The Waiting Game

| 4/15/2015 11:28:00 AM

Tags: lambing, sheep, spinach, high tunnel, incubating eggs, chickens, Wisconsin, Laura Berlage,

Pregnant sheep waiting for delivery timeSpringtime is all about timing. You know that maple syruping season is finished when the spring peepers start calling. You know that it’s time to trim the apple trees before the buds start bulging. And you know it’s time to deadhead the flower beds and lay new bark mulch at the Farmstead Creamery gardens when the bulbs just start popping up above the soil.

It’s also time to collect eggs for hatching when the nights are not so cold and the days are warm and sunny. Yesterday, we got the hen house all cleaned up, scrubbed the nesting box pans, and hauled in fresh bedding and straw—all in readiness for collecting, fresh, clean eggs for the two incubators in readiness at our house. The turners hum, tilting the eggs from side-to-side to mimic the movements of the mother hen.

The chicken girls are itching to get into their summer coops and move about the pasture, hunting for eggs and tasty grasses and clovers. But while they think that the spring temperatures are great, it needs to be a little warmer for collecting the eggs without cold-shocking the precious embryo inside, so they need to hang out in the winter coop just a little longer.

Timing is also crucial for the high tunnel at the north end of the garden. As soon as the sun warms the soil beneath the arched plastic cover enough to thaw it out, we’re in their ripping out the remains of last year’s tomato crop, hauling out the red plastic mulch, and taking down the baling twine trellises.

Raking the ground clean of dried leaf debris and pulling out any vagabond weeds, we watch the sun as it gains height and strength in the sky. If we’re on schedule with the project, and we don’t plunge back into too much of a deep freeze, there may be enough time to squeeze in a crop of spinach before next summer’s heat-loving crops have to move in.

These picky-euny tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants can’t even stand a touch of frost, which means they usually have to wait until late May or even sometimes June to come out to the garden. But why make the high tunnel (precious growing real estate) wait until then? We pull out the seeder, load it up with spinach, then spend weeks hauling water in cans (can’t set up the irrigation system yet because the pipes will freeze at night) to give it a jump start. Right now, the little spinachy faces have burst out of the ground and are working on their first true leaves! I can already taste the calzones to come…

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