>THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
“Acorn” Winter Squash
Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)
Now that the snow is gone, it looks like we’ll get to deal with lots of water. We don’t exactly flood here, but the water table rises considerably once the ground is saturated, so we have a lot of standing water and mud. Sticky mud that is great in the summer because it has that elusive sticky, slippery consistency that is great for making pies, or throwing at your siblings, or rolling in on a hot day. Not that I personally know, of course, but I can tell by the way the kids behave with it. But in the winter, it’s a sticky mess. We constantly cover it up with wood chips, which are brought to the farm for free. The tree-trimming companies use us as a disposal site, you see, so we get all kinds of chopped up trees and bushes. Sometimes we even get a free garbage can, or piece of rope, or a sign that says “flagger ahead”. Really, the chips are what we want, though. Steady applications of wood chips keep the pigs and cows high and clean, but it’s hard to stay dry in the heavy rains. As long as they have a clean, dry place to sleep, we’re doing ok. It’s a challenge right now.
This is the first year we’ve had Trumpeter Swans visiting. I’ve seen them every winter in the Skagit Valley, big flocks of what seem to be white geese gleaning the fields. But they’re not geese, they’re swans. Just before Christmas I noticed them flying—hmmm, what are those white geese with black faces and legs?” I thought to myself. Then we saw them in the old Smith Brothers pasture on 277th. They were swans! What a beautiful thing. We’ve also recently seen them hanging out with the Canada Geese in the big field off of Orillia Rd./212th St. Keep an eye out!
I met an interesting man on Sunday morning. I heard a lot of shouting from what sounded like our neighbors place. After I finished my chores I went to investigate. I figured I’d find a coyote invading their chickens. But, what I saw instead was a man with two small hunting dogs. I stood and watched for a minute to see if he had a gun (it is hunting season). What I saw instead awed me—he held out his arm and a hawk landed on it! I’ve always secretly wanted to be a falconer, so my jaw dropped. I proceeded on and realized there was another in the bushes, very wet.
As I approached, the bird flew off. The man’s name is Lou, and he’s very hard-of-hearing. But we chatted and he told me that he had been hunting rabbits with the dogs and birds. (I cheered internally, because the rabbits are getting thick down here.) He has two Harris Hawks, which are not native here. He bred them in captivity, one was 4 years old, and the other about 7. He casually flopped a chicken head against his arm, signalling one of the birds to come to him, which she did. She was beautiful. I invited him to bring his birds, and friends with birds to hunt rabbits. Then he said that their “club” had been training their various raptors to hunt pigeons. Immediately I started thinking about how safe our peas and corn could be this spring. “Yes, please come back, use the gate, park in our parking area!” Not only are they amazing to watch, they could be so helpful! They have a hard time finding places to hunt with the birds, so he seemed receptive. I hope we get to see them in action soon.
Not much survived the icy weather in any condition for picking. The Swiss chard, bok choy, and chicories, and kales all “survived” but the damage to the big leaves is extensive, and when we peel it all off, there’s really not much to eat. So, we will wait for them all to grow new leaves. Of course, we still have 8-hour days, so it will take a while. Probably not until March or April will there be any significant growth. We do have lots of other crops, like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and turnips. I hope you like those, because that is what we will be generous with right now.