07 Mar Countdown ’til Spring
Only 13 more days until the Spring Equinox, but who’s counting?! Here at the farm we’ve been wondering what this spring will hold after such an arctic, snowy and elongated winter.
Despite what we see with our eyes, the calendar tells us Spring will come. It must, and it will! We move forward as best we can with our plans – all the while our eyes on the weather and our hearts hoping for a spring thaw without over-saturated fields.
Farming is a constant shuffle – a continuous dance – between the world as it should be (according to plan) and the world as it is (reality which includes unknowns like weather, plant and insect life cycles, and time).
Along with planning for the season ahead, winter work consists of much needed farm repairs, maintenance and building. While the snow continued to pile up and ice crept in, we replaced the end-walls and plastic on one of our propagation greenhouses, purchased a new hot water heater to supply radiant heat for seedlings, and filled the tanks with propane.
After an inspiring conference with soil guru Elaine Ingham on the topic of compost and the soil food web, we came home and covered our compost windrows with covers in order to shed excess moisture.
We rebuilt our farm wagons, serviced the tractors and unfortunately took down the remnants of a high tunnel that collapsed under the loads of snow and ice.
Farming is a venture that not only lays bare all of ones mistakes and missteps in the face of nature, but brings one face to face with the impermanence of all things – attachment to anything (even plans) is not advised.
We started the season’s seeding on February 11th, with rootstock tomatoes for grafting and storage onions. They were quickly followed by our first successions of lettuce, brassicas, spinach, arugula, and heirloom tomatoes.
As the propagation house fills, the cold weather continues. We look out onto the fields and ask: When? When will it happen? How will our plans work out? We reference records, go on experience and hope for the best, all the while keeping a positive attitude. Nothing is certain and everything is fair game. We continue to seed.
Tom and Tricia are diligently revisiting farm harvest records, and detailing and tweaking the farm’s systems. Farming is all about relationships. Whether it is the connections between soil microbiology and plant health, weather and crop yields, cultivation practices and insect and weed pressure- everything is interconnected in an intricate and diverse web. It is the farmer’s job to understand those relationships and to create the best conditions for life to survive and thrive.
One example of this is to provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects. The use of flowering cover crops like Sweet Alyssum to attract bees as well as predatory insects, or the practice of intercropping flowers with cash crops like lettuce and peppers, works in concert with natural rhythms and cycles to encourage a balance. Diversity leads to flexibility, which in turn creates resilience and increases the farm’s ability to rebound after a “crisis” like extreme weather.
Similar to the webs alive and active on the farm, we all have a unique role to play – each of us holding a place that is different but important. So, as we push forward – inching ever so slowly toward spring and then summer – we continue to straddle these two worlds of planning and reality. And we will continue to do our best to support your journey toward better health, a connection to the source of your food, and the creation of community. I’ll use this as a shameless plug for our CSA: if you haven’t already, please sign up!
Despite the conditions outside, we are planning another righteous season at Blooming Glen and hope that you will join us in this radical adventure of agriculture.
Written by Jen Malkoun, assistant manager at Blooming Glen Farm. Photographs and editing by Tricia Borneman. Other photos contributed by Tom Murtha and Jen Malkoun.