Tuesday, March 13, 2012

lightning strikes again



I was up and about first thing this morning, driving 10-20 miles to the south of our farm take care of some  chores and  everywhere were daffodils.

Blooming.

Full blooms.  Bright yellow.

And this is only March 2nd.

I know the USDA moved the hardiness zones up half a zone  (last year the farm was in a 6B zone and now we're in a 7a )

But still, daffodils blooming on the second day of March?

For all of the renewing shareholders out there, remember how we ended up starting the season a week earlier than usual because the vegetables were coming ripe a week earlier?  Well I think I will be doing that again this year only lets plan on it rather than letting it surprise us.  We'll start vegetable deliveries on the week starting June 4th rather than the next week like we normally would.  (don't worry about remembering that now, I'll be reminding you a number of times as we get closer to the first delivery).

Other things that have been happening out here?

We started seedlings this past week and many of the seeds are already germinating.  A rough guess is we've put between 30,000 and 35,000 seeds into flats.  That's about half way to what we will plant.

So far, some of the seeds we've started are: tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, kohlrabi, Italian basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, chives, oregano, thyme, sweet marjoram, tarragon, collards, kale, Swiss Chard, several mustards, tomatillos, endive, ground cherries, gooseberries  (not the perennial bush but an annual that looks like a large ground cherry) and probably a good dozen others that I'm forgetting.

We'll be transplanting most of the greens we've started already in a hoophouse as soon as they are large enough.

We'll be filling the two large high tunnels with tomatoes and taking four of the narrower tunnels  for hot peppers, bell peppers, eggplants and cucumbers as a way to extend their season.

I've been also looking into building a dozen or so raised beds as a place to grow vegetables like carrots that we've had problems with in the past.

Renewing for 2012.  If  you were a past shareholder and want to sign up for this year you should send me an e-mail soon to reserve yourself a spot.

Mushrooms.   We talked about something like a mushroom share at the end of the 2011 season and a significant number of people wrote back saying they were interested.  This is a note to say,  'I haven't forgotten.'  I have been doing research trying to figure out the logistics.  When I decide whether its worth the effort to go forward I'll put a notice in the newsletter giving a description of what the program will look like.  Right now I'm leaning to limiting it to just shiitakes this first year simply because I have experience growing those and unlike the other mushrooms Virginia is known to have an ideal shiitake climate.  After the first year, when I feel confident that I've mastered shiitakes I'll begin to add other mushrooms.

Though I have not yet made the move into investing in supplies and spoor.  But once I have a good grip on what its going to cost, I'll  put out a notice that will give those with interest in it an idea of the scope of this year's program and you can decide then if its something you want to sign up for.

Open house with free eggs for shareholders.  Saturday  11-1 as usual. While we have started selling them at $2 a dozen to non-shareholders they are free to all of you 2012 shareholders and to everyone that had an egg share last year.  I'll also show you around, give you a sort of orientation to the farm and answer any questions you have.

Be advised though. there's a prediction for an 80% chance of thunderstorms Saturday.  I know, living in the city, thunderstorms don't seem to be that big of a deal.

How many people have  been struck by lightning while strolling down K street?  Or for that matter,  Over on Quaker Lane in Alexandria?  Lightning doesn't seem to be all that dangerous in the city, or the suburbs.

Out here. though,  its a different matter.  Without all of those tall buildings equipped with lightning roods on their roofs lightning storms are dangerous.

Example - It was the first year we lived here.

1984, I think.

Back then I was a high school teacher and because I didn't have the  money to buy a  tractor and the fields and yard  around what then was an old farm house in serious disrepair.  I had read somewhere that goats did a great job eating weeds and cleaning fields.

So I looked in the local paper and found an ad for goats and ended up buying three  at $75 each which was about all I could afford back then.

The article was right about goats eating weeds.  As soon as I let them loose they started mowing down the weeds in the overgrown field in front of the house.

Unfortunately, though,  the article was more noteworthy for the things it had omitted about goats than they facts it had included.

One of the things the article didn't mention was that goats eat a lot more than just weeds.

 Goats eat just about anything, but they will go out of their way to eat certain plants while barely nibbling on others.

In fact if you were going to draw up a chart with the plants and trees goats really liked to eat at the top and the ones they only nibbled at the bottom it would look a lot a list  you had drawn up with the plants and trees you liked the most at the top and the ones you didn't like at the bottom.

Only, with your list the ones at the top would be plants we'd like to keep around.  Our list would start with flowers and plants that are nice to look at.  Or maybe trees that have some intrinsic value.  They produce fruit, shade.  Are pleasing to look at .

With goats the plants at the top would be the ones they eat.  (actually the term should be - kill).  The top of the list would be plants they kill quickly and the bottom ones they might just happened to nibble on as they happened to walk by.

That's why I was up in the far end of the field.  Repairing a fence.

(I didn't mention, yet, that goats also have an amazing ability to escape from even the best fence as long as there was a plant from the top of your list located, say, within a mile.

I had caught the goats down in my newly planted vegetable garden sampling the just emerged onions and had hauled them back up,  opened the gate to the newly encircled goat pasture, and got them through the gate when they quickly ran back over to the hole they had torn and were out again.

The next time I caught them, hauled them through the gate I beat them to the hole and started repairing it.

I was busy when the first roar of thunder echoed down the mountain side.

One moment its a beautiful sunny summer afternoon with a deep blue sky and the next was covered with threatening clouds and the goats were gone.

They had enough sense to retreat to their shelter.

Growing up in Arlington I can't remember anyone I ever knew getting struck by lightning.  Or coming close to getting struck.

So I kept on working.

Sure it was going to rain,  but what was getting wet compared to having to chase down those goats again.

The next thing I knew there was an explosion.

No more then ten yards away,  where there had been a hundred foot tall poplar tree something happened.

I looked up as spears of splintered poplar tree started raining on the ground around me.  Some of them sticking point down as if they had been thrown.

The top half of the tree was gone. and the bottom half was smoking.

It took me only a few seconds to digest what had happened.

I didn't even bother to pick up my tools.  I made a run straight for the house and if lightning struck again before I got there I was too preoccupied to notice.

And I guess the moral of that story, the practical lesson,  if we're having thunderstorms tomorrow before noon.  lets' not come out.  The eggs will keep in our refrigerators until the following week.

Leigh

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