Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
It's a beautiful winter's morning on this Ozark farm. Snow is still falling and there is a mild wind blowing away my footsteps as I make my way through the pasture where the cows are settled. The cows hardly notice me as I walk beside the ones that are huddled around the hay-ring. I can see a cow laying on the South side of the hay with a new baby nestled beside her. Both have a thin blanket of snow sprinkled on them, and look completely content. Another momma cow is standing up with her day-old baby letting it empty her udder to warm it's belly. These new baby calves remind me that Spring is just around the corner. Walking on, I decide to venture on out to the garden. It is positioned in the far corner of another small pasture adjacent to this one. As it is covered with the new snow I can't help but be thankful for the nitrogen it is receiving. I notice the corn and sorghum stobs that are sticking up, a remnant of summer. They remind me to disc and start working up the soil for springtime planting. Moving on I walk through the mulched area of the garden thinking of the row of rhubarb somewhere underneath. Soon they will start pushing up their beautifully striated green and red stalks; and then the raspberries nearby will be unfolding their little green leaves. Life will be emerging everywhere and it will be time to get our hands dirty in the garden once again.
A New Start
This is a time when last years garden failures get another chance.When those special projects that never happened last year get put on the front burner again, and new ideas and projects get their turn to fit into the ever-changing, ever-growing list of wonderful garden plans. There are a few projects that I really want to take time for this year.
Last summer I signed up for a Natural Resources Conservation Services grant that will partly pay for the construction of a hoop house (high tunnel). I am going to be choosing and setting up the hoop house this spring, and I hope to utilize it for tomatoes, raspberries and whatever else will fit in it! This is an exciting opportunity for me. At the least it should extend the time that my mom and I can have good produce and fruit to sell at our local farmers market. For my family, the ability to have a longer season of fresh produce is very welcome.
I would also love to grow a small crop (approximately one acre) of non-GMO field corn. It would be wonderful to have our own supply of corn for grinding into cornmeal or making homemade hominy. Needless to say, this crop would also be great for the chickens and pigs. Corn prices keep going up, and there are no local alternatives to GMO crops. Before I can commit to doing that, I must know that I can adequately harvest, shuck and shell the corn. Whether or not I can acquire the necessary equipment is still unknown, but there is still time for research on this summer project!
After the winter garden tour I turn towards home and go back through the pasture, checking the pond for ice and then heading up the hill to our yard. Walking by the dormant fruit trees I remind myself, again, that I need to plant another plum tree this spring so this lone plum tree (in need of a pollinator) can finally bear fruit. Looking at the peach trees I wonder if it will be a peach year or not. Last year we got to experience the nectar of three different varieties of peaches in our tiny orchard. Oh, what a treat! So often our spring weather doesn't cooperate with blooming peach trees and renders them fruitless year after year (hard freezes during blooming, and even after, can kill an entire crop). One year I tried to save the peaches by burning old hay bales covered with wet t-shirts to make a home-made smudge pot affect. After the third hard freeze I gave up and it ended up being another year without peaches.What a girl won't do for a fresh tree-ripened peach!
I tromp back into the house and kick off my wet boots and hang my coveralls by the woodstove. Mentally I start making a list of seeds I need to get ordered for spring. Soon after the snow melts it will be time to uncover the cold frame for planting cabbage, kohlrabi and broccoli. Valentines Day is suppose dto be the day to plant lettuce. Where did winter go? Who knows, but garden times are nearly upon us again. Good luck to you in this new year. ry something new, do something different. Have fun!