The light green of spring usually brightens me up, but I must admit to a sadness. Among other things, my friend “Crazy Owl” died. You may have met him, gray old fellow with a long beard. He was born in 1927, a long time ago.
When the first warm days of March arrive, gardeners get excited. It’s like our seeds will burn a hole in our pocket and we rush out to plant. But only a few vegetables can survive the inevitable cold that follows.
My neighbors are the greatest. I’ve been going through some hard times during the last few months and they have really helped. We’ve been getting together and laughing a few times each week. I didn’t realize how great they were until I was in need.
The people of Macon County are now deciding whether or not to be a “chicken house county.” A few still think that a couple hundred chicken houses are a good idea, and it’s usually obviously why. Some want the county to do an impact study, but driving through clay county makes that unnecessary, it stinks.
A few sunny days remind us that spring is on its way. It’s time to snap off the winter doldrums and gear up for the season. One of our early March chores is grafting fruit trees.
To propagate an apple or pear tree, we graft a twig on to a rootstock. The twig determines the variety of fruit, while the rootstock determines the size of the tree. most of the folks we give trees to have plenty of space, so we use standard rootstocks that make a full sized tree. The apples are grafted on to malis domestica, and the pears on to pyrus calleryana.
One thing I like about Rudolf Steiner’s ideas on farming is that it doesn’t cost much. The preparations I make are easy to do from free stuff. So everytime I turned compost piles I added more, using 32 units in all. The fields were sprinkled with horn manure, and barrel compost 18 times, and we used a lot of horn silica and horsetail later.
Urban Development threatens Bell’s Bens 10,000 acres of farmland across the Cumberland River from Nashville, Tennessee. A new bridge and the Maytown complex would bring in 50,000 people and a second downtown into a community of 150 folks. I was hired to develop biodynamic, community supported farms there in an effort to influence future development in a different direction, i.e. towards local food production.
Our farm’s mission is to grow high quality produce and help others do the same, so this project fit into my parameters. They wanted awe inspiring public gardens on a major highway, Old Hickory Blvd. The fields hadn’t been plowed in 40 years and were in Bermuda grass. We agreed on this list of beliefs and values at our first meeting in late January.
There are tunnels in the garden, but they are not from moles. We made them ourselves in a hope to keep some greens alive through the chilly weather. The garden is white, but not from snow.
Towards the end of the growing season I’m often asked, “Are you done with the garden?” I usually shake my head and mutter something about turnips and mustard. But that’s not all. The farm relies heavily on the fall garden.
We are still going, and growing, strong. The van and trailer are filled to the brim every Monday for the Nashville delivery. Here’s the list of what our customers received on November 22nd.
Writing requires organizing my thoughts into a coherent form. An idea is brought forth in the first in the first paragraph, and then expounded on. I try to slip a bit of humor in, along with philosophy, science and local venacular. The last paragraph has to wrap it up somehow.
We just picked ten bushels of beautiful tomatoes, on October 25, and the plants are loaded with blooms and green ones. Compare this to last year when there was not one tomato by the middle of August. It makes one wonder about the nature of disease.
When an organism and its environment are not integrated, synchronized or well organized, specific organs malfunction. Health prevails when life forces are in the preferred element. Ecological stress disorganizes the stream of life.
A flurry of activity ensued around the end of September, as we once again turned the cabin into a conference center. The living room became a dining hall and lecture room, and the whole house got a good cleaning. Pumpkins and gourds dotted the corners of the yard and an outdoor kitchen materialized.
Winter squash comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors. They ripen and are harvested about the time the summer squash peters out. With their hard shells, creamy texture and sweet flavor, winter squash are as different from summer squash as…. Winter is from summer.
Solar powered electricity has come to Red Boiling Springs. A roof full of panels sit on an old brick building on Hwy 56, about half-way between the stop sign and downtown. I am partnering with Tri-County to generate clean energy.
As fall approaches on the farm, we gather in the pumpkins. I’ve experimented with many varieties, and settled on this one. It’s called the Old Time Tennessee Pumpkin. A local family gave me a start many years ago, and when it’s fed to livestock they call it the Cow Pumpkin or Hog Pumpkin.
Sweet basil fills up a long row in the garden. I eat it with tomatoes, but until a few years ago that’s all I ever used it for. Now, thanks to my Italian friends, I know what to make with it- pesto.
When he pares pairs of pears you know something sweet is in the air. They are hanging high in the trees, surrounded by bees, and I’d love another one, please. And when the crop drops we should stop what we’re doing and bop to the top of the orchard hill.
Pears ripen quickly and we picked up a few baskets that had already fallen. That was on Sunday, and Monday afternoon I planned on harvesting them. But first I had to plant turnips, mustard, and a crimson clover cover crop, which took until Tuesday.
As the summer garden wanes, a whole new garden can be planted for the fall. After the potatoes were dug, we bush hogged the weeds and ran the rebreaker through the field. Cucumbers, summer squash and sweet corn patches also got the same treatment. I don’t want to grow weeds when there are so many other choices.
An old saying goes “there are two things money can’t buy- love and homegrown tomatoes.” The climax of the summer garden is the gushing forth of the tomato crop. If you garden eight acres, like we do, or just eight square feet, it’s likely you are growing this favorite vegetable.
Everything seems to be ripening quickly this summer. Apples are weeks ahead, along with sweet corn and peppers. But, best of all, we don’t have to wait til mid-August for everyone’s favorite treat. Yes, the watermelons are in.
“No way” I said when asked if they were ripe yet. For the better, I was wrong again. I slipped my knife in deep and she cracked wide open, dripping sweet juice all over my face. We love watermelons.