Color and Nutrients at the Ready

Some days I go through the daily motions of farming with a constant dialogue running in my  head that I would like to transfer to pen and paper (or keyboard and screen).  I particularly feel this when the light is golden and low in the sky, I’m running from task to task and get to see a lot of beauty in a short time.  We don’t have  a lot of animals here at the farm, but they are often ripe fodder for this sort of introspection.

"You don't look like one of my babies."

I think it is really important to have a diverse farmscape that includes plants and animals.  The animals offer an energy of their own, that is different from human energy, that we get to feel and learn from.  The sheep, chickens, and summer pig crew also balance land use in a really healthy way.  The sheep will graze what we can’t garden and this summer the pigs will work up a piece of the woods in the first step of converting some of it back to field space.

But my desire to have sheep on the farm landscape goes back to long before I could understand the value of a flow of nutrients and diverse energy in a food raising environment.  When I was a young girl I remember going to the Common Ground Fair and having a strong attraction to the wooly creatures.  I would not have been at all disappointed if several of them landed in my family’s six acre field.  But they didn’t, and I had to wait until I was an adult to tend my first flock.  And in the interim my wish to take part in many layers of sheep care grew.  Now I can say that my skill set has grown too.   The latest addition to this role of Shepard has been dying wool.  The indigo has proved a challenge, but otherwise it looks like the Easter bunny arrived and dumped a bunch of dye on the newest batch of yarn that came off the flock.  Friend, Jen D., happily  helped with the process:

Jen Durgin at the dye pot

Jen, perhaps channeling the energy of historic agricultural family roots, could be overhead saying: ‘I wish I knew why I had such a thing for wanting to pet chickens.”

And with that, Henny Penny came running up to Jen – but note, she remained safely on the other side of the fence!  Apparently word wasn’t out that Jen is a devote vegetarian.

In more serious farm adventures, prior to today’s rain the back fields were drying out nicely and I was able to spread 97 yards (yes, exactly…. well, we’d like to think so) of well aged cow manure based compost on the two acres out back.  While the sheep flock does many things for us, it does not provide all the nutrients our vegetable crop needs, so I feel fortunate that there are other farms in our area that have a balance of nutrients in the other direction (more than their land can support) and are willing to share.  I had intended to take a nice sunny photo of the material flying out of the back of the spreader, but apparently I stayed too focused on my work to get the camera out before I finished.  Next step: tillage, and then our seasonal plastic structures are going up and the first outdoor crops will be planted.  I’m looking forward to it!

Just in case I hadn’t felt the stress clearly enough a few weeks ago, with the first seeds going in the ground I can officially say, the 2010 growing year has begun!  The first bok choi transplants will closely follow in the direct seeding footsteps.

And while they first starts grow, as always, Eat Well!

-Beth

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