There’s a pretty healthy cover of snow out here, which is good because it is keeping the strawberries mulched. If the snow melts off at some point, we’re ready to cover them up again with a substantial pile of straw 🙂 We do see a fair amount of tracks all over a few of the fields, so we know the snow is not impeding the turkeys, deer, bobcat, rabbits, coyote, geese…..
We have ordered the seed potatoes (back in October) and are working on other veggie seed orders now. A lot of the interesting ornamental plants have been ordered and it is SO hard to resist ordering way more than we need. That said, we always manage to order a few things that don’t materialize. For example, last year we had the oats and rice ready to go, but never got them into the field. We tend to take a year to organize ourselves, so perhaps this is the year I harvest some of my own oats and rice. Glenn is always amused by the countless new cabbage varieties introduced yearly. Really, how many do we need? We are happy to try something new, but very reluctant to give up something we like.
Some might wonder what the criteria are for growers like us when selecting seed varieties. Well, I can’t speak for any other growers, but for us taste is the number one criteria. Then comes productivity, disease resistance, and salability. For example, Glenn is always looking for another orange tomato to grow. He really likes the flavor of the variety he grows, but it is plagued by problems and is not productive. Every year he tries a few other varieties to replace it but ends right back where he started because the flavor of his main orange variety is superior to any others. SO, we’ll see what this year brings.
I’d like to think I am the one who adds on the more unusual items, but it turns out, Glenn does just fine adding to our already humongous growing list! This benefits all of us. Our gardeners enjoy a larger, more comprehensive collection of plants, our market shoppers and CSA members enjoy greater variety, and we renew our passion for growing. It’s all good .This year, I think Glenn is getting excited about some of the Asian greens, I am always wanting escarole and huge beets to store, but my guess is we will end up with at least two new pepper varieties, another tomato, lettuce, and heirloom eggplant. Go figure.
Glenn and I sit by the fire daily (almost) during the winter with our coffee and talk for hours. Yes, we need this to happen in order to rejuvenate ourselves for the next season, and we like each other ;). Recently, he was reading the brochure for a friend’s offered CSA and noted that many farmers make a lot of hoopla about “normal” farming practices. Our friends had a whole page of their brochure talking about what great stewards they are and how they take care of the soils…how fresh their product is. Specifically, they mentioned how they put up bird boxes and showed a picture of a House Finch. Now, we put up lots of bird boxes, for Bluebirds (we have 55 up), for Wood Ducks(one up and 5 ready to go), a mansions for the Purple Martins, but have never thought to carry on about it because it just seems like the right thing to do. It seems like taking credit for breathing. Maybe we are wrong about that And are keeping our light under a bushel basket. Those who know us well and spend any amount of time out here know we spend a huge amount of time creating a wonderful environment for our fellow creatures. Perhaps our philosophy is more Native American in our reverence for everything in our environment, and do not need a special label. The best part of the whole “putting up bird boxes” brochure was they pictured a House Finch (they don’t seek out bird boxes but will be perfectly content in your hanging basket or in a Spruce).
We are perhaps guilty of taking for granted our sustainable practices on this farm, we are also terrible at tooting our own horn. This is what goes on here on a regular basis: careful placement of Bluebird boxes around the farm, away from primary English Sparrow locations, regular scouting of these boxes to keep them clean and make note of who has nested where and how many times for the season; maintenance of hedgerows, preserving food sources for native wildlife (like dogwood and blueberry) but eliminating invasive species such as bittersweet and multiflora rose; leaving corn standing or just knocked down for the turkeys and migrating geese to feed on; planting winter rye and vetch for erosion control, nitrogen fixing, winter browse for birds; scouting and notation of ground nests (turkeys, killdeer…) in cropping areas to ensure safe perimeter; the highest scrutiny of any chemicals (organic or conventional) and their effects on humans and wildlife — especially our amphibians; (oxymoron alert) maintenance of natural wildflower buffer strips for the butterflies and other insects that share our space.
As a side note, we have several farmer friends that have a policy of every coyote, squirrel, rabbit, and crow is shot on site. Glenn thinks we are able to coexist with these farm menaces because we allow them to maintain their own balance. The predators will balance out with the prey. We do not feel we can do this better than nature, and perhaps we are willing to accept a certain amount of loss that may be unacceptable to others. Planting the deer’s favorite vegetable near our active areas is a better idea than is the most isolated field. You get the idea.
Anyway, I think our friend has it right, most people want to hear about what your good farming practices are, and we should not assume they are the practices of every farm — even if they should be. I know I write about the wildlife often, but humility prevents me from taking any credit. Having said that, in our town, there is no bigger flock of turkeys, or more interesting birds, and that is no accident. I will give the credit to my farmer husband who is not only a phenomenal grower, but a compassionate steward of the land.