gardening and artificial insemination

Monday, April 2:

There are so many signs of spring wherever we step that we will not test your patience by describing them, except to say that the phoebes have returned and their hoarse little two-note, see-saw cry is heard from early morning to late evening.  The peepers in the pond have nearly stopped singing.

Our weather has been unsettled, wet and cold alternating with dry, sunny days when the hoop houses have to be opened to prevent overheating.  Because of the intermittent sun, the ground is dry enough for cultivation in most of the gardens despite the rain we’ve been having; today we tilled the big garden a second time, to kill all those nasty little weeds that pop up by the thousands in spring.  Before the tiller could go through the peach orchard we had to move stray strawberry plants; we lifted them with trowels and returned them to the parent rows, dibbling small holes in the soil and filling them with water from our watering cans before setting the clumps in and pressing soil around the root.  D-1 was helping with this job for the first time, and was careful to set each crown no deeper in the soil than she found it.  Our strawberry crop is mostly converted to jam, an item in much demand around here outside the season of Lent.

S-3 completed his artificial insemination course last week and is now COBA certified.  This means he is qualified to breed cows; the purchase of a nitrogen tank and some semen straws will put him in business.  We ourselves and many of the local people with only a few cows are glad of his accomplishment, as our old A.I. man retired from business in December.   Our part of the state is mostly farmed by cattlemen who keep a bull, or dairymen who keep an A.I. man of their own, so a full-time inseminator runs short on work; but for a guy who likes to get out and see what land is for sale and how other people farm, it is a good part-time job.

Saturday morning was wet and cold; the Father, tired from a week indoors, defied the weather and took his high-powered weed-cutter for a walk.  We could hear him in the bee-yard buzzing like a giant insect himself.  The hill is steep there and the cows are seldom turned onto that grass, so it needs an occasional trimming to knock down the tall weed skeletons.  Raked, the yard looked almost civilized, and we transplanted vetch crowns into the bare spots to check erosion and feed the bees.  Inside the house other people, less indifferent to the weather, mended tools, tractor implements, and the greenhouse fan whose failure last week killed the tomato and pepper sprouts.  The cob oven was fired up and we baked seven two-pound loaves and five dozen rolls.  It was a full and productive day.

These next few weeks the work on a small farm starts gearing up from the slower pace of winter.  It is time to put the finishing touches on your garden layouts for the year, and to order any seeds you haven’t got yet (okra, for me).  We start seedlings in the greenhouse for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant – soon squash and cucumbers and pumpkins, too.  We won’t start any cabbage because we grow all ours in the fall, and broccoli is more trouble than it is worth to us, but we used to start these crops indoors right about now, too.  The rogue weeds in the salad gardens need to be pulled, and another succession of lettuce, spinach, beets, and carrots filled in.  It is time to check the bees again to make sure they aren’t thinking about swarming.

Baby Belle is bagging up – her udder is filling – and she looks like calving soon.

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