Friday, April 9, 2010

How Badly Do You Want It?

My eyes are bigger than my garden. I think I can attribute this overambitiousness to Eliot Coleman's books Winter Harvest Handbook and the classic New Organic Grower. Eliot Coleman, whose brilliant designs and incredibly efficient systems yield fresh greenery all winter long (in Maine!) can be both inspiring and depressing when you are in my position.

As a farmer striking out on her own this year, I'm building everything from the ground up. I've got visions for implementing and improving on all of the good systems of Caretaker and Serenbe, but right now, I'm about as far from the fine-tuning stage as you can be. I'm still charging forward at full throttle, seeding flats even as I mentally scramble deciding where they will go. I'm watering plants in a shower with a showerhead, toting them back and forth from the bathroom as the sun or the woodstove dries them out. My planting “apprentice” is a three-year-old, whose primary task is to warn me if his one-year-old brother breeches my ottoman blockade and charges my growlights. A friend in Athol is babysitting eight flats of onions and two lettuce trays; as soon as I had sent them off, I seeded beets, cauliflower, peppers, parsley, and chives. My lights are full again.

Meanwhile, my greenhouse is in pieces, finally here, but still far from built. After a shipping snafu delayed what was supposed to be a Saturday delivery, I took matters into my own hands and drove to central New Hampshire to pick it up. For the record, a 17 x 20 foot greenhouse does fit in the bed of a Toyota Tundra—just not very gracefully.

Up at the farm, the rye grass that blanketed my field all winter is beginning to take off: thickening, greening, growing taller every day since the rains let off on Wednesday. I, meanwhile, am itching to till. Rye grass residue naturally impedes seed germination, which is great as a weed suppressant, but not so good when you need to start direct seeding soon. There are strawberries that need to be transplanted, equipment orders still to call in.

Three days a week, as part of our arrangement with Brendan and Katia, I take the 4 AM chore shift: feeding calves, shoveling manure, and watering pigs while someone else milks. Andrew takes three other mornings and all of the afternoons. We're all various states of crazy transition: from winter to spring, from Williamstown to Barre, from a small, cramped house to a new, dilapidated home that would intimidate even the folks of Extreme Home Makeover. Through all of this, we're learning to live together, to respect boundaries, to find time and space for rest.

And it is April. Let the games begin.

Note: this post was written on Monday, but due to a virtual absence of internet, it is only coming up now. Stay tuned for more news on the greenhouse, a lament on the rockiness of New England soil, and an ode to the wonders that are tractor-mounted rototillers. There may even be pictures (no promises)

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