Tuesday afternoon farm report
Monday would have been a bad day to be a rooster, unless you were the one we’re not eating tonight, the one who got thrown into a pen with four young hens so as to protect them from the weasel which, apparently, ate the head off the fifth hen on Saturday night. And got a neighbor’s hen, as well.
By which way you are given to know that the snows have finally abated in my part of the world, and so I will spend rather less time comfortably at this keyboard, and more time out in the weather earning my keep.
There was a burst of enthusiasm, first time I had a pitchfork in my hand, shifting the compost pile. And then a reminder that I have not done that work for nearly six months, and that my back will require easing into these labors. Or that I am one year older, but not even one’s body should be so unkind as to issue that kind of reminder when the sun is finally shining and it is possible to walk across the field without sinking into the sod.
So here’s where we are, so far. Some of the peas are planted up against the fence, but we’ll have to find a spot for the balance of them because the chickens are up against part of that fence and we don’t mean to go to the trouble of growing peas to feed chickens. Much as we like them. We have two cold frames new built and seeded with lettuce. A couple lasagna beds filled with potatoes. My wife has started a half-dozen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, and enough basil to separate each breed.
It’s a start.
First thing, we put fresh cages around the trees in the orchard which have, happily, outgrown their first round of wire fencing. Followed by a fresh round of Not Tonight Deer-soaked sponges, and hunks of the smelliest, nastiest deodorant soap we can find (generic Irish Spring works well, and is cheapest in these parts). Now, calling it an orchard when the trees have yet to bear fruit may be ambitious, but they’ve been growing there for three or four years, and we have hopes. If we don’t have a late frost again this year. Not Tonight Deer and the soap are meant as a substitute for territorial pissing, our polite way of inviting the deer to eat elsewhere. Like most non-chemical remedies, these solutions work only if assiduously applied, after each rain. Which sometimes happens. For the moment, the deer are content to eat elsewhere. When there are apples and pears and cherries in the balance, they may come to fresh ambitions.
By then we should be moved in up the field in the house which isn’t built yet, and perhaps I will have acquired a gun so as to discourage such munching. Or not. It is not clear to me that I have the will to kill so lovely an animal as a deer (or a squirrel), though I found the venison offered up by one of our employees to be quite nice.
And, as the roosters would testify, if you’re going to eat it, I think you should know where the meat comes from. (T-shirt given to my father-in-law, whose spread we work, who teaches us by example, a new t-shirt given him by his son, this Christmas: Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder. Pink on pink. I may have mentioned this before. It’s been a long day.)
And then, not that I knew we were planning to do it, Dan started up the tractor and took the scraper off the back with which he’s kept his driveway cleared, and attached the plow. I managed to snap the cotter pin only on one finger this time. Off to the south field, where the stumps have finally decayed to the point that we’re going to plant there. Unfenced, so it’s really a garden for the deer, a place to put all the stuff we can’t fit into the 10,000 square feet we’ve fenced off for our proper work: pumpkins, gourds, popcorn. Flowers. Whatever else. Tomatoes that are too healthy to throw out when it comes time to thin and plant.
It occurs to me, on my initial pass with the plow, that all the westerns take the side of the cowboys, of the wandering rogues who shoot up towns and restore order and captivate the hearts of downtrodden maidens. And that I have become a sodbuster.
This is precarious work. It is on a slight hill, which we traverse, back and forth, cutting 8-inch swaths, in theory. The right front wheel riding on the previous cut, the plow acting like an anchor when set too deep, and every time the front wheels change attitude the plow responds in kind. So one hand is constantly on the hydraulics trying to keep the plow level, one hand on the steering wheel trying to keep the tractor going straight, and the head is on a swivel between the two, wrong all the time. The tractor crabbing through the mud, and I am taught that we would not do this later in the spring when there was danger the sun would make bricks of the turned soil; it will rain shortly. In fact, I can see and feel the clouds outside my window just now.
A long hour or so on the tractor, but anything which involves power tools and power equipment has its particular pleasures. The result is a swath of new garden, or potentially new garden (we may just sow vetch there if we run out of time), roughly 30 yards wide and 100 yards long. Eyeballing it. Something like.
And so it begins, again.