Or, in this case, farming, which to me is the ultimate hard-core act of sustainable living. A few weeks ago I read a great memoir called The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball. She was a NYC writer in a rent-controlled apartment who met a self-taught farmer while on a writing assignment, fell for him, and move to upstate New York to start a farm from the ground up. The book covers the good and the bad, talking about the fun of making your own cheese with the worry about money when your bank account reads nearly zero. She doesn’t romanticize or sugar coat the hard work that she and her fiance (now husband) put into starting a farm from scratch, but you get the sense that she truly feels its worth it – she’s traded the security and lifestyle of NYC for a simpler life where they grow their own food and were able to develop a year-round CSA model that provides a complete diet to their members – they have bees, chickens, pigs, cattle and dairy cows. They even use draft horses to plow the five acres in which they grow vegetables. It got great reviews online, and I picked it up thinking, “Even when the garden expansion seems overwhelming, it will never be as much work as this.” Heck, we don’t even have pets, never mind dairy cows that need milking or pigs we have to slaughter.
There’s a plan to start some of the seeds this weekend, requiring a trip out to pick up some new supplies. J has some new things he wants to try, namely grow lights. We’ve already been using covered trays and seed mats for heat. This year we also have a new baker’s rack, assembled and waiting in the basement. We’ll have more trays of seedlings this year, based on the expanded, ambitious garden plans, and it will be easier to move them from their daytime home on the sun porch back into the kitchen if we have the rolling rack. The tentative plan is to start the eggplants and peppers now, staggering the rest of the seeds (tomatoes, squash) based on our target planting date of Memorial Day weekend. We’re currently debating whether to put the peas, beans and cucumbers directly into the ground or not. We did decide that the corn, pumpkins and watermelons are going directly into the ground one to two weeks before our big planting weekend. J is planning on creating furrows in the garden and we’re going to buy hay for insulation during the germination period. In the past we’ve used weed block, but last year’s heat and dry weather shredded the material and we ended up weeding once a week anyway. We’re going to try and keep the weeds down with the hay and some good old-fashioned hoeing. I also think it’s an excuse for him to buy some other piece of equipment to attach to the tractor for the plants in the open field. Did I mention that we might need to build a new and larger shed this year?
Tonight the alpine strawberry seeds are going in the freezer – in order to mimic nature and what they would experience if they were outside all winter it is recommended you stick them in the freezer for 4 -6 weeks prior to planting. I have been reminding myself for weeks that I need to do this, and finally decided tonight was the night; it will be easier to remember the date I did it since today is the start of the month. Depending on the rate of germination, I might sow them directly into the raised beds that have yet to be constructed, or I might start seedlings in about a month. My research shows they can be somewhat susceptible to frost, so they’ll be going in the ground around Memorial Day either in seed or seedling format.
A lot of this is guess work and trust in others’ research and experiences. Our favorite phrase around here is, “It’s an experiment.” So far it’s worked out fine (except for those blasted pumpkins!) but I can’t help but feel at some point there will be a failure. We’ll see. It’ll probably be those strawberries I’ve spent so much time thinking about. They’ll probably get frostbite in my freezer.