will be canning and pickling and eating it in a thousand different ways until it finally pans out around June 1. Meanwhile, I am collecting asparagus recipes on Pinterest. Some sound wonderful; some, not very; some, curiosity inducing.
For example, I found an Asparagus Bundt Cake recipe the other day that intrigued me. Why not…carrot cake, zucchini bread, why not asparagus? I never found any other dessert recipes for tall green spears and wonder why. So today, I am going to try to make a Chocolate Asparagus Cake. If it is edible, I’ll post the recipe I came up with. If not, we will all know why there are so few recipes for asparagus as a dessert.
Now I am wondering if cows can eat can chocolate cake…? and will they eat asparagus? Hmmmm.
Mike moved Pip and the Painted Ladies over to the other farm and in with Big Mama Angus and Brahma Mama’s herd. The new availability of grass and clover on demand has apparently been good for Pip because he is in a growth spurt and now stands as tall as the Painteds and is heavier. Sam the Charolais finally matured sexually as did Spot the Jersey, so it won’t be long before we will sell Pip and Spot. Rhino the Angus is still king of his herd, though. In a dominance display, Spot tried to mount the huge bull a couple of weeks ago. Rhino head butted him off his feet and the young bull ended up on his back, feet in the air, looking like “what happened?” Rhino is our keeper bull, a fine-looking specimen for building our personal herd. The upstart will breed elsewhere and perhaps increase a local dairyman’s herd.
The babies in the calf shed are growing like weeds, even if they are afraid of the great outdoors. Because of the cold, we kept them inside all winter and now, even with their pen doors open, they hesitate to go outside. They must, because they too will one day join Rhino’s herd…after they are electric fence broke. For now, instead of kicking up their heels in joy at the prospect of “breathing room” they stand in a group, afraid to move for fear of that white thing that hurts (the electric fence ribbon). It is not the happy sight of Pip running wantonly from end to end seemingly smiling from ear to ear in the joy of his new and greater surroundings. He took right to it, while these have explored little in the two weeks their shed has been open. They will have to get used to being outside soon, because putting them to pasture saves the expense of feed and is healthier for them.
Besides, we have others critters to buy feed for.
Mike buys a bag or so of feed per week for the fast-growing turkeys. Since they are not yet outdoors ready, he also brings them clover, grass and herbs for their nutrition and fun. It is cute to listen to their gobbles turn to almost dove-like coos when the green food appears. They also do a sort of happy dance, flinging themselves across the pen like they were dive bombing an enemy. I never expected to see such behavior and joy from a flock of birds
Perhaps utter joy is the true sound and sight of Spring. I hope so and I am learning and watching. I also hope it does not turn cold again.