Nights are getting chilly, and a few days ago, in the evenings, we started lighting the wood stove at Kendall’s house in town. It takes some skills. Paying attention to the mechanics of heating was never part of the mix in my few years of winter farm living. It was either central heating by oil furnace, or with electric space heaters, and both ways, really no different from city life convenience: adjust a thermostat or click a switch, pay the bill, and that was that. Pretty mindless.
Here in town with Kendall, natural gas central heating is the main heat source, but she offsets that as much as possible with good ol’ wood heat. So, oddly enough in my ongoing tiny farming career, it’s in an urban setting that I’m first learning how to build and feed a fire, adjust the air intake, get a feel for the draft in different weather conditions, safely dispose of the ashes and embers. And, of course, there’s the wood: bush cords and face cords, hardwood and softwood, well-seasoned vs. green, splitting and stacking, the never-ending quest for good kindling…
Just as your awareness of weather explodes with attention to detail and a certain urgency when you go from city supermarket life to growing food, the same thing happens when you become intimately involved with fending off the winter cold (especially here in Canada, where you can literally freeze to death!). Only a few days of casual evening fires in relatively mild temperatures, hovering around freezing, and already I’m hooked! So much to learn, so little time… :)
Another successful carrot germination event, with trusty, open-pollinated, heirloom Touchon, and our latest refinement in cover. Although this landscape fabric looks like the stuff we started with last year, it’s a heavier grade that doesn’t tear and become useless after one or two outings—it should last FOREVER, or, hopefully, for at least 10 uses, at which point, the cost will be near zero. This germination, in mainly hot, sunny weather, is exactly one week after seeding, with no watering in. Pretty good! Deprived of light, the seedlings are already stretching—I might’ve taken off the cover a day or two earlier if I’d checked—but they’ll be fine. And if you’ve used an Earthway seeder, and ever doubted the incredible amount of seed it can dump down, don’t (see above): I’d rather see all those carrots pushing up than too few, but the waste from overseeding is quite severe, and major thinning is in order, adding to the labor. Still, it’s all part of the joy of farming largely by hand… :)
Peas are coming along…once again. While the action in the field is familiar, this, my eighth season of tiny farming, is a particularly unusual one, way more about PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIPS, so far, than production. It will be interesting to watch… (The peas are trusty Sugar Ann edible pod—they haven’t failed me yet!)
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Here’s the new field, in various states of readiness. Up front, it’s only been plowed and disked, with big hunks of sod waiting to be busted up. Further off, the trusty Kubota compact tractor has done its thing with a 48″ rototiller, and the ground is nearly ready to go. This time around, more or less everything that’s early and direct seeded will go in at once, including a first planting of PEAS. New year, new garden—it will be interesting.
Today, it’s a warmish (57°F/14°C), overcast, gray day, with a light breeze. In the next week or so, the unheated greenhouse is to be relocated, set up, and outfitted to house hardier seedlings. All things considered, right now is a fine time to start this season’s hardening off… In early afternoon, we set outside trays of onion, cauliflower and broccoli, preparing them to head out from the cosy shelter of the seedling room to the real world. They’ll stay out till early evening, then it’s back in for a few more hours under the lights, and more of the same for the next few days. These first acts and sights of spring on a tiny farm never fail to excite (I think it’s the gambler in all of us)…
The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? That’s how it seems, in a soothingly familiar way, as seed starting 2010 really gets in gear at this new farm location. A little over two weeks since we set up the seedling room, and the fairly intricate task of managing dozens of crops and varieties and thousands of seedlings is on!
It can be a little complicated, keeping track of all the details, but it’s also…simple. Kendall, trying her hand at tiny farming-style veggie production for the first time, shows no fear with the sharp, little snips, as she learns about thinning onions (above). We’re multiplanting this set of onions, aiming for four per plug sheet cell. Since I used seed from last year—a common rule is that you should get allium (onion family) seed fresh each year to ensure good germination, but why waste?!—we went a little generous in the seeding. Germination was great, and now we need to remove the extras.
Next, Kendall’s on to another kinda critical seed-starting task: taking inventory of what exactly we’ve got going. That means a lot of counting and note-taking, and making sure the markers in the trays don’t get pulled out. Below, she tallies some of the 20 or so varieties of sweet and hot peppers that’re on for this season. For the new girl, it’s business as usual!