Don’t Do It

I have to keep telling myself–just because you can grow it, that doesn’t mean you should.

This winter has been almost unbelievably mild. The fruit trees are already blooming and budding. Cherie picked a big asparagus spear a few days ago (!). And all this warm sunny weather has me itching to start planting.

I’ve got the spring garden prepped and ready to go. I intend to beginning planting tomorrow, unless rained out. It’s the earliest possible date in my mind and it’s very rare to hit it.

But I keep looking at those big garden plots, in which I’ve invested so much time over the years, that we’ve decided to leave fallow this year. I find myself thinking maybe I should plant something in them. It’s been a bit of a struggle to stay disciplined.

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All the way to the woods is being retired this year

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The ground is whispering, “Seeds. Give me seeds.”

This morning as I was pondering the notion of planting them after all, I started thinking about hot peppers, because there’s a lesson in them.

I love hot peppers. They’re fairly easy to grow and the deer leave them alone. I used to grow them every year. Lots of them. But over time I learned my lesson. It’s foolish to grow more than you need.

Hot peppers are very prolific. One plant produces an abundance of peppers and they keep coming right up till the first frost.

But I’ve got enough hot sauce and dried pepper flakes put away now to last me the rest of my life. When the peppers are coming in you can hardly give them away at the market. Pigs and chickens won’t eat them. And taking a big sack of cayenne peppers to the food bank doesn’t do anything to relieve food insecurity. The reality is that just because I can grow hot peppers, doesn’t mean I should.

So as look out at those empty fields, I remind myself that this farm’s labor force consists of me alone,  that sometimes less is more, and that I am determined to run this place more more sensibly and pragmatically.

But, dang those gardens look inviting.

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40 comments on “Don’t Do It

  1. Very good point! Just because we are capable of doing something, doesn’t mean that we should. But the hot pepper quandary, that is another thing altogether!

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    • Bill says:

      Planting is the easy part. It’s too easy this time of year to forget how much work is required to keep all those gardens tended. Another example would be Asian greens. In the past I’ve grown a large garden of them, one in the spring and one in the fall. Always ended up with way more than we could use, so I’m scaling back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ed says:

    When I was probing my girlfriend for reasons not to marry her, I never thought to ask about her like of spicy things. So I ended up married to someone who prefers non-spicy food. Although she won’t let me grow hot peppers, I’ve always got some from friends who planted too many of them to use up. I probably have a lifetime supply myself and I never even grew a single plant!

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    • Bill says:

      They’re really easy to store and a person could buy a lot of them very cheaply at the farmers market in the height of summer–enough to last for years. I’ll probably grow a few banana peppers this year because I enjoy them fresh. But that’s it.

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  3. avwalters says:

    I love hot peppers–maybe the result of 35 years in California. It certainly didn’t come from my family, who, like most Michigan folk, seem to revel in bland. When I first moved back, I’d buy jalapeños at my local food coop, but they had no heat. I worried that our climate couldn’t produce a spicy pepper. As soon as I was able I put in a patch of serranos–my favorite pepper, from my California saved seeds. They were fine! Each year we plant more, because we run out.
    So what’s with these pansy peppers in the market?

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  4. So, so true! Those fields look beautiful, but I can’t imagine tending them alone. I CAN, however, imagine gazing at those fields on a summer evening with a drink in hand 🙂

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  5. DM says:

    Oh, I get it. I have the same impulse when it comes to laying hens, broilers, and apple trees…if one is good then 5 is better and 100 is best….NOT! Wife told me several years ago, I was welcome to get back into turkeys, but this time, I was to “count her out” when it came time to butchering …still remember watching the car pull out of the driveway, as I sat there on top of a 40 pound tom turkey, trying to butcher him by myself. that memory (like your hot pepper memory) helps to temper the urge…but not entirely….

