Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Deep

The long climb out of winter feels interminable. Here in Tennessee the winter is mild and bearable, others are not enjoying an easy winter this year. My woodpile is not gone yet, but then I have not been trying hard enough. I read yesterday that the sun calendar has today's twin at November 26. The upside is just as long as the downside.

I have ordered my obligatory seeds from the 20 pounds of seed catalogs that have arrived in the mail over the past three weeks. They know just how to get me. A few pretty pictures of cucumbers here, a few colorful pictures of tomatoes there, and I am happily ordering seed for plants that I cannot grow for another 3 months. THEY'VE GOT ME. These seed catalog companies have the marketing savvy of the best of the tobacco men. Give the garden groupies pictures of chlorophyll laden plants during the dead of winter, and we will order anything, even seeds for veggies we ourselves don't like to eat. It is a compulsion.

So much planning and plotting is going on. I have ordered (and am waiting to have to pay for) a LGD which is a Livestock Guardian Dog, Great Pyrenees to be exact. He/she will be the chickens' NBF. I have also ordered two splits of VRS honeybees, for pickup in May. All acronyms, all the time. Also waiting for the arrival of the shipment of turkey chicks in late March. These will be be Standard Bronze and Bourbon Reds. I feel that both breeds have a great context for this area of the country, and both are heritage breeds. And, unlike grocery store turkey breeds, these types are able to reproduce naturally. The turkeys you buy in the supermarket were all created via artificial insemination, the bird's breast is too big to allow...well you can get the picture. All I know is that I will hopefully have to only do the minimum to facilitate turkey nookie. The idea is to not have to keep buying livestock all the time. This is the definition of sustainable.

Last but not least, I am waiting for my order of soil blocker equipment for seed starting.
I am a dork, and I am not ashamed to say that I am very excited about the arrival of these garden tools. I have tried several methods of seed propagation over the years, and I am hopeful that this will be the best yet.

I have tried cell trays and peat pots. I have tried those fun but disappointing peat pucks that poof up when you soak them. I have tried bedding flats and hand picked the seedlings with an English made stainless steel Widger tool (it is an excellent propagation tool by the way), transplanting the seedlings into larger pots. This last method is a great space saver, but I loose some to transplant shock and damage, no matter how careful I try to be.

The idea with the soil block maker is that you load up the device with some potting soil and compress it into neat individual blocks ready for seed. No pot, no cells and supposedly the plant cannot get root bound since the sides of the block are just open to the air. Then, when the seedling is at the right size you simply deposit each mini-block, plant an all, into the well in the medium size block....and so on. Minimal transplant shock. Since I've noticed that even the "biodegradable" peat pots do NOT degrade after planting, I figure this is a great way to get my seeds started indoors this year, without wasting effort or money on "infrastructure". The soil block maker is a tool that can be used over and over. It will eventually pay for itself I hope.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What it means

Lightning Jar Farm.

Does it name inspiration, captured creativity, moonshine, or 1860's canning jars? Yes. It means what I think it means after all.

It is the act of holding my breath and diving in. It is fifteen acres to keep open without owning a tractor. It is holding a day job and staying good at it so the dream survives. It is giving the kids a landscape to roam in and explore freely. It is growing and raising really good food, and then eating it, and sharing it with others. It is about learning and teaching, and art. It is conservation, ecology, whole farming, and harvesting the sun.

It is my alter ego, my cape in a phonebooth transformation.

Twenty years of living in the burbs have not put the walking ghost inside my heart to rest. The ghost has been tap, tap, tapping on my strings. The spirit has been walking through hayfields and woods, and wandering amongst newly tipped Christmas trees in the spring time fog (a particular shade of green, impossibly fluorescent), she has been galloping horses, listening to spring frogs, and digging potatoes. In autonomic response, I have planted a larger garden every year. I take my shoes off after work in the summertime and stand squeezing the garden soil between my toes. In this way all the worries and fatigue of the day have drained through the rough soles of my feet into the earth, I am grounded in the warm dirt. The ghost is not yet quiet.

It will not be anything that exactly matches my imagination, but it has an exceptional chance of being wonderful. Anticipation.