Little green things in the greenhouse are faring the snow and cool temperatures fantastically. Radishes are just starting to bulb up. Lettuces are thrilled. Spinach and arugula, standing tall. And the potatoes are on exhibition, lined up like glowing, spring-break sunbathers reclining on sun-kissed, sandy beaches.
We did, however, end up bringing the tomato starts inside. After watching the temperature in the greenhouse continuously fall earlier last week, and because we haven’t finished building the north cob wall (no thermal mass), and we don’t have a door on the east end, we finally tucked our chins and shuffled the tomato trays inside. It’s tough playing chicken with mother nature, nerves of steel, she never swerves. The tomatoes would likely be absolutely fine in the greenhouse. If the potatoes are alright, the tomatoes should fare well too. Everything is under rowcovers at night, wrapped snug in a blanket of good intentions. We are no doubt being unduly nervous. Weak nerves partner well with lack of experience and fierce desire to share a bumper crop of tomatoes with our wonderful CSA members. (We still have a few CSA shares left, please contact us soon if you’d like to join us for a season of farm fresh vegetables).
And our roommates.
We are feeling very grateful for the surge of moisture. In planting fruit trees last week, it was unnerving to see how dry the soil was. Hopefully, our rich, healthy, no-till soil will work some magic moisture retention and keep going strong for our early plantings, before the irrigation ditch is turned on in May.
The snowy, inside days offered us a good chance to process honey. We collected honeycomb from Anna and Lara’s empty hives a couple weeks ago. The combs were cut off the top bars and collected in 5-gallon buckets. We ended up with almost 80 lbs of honeycomb. The next step was crushing the comb to release the honey. Larger operations will use a machine called a ‘honey extractor’, a barrel centrifuge that spins the comb around, pulling honey out. But, on our scale, crushing the comb works just as well and is five hundred million times more fun. The comb is crushed by hand over a sieve which separates the wax comb from the honey. The honey drips down into a bucket. We’ll offer the crushed wax bits with relic honey back to Lolita; the bees should be able to clean up whatever honey is left.
We have loaded up flats of starts of bee-friendly flowering plants. If we have enough food sources here for our bees, it may reduce the amount of time they have to spend foraging off-farm in areas where neighbors in the valley might be chemically treating their lawns and gardens. We need to do a better job encouraging/educating folks to avoid using neonicotinoids and similar chemicals that harm honey bees, native pollinators, and other insects. And plant bee balm and Phacelia instead. But how do you do this when people have been treating their lawns since forever? and they love their thick, green manicured grass, mowing it, faithfully, every weekend? and the TruGreen lawn care truck is cruising the neighborhood, sprayers drawn like sabers, a fierce knight defending the neighborhood lawns from the dragons of a flawed green mat? Please don’t treat your lawns. The decline in bee populations (honey bee and natives) is a serious and urgent issue in terms of food security and land health. Not to mention honey production. They need our support. So please, plant for the bees.
Other recent farm activities include: fence repair, filing farm taxes, tool maintenance and repair, cleaning the garage and Pemberly, rescuing the bags of chicken feed from an onslaught of hungry mice, more fence repair, digging holes for fruit trees, seeding successions of lettuces and brassicas, weeding in the greenhouse, research into health insurance plans and cool-bot refrigerator designs, coochi-cooing the chickens. And fence repair, again.
Almost entirely unrelated: It’s occurred to us that the website has become a repository of pretty farmy photos and cheery stories. We don’t do a very good job of conveying the especially trying parts of our days. We try to be honest, I think we do a good job. But, by nature, Jeremy and I also are both more comfortable focusing on the positives. So we post photos of vegetables.
Transparency is important, but it’s also easier to communicate face-to-face, face-to-farm – it’s harder to write about. There is a remarkable amount of stress associated with growing food and running a small business, it seems everyday we’re discovering new aspects of this stress. Farming involves more aches and aggravations, more worries, uncertainties, and disappointments than either of us has ever dealt with before. It’s frustrating and humbling and utterly exhausting. On the flip side, this is also absolutely the most rewarding work we’ve ever done, the most challenging puzzle. It is always the best way to spend a day. Working with nature to grow food feels sacred and uplifting. And as food producers and land stewards, we are able to engage with and serve our community in a way that’s pretty damn magical.
So as regards full disclosure, here’s a list of some of the things we don’t have pretty pictures of: The deer are inspiring mutterings of full-spectrum colorful language these days. We have just laboriously installed a very expensive, yet, it seems, entirely decorative, deer fence. We could really use some lessons in marketing. And fence construction. The greenhouse is nearly twice as expensive as we initially budgeted. We have bare-root trees that need to go in the ground immediately, and we have 2′ of snow. The male guinea is bullying our hens so badly, most have beaten tail feathers and bald backs. We’re considering guinea stew. Or kebabs. Farm financial feasibility study is in review, needs serious work.