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    • Bill says:

      Yep. It’s a slippery slope for certain personality types. I’m trying to do things more sensibly. Instead of growing all we can then trying to figure out what to do with it, I’m trying to first figure out what we need then planning our gardens based on that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Michelle says:

    Hmmm; is it time to start growing your own grains? Leigh and 5 Acres and a Dream has, for human and animal feed.

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    • Bill says:

      I did a lot of research on that a few years ago and concluded that I didn’t have the time or equipment for it. I have a friend who is experimenting with OP corn that he will use for animal feed, so I’m going to follow how it goes for him. Maybe someday…

      Like

  7. thesnowwoman says:

    Do it! You can pickle them also. We grew jalapeños in our little garden once when we had full sun and we got so many. We pickled them and used them all winter in Mexican type dishes, nachos and cheese and sandwiches. Maybe I shouldn’t be twisting your arm here 🌶😊

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  8. Melonie K. says:

    I’m sure you’ve mentioned this before, but the fallow field – are you just going to let it grow however it wants or are you open to green “manure”? There’s always the option of putting in a crop like buckwheat or clover, that would be great bee and pollinator food and add nutrients to your soil, but not be anything you have to “do” anything to this year. You still get the joy of sowing seeds, the pollinators get much needed support, and you don’t have to mess with anything in the field for market.

    I mean, if you don’t get peppers, you should get something fun, right? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      What I meant was that we won’t be growing any vegetables there this year. It’s sowed in cover crops now. The green strips you see are a fall-planted mix of mostly clover, which the deer have mowed to the ground. The parts that are bare had late crops so that the cover crop seed didn’t germinate before winter arrived. The plan is to sow a mixture of buckwheat, field peas, millet and sunflowers this summer, then permanent cool-weather grasses in the fall.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What about flowers, Bill? Won’t it be lovely to look out and see a field of flowers?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. allisonmohr says:

    We’ve been reading farming magazines we find in the laundry room, and their articles emphasize the importance of never leaving dirt uncovered. They seem to like buckwheat a lot. Will you be planting some sort of cover crop? They did some interesting write ups about which plants have the best roots for breaking up compacted soil. Like healthcare, farming is complicated!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yes, as I mentioned in one of the replies above, that area is sowed in cover crops already, although it’s hard to tell from the picture. Buckwheat is a summer cover crop. We’ll sow it there then, along with field peas, sunflowers and millet, then this fall the plan is to sow the whole area in a permanent cool weather grass.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, Bill! Trees blooming and budding already! Doesn’t sound like Virginia weather. And strangely, here on the central coast of California it’s been unseasonably cold, freezing nightly and we’ve gotten rain, rain, rain for about 8 weeks, more rain than all of the last 5 years. Usually, we don’t get more than a couple of freezes. Heck, last winter in February it was 90 degrees one week:-)

    I’m planning to plant a garden (for the first time in years; getting rid of our yard), but I was told to hold off 4 more weeks, because of all of the freezes. Quite a few mornings I go out and the tops of our cars are thick with ice.

    Yes, I know I’ve become a wimp at 70:-) Years ago, I worked on a ranch in the Crazy Mountains near White Sulfur Springs, Montana. I remember bringing cattle down out of the box canyons when it snowing and about 30 below. But I was 23 then.

    Happy planting:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ain't for city gals says:

    I am so glad I don’t have that workaholic personality anymore…with time and practice you will get there. Tell yourself it is just for this year and next year you can decide again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Good advice. It’s true that I’m a workaholic (even if not as bad as I once was) but the other problem is that I hate waste. It just feels wrong not to use those gardens, considering how much work I put into creating them out of compacted rocky red clay. But of course that really is irrelevant. There is no good reason to put in crops there. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. W often ponder the less is more quandary. We have a typical domestic residential quarter acre block in a rural village. Our vege garden will never totally feed us but neither does its maintenance take all our time. We just want to be able to grow & eat in season and pick fresh stuff for meals. Around here there’s always someone with excess so although we have to buy in some produce it’s not a lot. But the lure of a smallholding where we could grow more is always there.
    I have a chilli plant, more next season, but from my favourite local roadside stall a dollar buys a small bag of mixed chillies, enough to make several jars of chilli sauce, of which I’m the only partaker in this household 🌶

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Hot peppers are a real bargain at our farmers market at the peak of the season and (as you know) making hot sauce is very simple. It’s a pity more people aren’t doing it themselves.

