Picked up a small shipment of new plug sheets and webbed trays at the post office. I really stretch ‘em out, have some going for years—they’re reusable, but not incredibly tough, especially when you take them into the field for transplanting. Handle with care and all that, and replace as needed! These are 72-cell sheets, my basic standby. Bigger is generally better here (my other standby is 38-cells), but there’s only so much room under the lights: if you keep the timing tight, don’t leave things in there too long, they’re fine for just about any small seed. Waste no space!
Yep, the refractometer has arrived by mail! It’s quite exciting. This one is calibrated for the Brix scale—it indicates the amount of sugar and other dissolved solids in water. Drip a couple of drops of juice from the veg of your choice onto the screen, point at light, and peer through eyepiece to find out how nutrient-dense it really is (it’s a tool to see if we can measure results from this season’s remineralization plans). As easy and meaningful as it sounds? Well, we’ll see!
See the growing list of 50 Things I’ve Learned from Tiny Farming:
#8 – Remain calm: In tiny farming, you can indulge WORRY to the max. You can really work yourself into a frenzy. It’s usually about, well, the weather, people, money (specifically, stuff that has to be paid for), time, people, and…the weather. In that order. The big factor in outdoor farming that’s NOT present in a lot of lives, particularly when you’ve been living a largely indoor urban existence, is the DAILY effect of the WEATHER. Or really, Mother Nature in general: bad weather, disease, deer eating all your lettuce, zombies, all of the destructive things that an overwhelming, out-of-your-control force can deliver, just like that! Thinking about the possibilities can be…stressful, and that’s not to mention dealing with a tidal wave of so much to do, so little time. The COOL thing about farming: over time and your share of intense worry, you notice that things come and they go. You plant your crops over and over again, and here and there they get eaten before their time, and people sometimes fail to meet…expectations, money may get tight, deadlines get blown, but it’s all really not terminally terrible. If you’re still there, and the land is still there, you keep moving ahead, because that’s the game! The simple arc of the farming year makes obvious exactly where you are at any time, and what the next step is. Farming is unpredictable, but it is not fuzzy, there is always a clear result, one that you can hopefully, and usually, eat! So really, just keep farming and you will become increasingly calm as it sinks in by example that A) You really don’t have THAT much control, and B) It generally works out anyway. Sooner or later you’ll realize, the easiest thing to do is just…remain calm. :)
Snow that had been lingering, lingering, lingering, finally went in the last day or so (though there’s still ice on the water), and it’s on to the Spring Browns. From the growing season perspective, that’s called Progress! :)
For the record, this year’s seed catalog! It arrived in late December, and I’ve been thumbing through, but it’s still not well-worn—I pretty much know what I’m ordering. It’s as exciting as always to get the new catalogs, but a bit more symbolic now, start of a new season and all that, than it used to be at the beginning, when I pored over it for hours. Like anything else, do it for a while and it becomes…easier. Also once again for recent years, almost all of my seed will come from just this one place, William Dam, a family owned company not too far from here, that carries only untreated seed. Selection does the trick, service is great, and I like talking to them on the phone. High Mowing and, of course, Johnny’s, both relatively close (Maine and Vermont, to my Ontario), have a lot more in general, and High Mowing is 100% organic seed, but at the moment, I’m fine with Dam! Everyone’s farming has its flow!
Checking in on the winter greens mini-experiment. These guys have been through six weeks of up and down weather, balmy days well above zero (reaching 60-70°F/15-20°C on a sunny day in the hoophouse) , and many extreme freezing nights. So, how did it all do? The Bloomsdale spinach, uncovered (above), is fine, although after all that freezing and thawing, the taste and texture changes (good to eat, but probably wouldn’t sell). It wasn’t the plan, but this spinach can be trimmed back to see how new growth does in spring. The other beds, all brassicas (tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, mustards), left half uncovered, are completely toasted. Meanwhile, under a single layer of medium-weight row cover, arugula (below) is good, perky and quite tasty. Not the most extensive and scientific testing plan, but combined with the experience of harvesting through December and in mid-January, it’s a solid starting point for next winter’s goal of full-on, unheated winter greens production!