Sometimes it takes a little space to create perspective. This time of year, everything grows very fast, and after a weekend away, things are much bigger and more vibrant upon our return. The farm is entering the period of riotous abundance that will continue unabated through the end of November when the cold weather returns. From here on out, successions of plants will grow, flower/fruit and wither, replaced by the next cycle.
Flowers are in full glory and the bees and other pollinators are out in force. The audible hum they make creates a giddiness and fervor for the work to be done. The buzzing goes in the ears and seems to get into the veins, a lifeforce transmission that inspires the efforts of the farmer. It is a joy to partake in the tides of spring!
We are excited to have begun a new journey with bees; Amber did an amazing job of facilitating their process, getting them settled into their new home. They seem happy and are busily working away, I am delighted to sit and watch them zoom in and out of their hive to the flowers all around the garden. They love the blooming mustard and seem as infatuated by the tulips as I am.
We are prepping and planting, trying to stay ahead of the rapid growth in the hoophouses by getting plants out into their final homes as fast as possible. We’re moving towards the last plantings of spring crops, with the first summer varietals already starting to go in. The bulk of summer squash are out, as are the scallions, leeks, broccoli, collards, cauliflower, and most of the kale. Some successions of greens have already come and gone, with more in the pipeline. Tomatoes, cannabis, peppers, eggplant, okra and basil are all waiting in the wings, up-planted into larger pots and bulging the tables and racks in the hoophouses.
This year we’ve done a good job of making use of available space, closing in on the desired choreography. Farming can be an elegant dance or an offbeat dischord of missteps, sometimes it is both at the same time. Each trip around the sun offers us the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and to become better farmers, and this year it feels like things are coming together in ways that we have dreamed of in the past. It is a good feeling.
The chickens that we are raising for meat are growing rapidly and are enjoying the fresh pasture they receive each time we move the chicken tractors. We started with these birds much earlier than we have in the past, which was tricky through the cold, wet period but now allows them to spend a much greater portion of their lives on green pasture. The laying hens are also out on pasture now, and we’ll be using the Toyota to tow their coop to fresh space pretty soon.
Mobile infrastructure gives us the ability to raise chickens on pasture, and regular movement creates opportunity for soil building and provides the birds with the best possible forage. Moving animals in concentrated fashion means that the growing grass is eaten down and fertilized with manure. When forage is cut, the roots of the plants self-prune to match the above-ground growth, which adds organic matter and tilth to the soil. This rotational process accelerates soil building and facilitates greater water-holding capacity over time.
We enjoy animal husbandry very much, and even more so when we see the beneficial effects over time on the ground that the animals pass over. It takes learning and practice to be able to get it right; too much time in one place means that the forage will be cut too short and the soil scratched up by chicken feet. Too little time and we won’t have enough spaces to move them before coming back around to the first location. If the ground hasn’t had enough time to recover, then we end up doing damage instead of regenerating. We are learning as we go, with seed and straw for areas that need a little support when we make a mistake. It is good to learn the lessons over time, and we are glad for the journey!