      By the way, your’s is the second comment to feature a cayenne icon! Now that I finally have figured out the basic emoticons, it seems that, as usual, technology has passed me by. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  14. shoreacres says:

    You need an anti-Nike hat that says, “Just Don’t Do It.” Don’t forget that ground dried peppers mixed with birdseed will repel squirrels but not affect the birds. Capsaicin treated birdseed is the best!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bill says:

      That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. Unfortunately though we had to quit filling our bird feeders once the cat started staking them out.

      I like the anti-Nike hat idea. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, it’s a quandary for sure. To plant or not to plant. My advice is to plant it into a pasture for the goats until you get the hoop house under good management. Hoop houses extend the season and allow multiple crops in the same spot as you already know. Keep the work load at a minimum at least for this year. My philosophy is a little different than yours because I don’t have to make a living from my gardening. Pleasure gardening is a wonderful thing. I’d be starving if I had to live off what I grew in the garden.

    I am excited about this gardening year. The successes from last year were awesome. This year those successes will be expanded with the two to three more raised beds. I have a total of 15 beds planned and 8 in production with hopefully three more in use by planting time. Of course those plans could change at any time up until the planting begins. It’s too wet to do any thing other than work on garden structure for another month or at least a couple weeks depending on the weather.

    Have a great day deciding what to do with the fallow ground.

    Nebraska Dave
    Urban Farmer
    Nebraska, USA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Before I converted that ground to gardens, it was part of a larger hay field. The plan (tentatively) is to return it to that. I looked into expanding our pasture, but it would be expensive and we really don’t need more pasture.

      I love what you’re doing out there. You’ll get a lot of food out of those beds.

      Fortunately we don’t make our living out of my gardening. We’d be in a pretty desperate situation if that were the case! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Gail Marcille says:

    Pickled peppers make great sandwiches. I ate one when an Italian friend of mine let me try hers. On an aside: here in Eastern Ontario, we have had both massive snow storms and at the other polar end, we’ve had temperatures near 60 F. Snow is gone. The robins never migrated. I’ve had raccoons at my front door–the wildlife doesn’t seem to know whether they are coming or going. I feel I might be smart to build plastic domes to cover any plants I grow in my small garden this year, who knows? Snow in July?

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Snow in July?” Oh please Gail, don’t even think it, much less say it out loud! This winter has just been SO bizarre (dare I say “thus far”?) and I am situated ‘way too close to you; )

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We’re nervous about a late winter blast too. With all the fruit trees budded, it would be a bad thing. I recall one year when we had a mild winter right up until March, then got hit with snow storms and deep freezes. That seems less likely this year, as the long range forecast shows warm weather for the next 10 days. But it is possible of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Joanna says:

    The snow is melting here, so winter is possibly leaving early here too, but I’m hedging my bets because just further north to us they’ve had snow in June before now.

    We also are going to put sheep on a field rather than plough this year and just concentrate on doing the gardens and getting prepped for longer lasting herbs. We’ll see how it goes anyway. All the best with your more relaxed year

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Putting grazers on it would probably be the best solution for us too, but we really don’t need any more pasture either. Those gardens are the most challenging on the farm, as they’re all rocky clay. Good production, but a pain to prepare. It will be nice not to do battle with them this year.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Just remember “a rest once in seven”; )

    Liked by 1 person

  19. MansWhirld says:

    On the brighter side, they’ll be waiting patiently for you until (and if) you decide it’s time to bring them back into production.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s true. I’ve hauled a lot of rocks out of those fields, and I’ve amended the soil. If I ever need/want to take them back, they’ll be better because of the time I’ve spent with them.

      Like

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