Yesterday morning I bought the seeds, slips and sets that will soon begin turning into the beginning of our gardens. But before I can plant, I must first fertilize the soil. So after a quick trip up to Longwood to visit Will, I pitched into one of the hardest tasks on the farm.
For hours yesterday afternoon I cleaned out the hen house. A year’s worth of litter and droppings had to be scraped and shoveled out, then spread on the gardens that will be used for legumes this year. It is a difficult and dirty job, but one that is absolutely essential to a sustainable farm. Of course it would be so much easier to just buy some synthetic nitrate fertilizer, or some “fish emulsion” or other such thing being passed off as “organic.” But instead, we maintain a sustainable cycle, returning to the soil that will give us vegetables, the manure and litter of the animals who live here.
This is the first year I’ve had to do this task without Will’s help. But Cherie and I got in done. The gardens on which we spread the litter will soon produce English peas, black-eyed peas and black beans. And we will be eating them and sharing them with others, all year. So I will consider it to have been a very productive afternoon.
I still have several essential tasks that must be completed before I return to the trial from hell. I must take the compost pile that we began well over a year ago, and spread it on the other gardens that will grow vegetables this year. Then I have to till all the gardens, blending and turning the compost and chicken litter into the soil and preparing the soil for planting. Before I can go back to the office, I will plant twelve to fifteen hundred row feet of English peas, 3oo row feet of broccoli, 100 row feet of onions, and 200 row feet of Yukon Gold Irish potatoes. I also have to find the time to prune the grapevines (a little late I know, but I’ve been kind of busy). Plus I have to eartag Judy and Sheena’s kids, and shuffle the goats into different pastures. And that is a lot harder than it sounds.
By the way, thanks to the Timm family coming on board, White Flint Farm will be returning to the Danville Farmer’s Market this year. Y’all come see us.
Once I was done cleaning out the hen house, and spreading the hay that will be part of the litter that goes into next year’s gardens, I was walking back to the house when our lab Ginny started barking her rare “angry” bark. She tore off the back deck toward the barn in pursuit, I discovered, of a raccoon that must have been stealing eggs or catfood. Our normally gentle and timid dog intercepted the coon as it was hurrying for the nearest tree, grabbed it by the back of the neck and shook it violently. Somehow the coon managed to escape and scurry up a white oak in front yard, but it didn’t have the energy to go beyond the lowest limb. From the way it was behaving, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that one killing any chicks or stealing any of this year’s sweet corn.
When I was last home there was a thick layer of snow covering everything. It was bitterly cold and the chickens were only laying 2 or 3 eggs a day. Yesterday it was 75 degrees and they laid 21 eggs. Spring has sprung.
Our anniversary was a month ago, but I wasn’t home to celebrate it until now. So I told Cherie I’d take her out to dinner, giving her a break from cooking. When I came in from finally finishing with the hen house, it was about 7:30 and I was very dirty and very tired. Trying to appear cheerful about the idea of eating out, I told her to just give me a few minutes to shower and change and I’d be ready to go. But she’s a good wife and a good person. She knew that I didn’t really want to go, and that I was way too tired for that. With a smile, she said, “Why don’t we just stay home tonight and do it some other time.” What a fine woman I married.