spring gardening and chicken soup

Thursday, April 19:

All the seedlings in the greenhouse suddenly need to be pricked out to flats.

We start small seeds (tomato, pepper, basil, and so on) in four-inch pots, as many as one hundred seeds to a pot, and prick them out to flats filled with a potting mix of compost/builder’s sand/soil in equal parts when they are just beginning to show true leaves.  Tool of choice – fork.  The kind you eat with.  Label of choice – plastic knife.  The kind you use at picnics.  We write the seedsman’s name, the type of seed, and the date planted on the blade of the knife with an indelible ink pen.  Simple.  Cheap.  Our flats are ancient things cobbled together about fifteen years ago out of green lumber and salvaged nails, and they are beginning to fall apart, but we are still using them and they will probably hold up for one more year.

Cold mornings, warm evenings, and no rain.  The grass in the pasture is green and beautiful, but it isn’t growing very fast.  Farming promotes a sense of contingency, a good thing if we are to maintain a relationship with either God or the earth – in either case you can only affect your outcome just so much.  You just have to take what comes, and either accept it, or give up.  Our experience so far agrees with what we believe on faith:  a disaster is an event you haven’t seen to its conclusion.  There is still hay in the barn, so if we have to take the animals off the pasture in a week, we’re ready for it.

The fall-planted garlic is knee-high and beautiful; the seedling onions are putting up a valiant struggle, but you still need your reading glasses to see them.  The water-hog by the white barn, the one we use to irrigate the lower garden, is mysteriously empty, so we drew water by the bucketful at the outlet of the culvert on Jeddo’s run and hand-watered the onions.  Nothing else is planted in that garden yet, or we’d still be hauling water.  In the raised beds by the house the spring greens are doing so well that we fill a salad bowl thinning six row-feet of buttercrunch.  The beets aren’t quite big enough for thinning, and the carrots are coming on very slowly indeed.  We’ve never had a whole lot of success with spring carrots, but we water these assiduously, and hope for the best.

We enjoyed an unexpected chicken dinner last week when the Father, driving an invasion of hens out of the big garden, and with unexpectedly accurate aim, clocked a hen on the side of the head and removed her permanently from the egg brigade.  Surprised him and everybody else.  Sadly, it was one of the Black Australorps, of which we have such high hopes as layers and mothers.  At least we are now in a position to say that they make great chicken soup.

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