Under Cover

I’m pleased with our cover crops this spring.

Our fall-sowed gardens have a thick beautiful cover now, dominated by crimson clover.

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Not only does the clover enrich the soil, the honeybees love it too.

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Yesterday I checked our hive and was pleased to find that the girls are well on their way to filling the first super. I added another to give them room for more, happy to know that we should be able to extract honey this year, for the first time in several years.

The Gardens

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A couple of days of heavy rain followed by high temps and bright sunshine has the gardens popping.

I thought y’all might be interested to know what’s coming in here now, and what’s on the way.

Picking now:

Asparagus
Lettuce Mix (raised beds)
Tatsoi (raised beds)
Arugula
Siberian kale
Curly Scotch kale
Red Russian kale
Collards
Mustard greens
Radishes
Spinach
Bok choy

Almost ready to start picking:

Beets
Broccoli
Swiss Chard
Romaine lettuce
Chinese cabbage
Broccoli
Turnips

Planted and ready for harvest this summer:

Onions
Garlic
Potatoes

Growing now in the hoop house:
Green Beans
Tomatoes
Delicata Squash
Zucchini
October Beans

Next week we’ll begin planting our summer gardens. We’re anticipating planting:

Winter Squash (Butternut and Spaghetti)
Summer Squash
Zucchini
Okra
Tomatoes
October Beans
Green Beans
Black Beans
Bell peppers
Cucumbers
Sweet Corn
Eggplant (Asian and Italian)
Acorn Squash
Hubbard Squash
Cantaloupes
Watermelons

It’s a great, busy, delicious time of year.

Delayed Gratification

The notion that success in life is in part dependent upon the ability/willingness to delay gratification seems good common sense. We can use a credit card to buy an expensive item now, or we can wait until we’ve saved up the money to pay cash for it. We can have a candy bar now, or we can wait for a wholesome meal at mealtime.

I would argue that much of what’s wrong with our society these days can be attributed to an unwillingness to defer gratification. The things we want, we want NOW. Never mind working, saving and planning. It doesn’t help that there are billions of advertising dollars being spent to overpower us with the false belief that we “deserve” our rewards now. To heck with deferred gratification. All we want to defer is payment and the ultimate reckoning.

In one of the most famous behavioral experiments ever, often called “the marshmallow test,” scientists tested children’s ability/willingness to defer gratification. The subject children were given a treat (a cookie or a marshmallow, for example) and told that they could eat it immediately, but that if they waited 15 minutes before eating it, they’d be given a second treat. After giving the instructions the experimenters left the room and observed the children via hidden cameras. As might be expected, some children ate the marshmallow immediately. Others tried to resist but eventually succumbed. About one-third of the subject children held off the full 15 minutes and earned a second marshmallow.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The researchers tracked the subjects through life and discovered that the children who deferred gratification in the marshmallow test turned out to outperform the other children in every quantifiable measurement. They had higher SAT scores, higher educational achievements, they were healthier, their marriages were more successful, they lived longer, etc. What they observed was that the ability of a four-year-old child to defer gratification indicated that child’s likelihood of a successful, happy and healthy life, as compared to their four-year-old peers who didn’t defer their gratification in exchange for a greater reward.

The study has been replicated many times and the results have always been the same. As Angela Duckworth says in her recent book Grit, controlling for all the factors critics have identified, such as socio-economic status, how hungry the child was, etc. the test has been replicated enough to prove that it does indeed measure what it was supposed to measure–a child’s demonstrated power of self-control, that is the child’s willingness/ability to defer gratification, is a indicator of a successful life ahead.

Leaving aside the troublesome issue of whether we inherit (at least in part) our ability to defer gratification, these tests are compelling evidence that health, happiness and success in life is largely dependent upon something as commonsensical as self-control and deferred gratification.

This may be one of those cases in which we spend an awful lot of time, money and energy looking for complex answers to questions that can actually be answered much more simply.

On On Liberty

The Guardian recently ranked John Stuart Mill’s book On Liberty #61 on its list of the top 100 non-fiction books of all time.

Mill’s argument for the primacy of individual liberty continues to be important and worthy of reflection:

“(T)he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. (T)he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

***

“Such being the reasons which make it imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve; and such the baneful consequences to the intellectual, and through that to the moral nature of man, unless this liberty is either conceded, or asserted in spite of prohibition; let us next examine whether the same reasons do not require that men should be free to act upon their opinions – to carry these out in their lives without hindrance, either physical or moral, from their fellow men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril.”

Reading the Guardian’s review I was struck by how these quotes speak to our time, as we face the uncertain future that will follow our latest wave of creative destruction:

“It really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself. Supposing it were possible to get houses built, corn grown, battles fought, causes tried, and even churches erected and prayers said, by machinery – by automatons in human form – it would be a considerable loss to exchange for these automatons even the men and women who at present inhabit the more civilised parts of the world, and who assuredly are but starved specimens of what nature can and will produce.”

***

“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”

***

“The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes – will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything will in the end avail it nothing.”

Wise words, then and now.

 

 

Spring Onions

When we first started gardening we planted our onions from sets in the spring. That’s the way we did it when I was growing up. But year after year I was disappointed that the bulbs didn’t get as big as I’d like.

Later we tried putting out transplants in the spring. The results were better, but still usually unsatisfactory.

Finally we settled on the method we use now–planting from sets in the fall and overwintering them. Now we get large bulbs, and while we do have some bolting, we harvest those as spring onions so it’s still a win.

This years onions are the best-looking that I can recall, likely another consequence of our very mild winter.

I’ve already decided to significantly increase the amount of onions we grow next year. We never have enough. To make room I’m going to reduce the amount of garlic we grow, as we always have way more of that than we need. Fiddling around with how we do things is part of the fun of gardening.

 

 

A Mild Winter Means…

Thanks to our very mild winter, we used a lot less firewood than normal. So I’ve got a good head already for next year.

Another consequence may turn out to be a decrease in the quality of our compost. On warm, dry days the goats prefer to sleep outside, rather than in their barn stalls. So this year they spent far fewer days inside, so that they did their business on their bedding far less often.

This is the time of year when I clean out the stalls and sheds and put the material into our compost pile, to produce the fertilizer for next years gardens. We start a new pile every fall with leaves, adding all our organic waste and animal bedding over the next year. We begin using the compost in the spring, eighteen months after we start the pile.

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This is the compost pile I’ve been working on lately. If the picture was clearer it would show the steam rising from the top of the pile, as the material cooks.

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This is what’s left of the mature pile we started in the fall of 2015, with a chicken atop it.

It’s also possible that the mild winter will mean we have more ticks and garden pests this year, but that may be an old wives tale.

The Kids Keep Coming

As of last night we’re up to twelve new kids over the last few days, and with no significant problems so far.

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Correction. Make that 13. While I was waiting for these pictures to load I went out to the barn and helped deliver yet another one.

It’s a great time of year.