Harvest Day

Harvest Day
Winter crops

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February Made Me Shiver

I'm sitting at my dining room table, enjoying a cup of coffee while I listen to the wind whistling around the eaves of the house.  It is racing out of the northwest bringing some of the most frigid temperatures of the winter so far.  I'd like to say I have no worries about it despite last week's work of transplanting most of our spring garden into planting beds.  I'm not TRULY worried, just a bit concerned.  I assured Will this morning that I would never plant tender plants at the beginning of February and that all these crops are designed to weather the late winter cold, but after several weeks of what felt like spring weather it's hard not to have a twinge of anxiety about all the little seedlings out in this brutal chill.  Deep down I feel like they'll be okay.  And, the worst thing that could happen is that we would have to replace the ones lost--an expense to be sure, but not a deal breaker.  So, I sip my coffee and listen to the wind whistle.

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My friend, Alexis, gave birth to a baby girl this week.  She's in Washington, D.C. and this fresh bit of life is far from my reach, though my arms ache to hold her.  Her pictures online only hint at the softness of her delicate skin and that smell that only a new baby has, but it is enough to evoke all my grandmotherly longing for this tiny girl to hold while I rock.  And as I walked the gardens this morning, noting the tiny cabbage and lettuce plants bravely facing up to the wind and the fledgling onion plants, lined up as stiff as newly recruited soldiers, it was hard not to feel the parallel with Alexis' baby girl.  Every fiber of my being wanted to find some way to safeguard these baby plants, try to secure their future--just as I know Alexis would like to enfold her new daughter in a secure and guaranteed blanket of safety.  And just as I know there is no guarantee in this life, I also know that you make your best decisions and then you live with them.
The plants will stand a good chance against two nights of frigid temperatures because I planted them at the proper time and this weather is typical for this time of year.  And as for Alexis' baby girl?  She'll stand a good chance in life too because she has been born to a healthy mother in good circumstances and because she has two brilliant parents who will dedicate their lives to keeping her safe.

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Five days ago, I planted tomato and pepper seeds in small seed trays and was delighted to find that many of them had sprouted yesterday.  This is where being a plant-nerd comes in:  I find myself running back to the guestroom where my lighted seedling rack sits, looking at them every couple of hours to see how many have come up since the LAST time I looked.  There are no peppers up yet--they always take a good bit longer--but quite a few tomatoes are up.  We are only waiting for this cold snap to be over so we can begin planting potatoes.  The spuds can take the cold okay, but the farmers prefer to work in warmer weather!  And we have a beautiful flat of Swiss chard plants ready to go into their new garden home.  The snow peas and sugar snaps are looking spectacular and will not notice this cold front.  Baby spinach and baby beet plants will nestle down under frost blankets for the next couple of nights, along with some tiny, hair-like carrot seedlings.  Four days ago I sowed seeds of salad turnips, radishes, bok choy and broccoli raab.  They are safe underground, not sprouted yet.  So, despite the fury of a February cold front, the spring and summer gardens are well underway!

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We've been rehoming our chickens.  After 5 years of their daily needs taking precedence, we made the decision to find homes for them all and stop providing eggs with our CSA deliveries.  Though the decision has been a mixed bag of feelings, we are quite excited about not having that responsibility any more.  Aside from the time factor, there is a bit of expense that goes along with keeping a large flock of birds and it would be awfully nice to put those funds toward some other things.  And finally, the two chicken coops are strongly built structures that could be handily repurposed and add tremendously to our farm activities as a barn and as a potting shed.  Eight birds went to new homes today, four more will go tomorrow.  An additional six have been promised to someone else and I think the rest will be offered for sale.  Hopefully, we'll realize a handy little "nest egg" (haha, get it?) from their sale and can use it toward converting the two coops.  Every day now when Will sits down to clean the eggs, even though he still does this dirty task willingly and cheerfully, I know he is counting the days until he won't have to do this any more. He has done this close to two thousand times, and I think he is tired of it.  It has been a fun adventure to have this many chickens, and it has been rewarding on so many levels, but when it is time to move on it is best to do so.

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Though it was a bit disheartening to learn that we would have another bout of freezing weather before Spring, especially after all the balmy days just past, there is something comforting about being in our old house while the wind blows round it.  This house has seen 108 winters and feels as solid as any structure I've ever lived in.  Though there are some drafts and we must dress warmly thanks to the lack of insulation, it is cozy in its own way and feels like home.  Days like this make me want to cook--soups, pies, bread, pots of beans, pans of cookies.  Those aromas wafting about say "winter" to me, and winter is always a time in my life to plan for spring.  As surely as the cold drafts swirl about my sock-clad feet, the pear tree will bloom again, the dogwoods and azaleas will put on their show, and the spring garden will be filled with its verdant abundance.  All too soon we'll be longing for some relief from the relentless heat of summer and look back on days like today with fond regret.   Another layer of winter clothing might be in order before our day-end chores are done, but I'm going to allow myself to enjoy the biting feel of cold on my cheeks and try to remember the sensation so that come July I'll have a small haven in my mind to retreat from the sweltering heat.

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