Our asparagus seeds sprouted yesterday. They are the most tender, delicate little wisps of sprouts. They make me want to hold my breath for fear of maybe toppling them with an exhale. We’ve got two varieties going: Mary Washington and Precoce D’Argenteuil. Jeremy and I have never grown asparagus before and don’t know exactly what to expect, but the seed catalog describes the Mary Washington as a “popular variety” with “long green spears.” The fancy, frenchy one is an “old heirloom variety” that also does well as a blanching asparagus. These both are from Baker Creek.
From seed, asparagus take 3 years to develop before they can be harvested for eating. Or you can start asparagus from crowns, or root stalk, and harvest after two years. Despite the additional wait, we chose to start asparagus from seed because we couldn’t find asparagus crowns we liked. What we found available as crowns were either hybrid asparagus or patented, hybrid asparagus. Hybrid seeds are common in mono-crop operations; hybrids don’t allow flexibility for evolution, resilient innovation, and diversity. We’ve been intentionally selecting open-pollinated varieties for seeds – avoiding hybrids and patented seeds – and didn’t want to be growing asparagus we couldn’t even save seed from. And as regards saving seed: asparagus are gender binary. I’ve been reading. Most of these books suggest growing only male plants. Because they spend energy on seed production, the female spears are often scrawny and they make for over-crowded beds – crowded with new shoots from all their seeding. Despite these suggestions, we’ll commit to doing a little extra weeding so that we can keep some matriarch asparagus and have seed to save.
On a walk around with the dogs this morning we think we may have identified a pretty sort of dead-flower-stem thing that’s up and about all over the irrigation ditch and in with the spruce trees. Is it chicory? The only plant ID guides we can find are of flowers in bloom. To me, it seems like if you were to give one of the chicory plants in these photos a big spoonfull of South Dakota winter, it would end up looking a lot like one of these dead-flower-stem things. (Mollie, what are your thoughts? – please say yes. Jeremy is very excited about chicory coffee.)
On this same walk around, we noticed the grapes have started to peak out little fuzzy buds. Little, bitty ones. Oh boy. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, this is our signal to get out there and prune. Shears ready, shears sharpened. Jeremy and I have been getting a bit stir crazy, with the ground still frozen and so much work to do. This is the onset of spring’s irreversible torrent; flushed out of the eddy, we are straight in the thalweg now.
And lastly, but heavens, not leastly. Certainly not. Our most favorite fuzzy muppet, Amelia, is visiting for the next month. Amelia and Radish are getting along fantastically – play time has not stopped since she got here. Two big, happy farm dogs. One little, bitty farm house. The rugs are all overturned, the furniture is in disarray, the doors are scarred, absolutely everything is dusted in dog fur, and our sides are sore from enjoying the mayhem. Jeremy and I got a chance to spend six (7?) months with Amelia a couple years ago while her man, Barton, rode his motorcycle through Eastern Europe and across Russia. Now he’s headed up a volcano in the Andes, and Amelia is our first farm guest. Having the world’s two most ridiculous dogs, Radish and Amelia, is everything irresistible and fun. Need a little puppy-time pick-me-up? You ought to stop by Cycle Farm for a visit with Radish and Amelia. Spirit lifters. No appointment necessary.