gardens, chickens, and trucks

  

 The sweet rocket and spirea are beginning to bloom, and the wild geranium, AKA crane’s bill, is big mounds of green with hundreds of pink flowers held above the leaves like sugar flowers on a cake.  The sun shone today, and we think spring has finally made up its mind to stay.  About time, too; average last frost around here is May 15, and it will be time to put out tomatoes very soon.

   The last two crates of potatoes went into the ground today.  S-4 lay a furrow with the BCS and S-5 dropped the seed potatoes, small ones with sprouts which Mama and D-2 sorted this morning, sitting by the door of the ‘cave’, our dirt basement under the house addition.  The potato sprouts had grown like a network through the crated potatoes, and we teased them apart with as little damage to the sprouts as we could manage.  D-2, who is six, noticed the delicate lavender spots on the waxy white and pale green of the sprouts, like the spots on an orchid, or the exotic coloring of some tentacled deep-sea creature, pretty, and one of the experiences that makes family farming worthwhile. 

   Well!  Our 4WD pickup is now totaled, and we are glad that the boys kept and repaired the old red one.  What is a farm without a truck?  For some unknown reason the insurance on this ancient vehicle is outrageously expensive, but after we get new tags for it, we will get it insured until the Lord sends us a replacement for the other truck.  We are grateful that the boys, and our wonderful neighbor Barry, were not injured in the accident, which, we note here, was not our fault.

  Without the truck, we have left the BCS up at the convent until we are all done with that garden.  Now that the potatoes are all in, it will need two cultivations to keep down weeds, and maybe another mid-summer so that the potato tops are easy to find when we harvest.  Half our seed potatoes were cut from the best and biggest potatoes last year; half were small potatoes uncut.  There is some disagreement around here about which will produce the strongest plants and the best crop of tubers, so we will keep track of how the harvest comes out.

   For the record, the fingerling potatoes we planted experimentally last year are good potatoes, but did not, so far as we could see, outproduce our russet, Yukon Gold, or white potatoes, as they were touted to do.  Fingerlings are not really easier to process, which is what we had hoped from their long, narrow shape; although this made them easier to slice for hash, it also makes a greater surface area to have to scrub.  Consequently, we did not plant fingerlings this year.

   We must find a better way to get our extra eggs to consumers.  The farmers’ markets won’t open until June, so we mean to strike a deal with one of our town friends:  she fronts our eggs to our other customers, and she gets two dozen free for herself.  With gas at $4.15 a gallon, we need to cut trips to town to a minimum.  In that vein, the men are refurbishing all of the family bikes.  Town is near enough for some of us to bike to mass and the library, as long as we can manage the long steep hill back home.

   This morning while we stood on the back deck hanging laundry on the two long pulley-lines out there, among the many noises of woodpecker across the valley, bluejay nearer to home, and song sparrow like a tiny silver bell, we were puzzled by a regular, deep thumping noise, traced after a little looking around to Bridget.  She and the cow had been turned out on the right of way – our driveway over to neighbors’ – where the poultry tractor presently housing the turkey poults is sitting.  Bridget never loses an opportunity to scrounge, and the thumping sound was the roof of the tractor box lifting and being dropped, over and over, in the pony’s attempt to get into the tractor and eat the wild game feed we are starting the turkeys on.  S-5 went down and put a big rock on the roof, spoiling Bridget’s game.

   This afternoon the boys worked on the old pickup, which, since its transformation into a flatbed, needed new brake lights, etc.  S-4, who loves to drive, took the tractor out on the field and picked up the rock piles we have made all spring, whenever we were out there with time on our hands.  That hillside, besides being wet and mucky, is also a garden of rocks.  It is almost unbelievable to us, when we look at the steep upper pasture which was cleared of brush most recently, that the thick turf of the lower slopes ever looked like that.  Big rocks, five to a square foot, cover the ground, and what isn’t rocks is coarse weeds , multiflora rose, and sumac stumps; but just so were the lower slopes just a few years ago.  Rotational grazing alone would eventually clothe this slope with grass; with help from us, taking off rocks and using the Stihl with the rotary blade to take out the multiflora rose (Beth would prefer goats), we will see improvement in the pasture even sooner.  The rocks collected are used for projects, like a border on the flower beds by the porch, or as fill to stop the erosion of creek banks.

   The bees were in the lavender and catmint while the sun shone hot, and in the lilacs, apple trees, redbud, spirea; soon there will be lemonbalm as well.

   I hear a mouse in the kitchen. 

   There.  Now we’ve set a trap; the little sneaks are not allowed in my kitchen, although it would be understandable if they thought they had an engraved invitation to dinner in my kitchen every  night, considering the crumbs dropped there.  Not even twice-a-day sweeping, which is the rule, if not the fact, can keep the floor crumb-free; and there is always the open bag of broiler starter in the basement for the CRX’s, to make the mice think this is a banquet hall set out just for them.

   On the garden front, there was weeding today, and tomorrow we will put the seedlings outside for hardening off.  We think we can safely set them in a sunny place if we put a row cover over them.  Ususally they go in the woodshed for a day, then in the half-shade under a maple tree, before we trust them in the open garden, but floating row covers are recommending themselves to us more and more, and this seems a good use for them.

   Tomorrow is supposed to be fine, and there will be much barning.

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