Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
If you are a farmer, getting sick this time of year can really put you behind! There is always so much to do when the weather starts to warm. There are gardens to till, planting to do, babies being born, maintenance and clean-up. I ended up with a dreary cold that spiraled into bronchitis and sinusitis that landed me on my butt for a week. I don't know about you, but I already feel behind!
It has been an early spring for most of us. The weather has warmed to the point that trees and shrubs are growing and leafing out a month ahead of usual. Spring has sprung at a pace that can leave us all scrambling to keep up! Potatoes need to be going in the ground, as well as the hundreds of sweet onions. Sweet onions and potatoes are produce that, as market growers, my mom and I love harvesting because they sell consistently all summer. Onions are also a plus because they can be used in so many canning recipes from pickles to salsa to spaghetti sauce. If cured and stored properly, sweet onions and potatoes should last into fall.
I am really excited about my shallots and garlic that were planted last fall. They are up and growing healithly. I think I'm going to have the largest shallot crop ever. I am also growing a grey shallot, which is a smaller shallot that the French prefer for the shallot's delightful taste. I am excited to try this new variety.
The broccoli that I grew in the hoophouse last fall is sending up shoots like crazy. It has been so tasty and dark green. All of the winter hoophouse greens have been very successful. I have been surprised and impressed with how easy it has been to grow cold hardy vegetables in that environment. Now that the weather is warming I am discing in the winter plants and moving on to summer ones. The tomatoes are growing rapidly, and I have cucumbers and peppers ready to move into their hoophouse home. I am still learning about this new “tool” of mine, and look forward to going through an entire summer with the hoophouse. So far the only irritation I have had with the hoophouse environment is the proliferation of aphids! They love the warm, humid setting. I will continue to zap them with fierce water sprays and will try to find some treefrogs to add to the “terrarium”. I may have to move to spraying soapy water if it gets worse.
Of course it is spring, and that means babies on the farm. There are several new baby calves that are frolicking through the green growing grass. There are chick eggs and duck eggs in the incubator. Mom's hens are laying eggs and already trying to set. We also have three new baby pigs. Please read my earlier post, Pigs for the Summer, to learn how I raise pigs every year to help us have fresh, farm-raised pork. This year the baby pigs were the smallest we have ever gotten.
With the deal I made with the pig farmer, I ended up with three baby pigs instead of the usual two. One of the weanlings was a boar that had not been castrated. If an animal is going to be used for meat, it needs to be castrated. I had never cut a pig before, but I saw this as an opportunity to build my skillset and learn something new. I looked up information online about performing this procedure. After feeling confident in the process, I sharpened a box knife, gathered equipment for sterilization and asked Daniel, my husband, to assist in holding the little feller. It went just like it was supposed to, and he has since healed completely and is doing great along with his two sisters. Don't be afraid to try something new!
On the farm there is always a to-do list. There are brush piles to be burned, dead trees to down, fence to be mended, barn tin and roofs to be repaired. There are always new projects as well, and that sometimes makes it hard to prioritize. New projects are fun, but maintenance and repairs need to be done to keep up old structures and equipment. It all works together to make the whole farm machine work, so we just keep buzzing along and do what we can when we can and keep on keeping on. Enjoy the beautiful springtime weather and all that is coming to life. Work at striking that balance; try something new, but keep up with all that worked in the past as well. Good luck to you all!
Photos: top; new little piggies, the little one in the middle is the little boar, the other two are gilts. bottom; the grass-fed steer who is getting grain just for a few days that will be butchered later this week. I traded a decorated cake for the butchering (just butchering - processing I will pay for).