I always know spring has arrived because I feel it deep in the muscles of my body. That first week of good weather always bring a mad rush of work, creating an ache that encompasses everything from the toes up through the shoulders and out to the fingers. Spring makes the body hurt like no other time of year, a reminder that the good things in life must often be paid for in sweat equity.
There is a simple joy that comes from a day’s hard work. Farming is one long series of these joyful interludes, but it is important not to spend too much time looking at the longer picture, for it is easy to be overwhelmed. This morning is the first day that the spring soreness is beginning to wear off, as my body accepts the physical effort of the work and rises to the challenge. Just like the days after the first sports practice in high school, the stiffness and soreness fade into a limber capacity for heavy, physical labor.
We are prepping beds, sowing seeds and transplanting out the first crops of the year, even as the last harvests of winter crops carry us forward into spring. We are glad for the coming of the Equinox this week, and the lengthening days provide opportunity to accomplish much. There is so much time to get work done that a person has to be careful not to overdo it; though it is not yet hot, the sun has enough warmth to it to give a light heat stroke to those who are not careful at this time of year (I know because I did it a couple days ago).
Our bed prep methodology has a series of steps to it that, when followed, yields a stellar planting space and sets up the best likelihood of bringing in a good crop. We have two attachments for the BCS walk-behind tractor, first we use the flail mower and then a power harrow. The first step in the process is to make sure that there are no rocks, sticks, wire, fence posts or other obstacles on the beds. Then we run the flail mower over the bed to chop up the cover crop and drop it flat on the surface, where it will be incorporated later. Next we add amendments and compost, and then we run the power harrow to stir the top inch of soil. This achieves good contact for the chopped cover crop, accelerating decomposition. At this point, we cover the beds for three weeks with silage tarp or light dep plastic to allow time for the cover crop to decompose and the weed seeds in the beds to germinate and die.
After enough time has passed, we uncover the beds and broadfork them to loosen the deep soil profile. We don’t flip the soil, just loosen it enough to provide some aeration and help create pathways for plant roots to reach deep into the earth in search of nutrients and water. Then we rake the beds, lay out the drip irrigation and put up the low tunnels which are made of hoops bent from lengths of ½” metal conduit and a baling wire purlin that wraps each hoop and runs the length of the row, staked at each end with a piece of rebar.
Yesterday we planted the first two terraces with trays of boc choi, tatsoi and head lettuces. Some of our beds are narrow 24” tops, while many are 42”. Everything that will hold cannabis at some point during the season is the wider format, which is effective for large spring plantings of greens and is the best size for us to cover with the quick hoop rows. For the earliest plantings of greens we don’t worry about leaving space for cannabis because the greens will be harvested before cannabis goes in. For later plantings, we leave a space where each cannabis plant will be placed as soon as we have the sex test results.
Spring is a time of excitement, a quickening of the blood that I imagine is a similar to the feeling the trees get when the sap starts to rise. Buds are beginning to swell on the oaks and the fruit trees, and the first daffodils are breaking forth into brilliant displays. We planted dozens of new bulbs this winter that have been delayed by the heavy snows of February, so we wait with patient excitement for their coming in the next couple of weeks. The manzanita are in full bloom, and on these warm days the bees are out gathering nectar with their buzzing tunes of vibrant life. We exist in the joy of land husbandry, excited for the season to come. Much love and great success to you!