There are hard days on the farm, and then there are days like Tuesday. Sunny, temperatures soaring to near 60º on a warm southerly breeze, the snow & ice of a long winter melting rapidly with the delightful gurgling of awakened streams. We’ve been getting a lot of useful things done lately, but this temporary relief from the cold made everything seem even better. Here’s a photo essay of some mid-February farm conditions and projects.
The field re-emerges; the second bed from right holds overwintered spinach under row cover, which was quite sweet in mid-January, but it could really use some good sun to recover after its long, dark sleep. If this thrives in spring, it will likely feature in an early share, but the stand is smaller than usual, and it has to make it past the voles first. We’re also waiting to find out whether any parsnips, leeks, or Jerusalem artichokes survived the winter and the voles.
Road conditions are always interesting this year, usually becoming worse once snowmelt starts, as repeated freeze/thaw cycles convert snow to ice. Here, under-ice flow in our stream has gradually flooded the crossing and crept up the banks, thanks to an ice dam formed by plowing the snow off the driveway. This can make it difficult to get worker help at times, but is quite pretty.
Logging is always a major winter job, clearing pastures and thinning forests to produce lumber, mulch, biochar, and more. Cedar mulch goes on our pathways, while hardwood mulch goes to the fruit trees and berry plants. Above, we work on chipping a large pile of branches generated from opening up a pasture edge. We actually prefer to do this work when the ground is frozen, to minimize soil disturbance, and hustled over the few days to get a lot done before the expected warmup.
Mid-February is maple tapping time, as the best chance for the daily freeze/thaw cycle needed to get sap flowing. It’s also when we really start cutting and collecting next year’s firewood supply. Much of this batch of firewood was a side result of cutting the 40+ logs we’ll soon be inoculating with shiitake mushroom spawn. It doesn’t get much better than splitting wood in a T-shirt while flocks of the first northbound Snow Geese stream regularly overhead.
No one’s happier about the thaw than the goats, who have been unable to browse any fresh pasture for a very long time. It’s been a long, cold, boring winter for these ladies, who will get some fresh pasture as soon as the deeply-frozen ground thaws enough to allow for moving the electric net fences. Right now there’s about 1/2″ of mud on top of many inches of frozen soil. We’re thrilled to have several clearly pregnant does, including wide-load Quartz on the right, and are strongly looking forward to ending the past year’s milk drought. Kidding should happen by mid-April.
The produce season has already begun, with many trays of onions (above) started in our seeding room. Sooner than we’d like, our work load will be shifting to preparing beds for spring planting and transplanting, and so the clock is really ticking on the myriad winter projects left to be completed.
Farm food this time of year is wonderful, as we can tap into the full variety of our preservation efforts over the rest of the year, drawing on our wide diversity of vegetables, fruits, meats, and more. We need it, as we burn a lot of calories on outdoor logging days. Above is Tuesday’s especially satisfying lunch, ingredients 100% produced on-farm except for the salt.
Deluxe chili: onions, garlic, ground pork, dried peppers (Ancho, sweet, and home-smoked chipotles), tomatoes (fresh Mercuris, plus frozen & canned), sweet potatoes, sweet corn, nixtmalized dent corn, mixed heirloom soup beans, chicken broth. Two gallons of this will keep us going for a couple days, at least.
Home-fermented sauerkraut: Fall cabbage, daikon, onion, garlic, coriander seed, dill seed, salt.
Fruit mix: Our frozen strawberries, melons, blueberries, black raspberries. A special treat!
Don’t let anyone tell you locally-sourced meals are boring. Who needs a grocery store when you have a good farm? Meals and days like this really help make everything else worthwhile.