Setbacks and Opportunities

We’ve had a couple of setbacks thus far this spring. Our first planted plot of carrots seems to be especially slow in germinating. There’s a few poking through the soil in spots, but given the fact that it’s been two weeks, it’s starting to seem like it may not materialize. Our first four beds of beets are a bit slow as well, as large perennial weeds fill the space in the beds. We finally got our first round of transplants into the ground following the late freeze, but the kale and cabbage seem to have taken exceptionally poorly to the transplanting, due to factors mysterious.

Was it the fact that we planted the kale directly into mulch and compost? Maybe. We haven’t tried this before, so that’s a possibility. However, the cabbage was seeded directly into soil, and is reacting similarly. Was it the hardening off process? Should they have had another week outside in their trays before making the transition? Maybe. Was there a lack of water upon planting, given the dryness of the soil, and warmer days? That seems pretty likely. In hindsight, we probably should have hand-watered them that first day. At any rate, we are going to lose some kale, and our first planting of carrots may be bust. Fanni seeded a rescue planting of kale in the greenhouse yesterday, and Danny planted another plot of carrots. It shouldn’t be the end of the world, as our lettuce heads, peas and green onions look wonderful, and radishes should be taking off any day.

Plus, our bed prep process keeps improving, and we’ve been able to get an early start on weed deterrence; both good signs for the future of the season. Even more exciting are the long-term developments. Asher got our fence up and running, and we’ve got three skittish cows in the northwest paddock. Logan’s got twelve pigs and a handful of ducks rotating in a series of six paddocks near the barn. Polly is building a chicken tractor for some egg infrastructure. She’s also gotten a great deal on a bunch of perennials, including honey berries, currants and blueberries, and some roses for our border with the neighbor. I’ve been able to get a bunch of comfrey planted in various spots around the farm, and we’ve gotten a bit of maintenance work in on the strawberries and the nursery. Things still look a bit wild in spots, but that’s the nature of the nature.

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The longer we farm, the more I realize how little we’ve actually farmed. A part of me desires the ease and effectiveness of systems I’ve experienced on more established farms. The fact is, we’ve got some growing pains and lessons to work through, and that’s okay. I’m coming to trust in the process, and in my counterparts on the land. Our experience has proven to me that we have the resilience to buckle down in tough times, the open-mindedness to adapt to new proposals and methods, and the knowledge and desire to work towards the development of land that will suit us well into the future.

I can imagine that future — when our big fall harvests include plums, apples and a broad assortment of berries, and we harvest a bulk of our medicines right along with our food. I can imagine some easing of the vegetable work as our soil health improves and weed pressure transforms and diminishes. I can imagine a lightened economic burden as our principal payments decrease, and loan eventually gets paid off. I can imagine creativity, art, imagination and recreation among the animals and trees. It’s happening. Slowly but surely, we’re working towards that. For now, though, I do love the work. My body loves the digging and hauling and pounding and cutting. I love the sweat and the blisters. I even love the opportunities to learn from things that didn’t turn out quite right. Something tells me my older self will be grateful for the lessons and memories. I suppose that depends how sore I end up getting.

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