Planting our “Winter Gardens”

The vibrancy of farm life is pretty charged.  The here and now always provides more than enough to do, and plenty of sensory stimulation in this moment.  I often struggle to balance two parts of my personality – that which is always eager to move on to the next thing, and a self that wants to be thorough and finish a project completely, leaving no loose ends to look at tomorrow.  I’m not proud to admit, the former often wins out.  It so happens that in this head of mine, the grass is often greener…    This year I’m trying to rein this part of me, with good intention being put to living in the deep satisfaction of finishing a project before moving on to another.  Perhaps I’m making excuses, but in January, in particular, this isn’t easy.

This is a dreaming time of year on the farm.  As a friend once told me, this is when we plant out “winter gardens.”  These gardens are ripe with perfection: healthy crops, no weeds, the perfect amount of rain, and an ever smiling farm crew.  In the winter garden there is always enough time for everything.  But I smile as I type, because while I may still be a beginning farmer in many books, I’m not naive enough to believe this vision would ever be true.

Our Nurse Cows are busy this time of year

So this January I often allowed myself to live in that place of “other” as I balanced books, reviewed last season, ordered seeds, and started to put together the priority lists for 2012.  Indeed, Lee and I have created some more unfinished projects for ourselves, but hopefully we our planning have also gotten ourselves on a better track toward job completion.

For a clear head, Sunday farm planning needs to happen at the beach.

An ever evolving list – Here is some of what I was thinking about yesterday, in my plans for a fantastic 2012 winter and summer garden:

-Year round CSA:  All you can eat.  Full Dandelion – Straw farm diet.  We’d like to trial this project with 10 families starting in May.  More details to come.

– Irrigation.  On all of the home crop fields.

– A holding tank for water on top of the hill behind one of our larger garden plots.  A solar-powered pump in the pond at the base of said garden, to fill said tank.

– More season extension for crops.  A.k.a.: bringing more plastic to the farm for temporary and permanent hoop house structures.

– Real time production costs.  Real time pricing for food.  “Clucking In and Clucking Out” as we care for hens, feed pigs, etc.  We need more data.

– Maintenance schedules for equipment and vehicles

– The biggie:  A Dandelion-Straw business plan, for today…  setting ourselves up for a projected re-write to be completed in Spring of 2013, after another year of merged-farm settling.

– The biggie feeding an ever bigger item: A total farm refinance.  The financial management of a dairy farm that was purchased during a time of high interest rates, does not blend well with a diversified vegetable farm that has been managed under a different structure.   We can do better for ourselves, which will help secure the Dandelion Spring contributions to the property, and free up some much need energy – human and financial, to help with the afore mentioned project completion goals.  We’ve been holding the planning of this restructuring with care for the past year.  Soon it will be time for action.  You may hear more about this, too.

– After the big business plan, and the biggie restructuring, all other farm to-do list items seem pale by comparison.  There are sheds to build, barns to fix, perennials to start in the greenhouse,  documents with plant variatal descriptions and of seeding timing to create.

The sun is rising, and I best get busy.  I’m afraid it’s going to be another month when time goes quickly.

As always, I’ll be thinking of you, our community at the table,


    1. In 2011 my partner and I merged farms, and each kept our own business name: Dandelion Spring and Straw Farm. The Straw farm portion of our offerings include organic milk, eggs, beef, and lamb.

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