On the Cusp of Chaos

Baby spinach plants. These are inside the big greenhouse, where it feels like May, instead of chilly March. We'll be eating spinach around Easter.

Baby spinach plants. These are inside the big greenhouse, where it feels like May, instead of chilly March. We’ll be eating spinach around Easter.

The spring equinox is upon us. March 20, the day when the length of day’s light equals the time of night darkness. We’ve already noticed: weeds and pasture are greening up and growing; the hens have gone from their 10 eggs per day in February to 5 dozen a day today. And that will only increase in the weeks to come. Our 125 mature hens should be laying about 7 dozen a day by June. The young flock will start laying any day, and they should contribute another 6 dozen a day by the time they are all matured and laying well. We remind ourselves that yes, the plan was to have more eggs this year.

2013 marks 15 years of farming on 78th Avenue. That’s enough time to work through a lot of problems, and still encounter new ones to solve. It’s also enough time to develop some pretty serious routines. Our pattern for the year is well-entrenched by now. Spring is sudden and chaotic, summer is full of long-days and abandonment of routines, fall is for re-establishing routines and planning for the dark season, and winter is for winding down and resting.

Spinach seedlings in the greenhouse, newly cultivated. Planted February 25, they are just getting their first true leaves March 15. We will probably be picking these sweet babies by Easter.

Spinach seedlings in the greenhouse, newly cultivated. Planted February 25, they are just getting their first true leaves March 15. We will probably be picking these sweet babies by Easter.

Winter will be over any day now. We thought it was over last week, but here we are, surrounded by rain and chilly air again, so clearly, it is still…winter. Mike started working up ground to get it ready to plant, Teo has the greenhouses clean, and I’ve got them planted. The cleaning continues, the soil preparation continues, and the planting eases in while the supplies arrive in a trickle. But, one of these days soon, the cold air will stop and it will be—suddenly spring.

Red Raab-in! Spring is here! We sampled the first overwintered turnip Rapini, or Broccoli Raab for dinner! These red ones are pretty bitter, but the sweet ones are just days away from being ready.

Red Raab-in! Spring is here! We sampled the first overwintered turnip Rapini, or Broccoli Raab for dinner! These red ones are pretty bitter, but the sweet ones are just days away from being ready.

Then, while we try to maintain order in the family—making sure homework gets done and mealtimes and bedtimes are enforced, and the kids take a bath once in a while—the true chaos arrives. Suddenly, baby chicks arrive, baby pigs arrive, and baby calves are born. CSA deliveries start, farmers markets open, and the harvesting begins, while we frantically try to keep up with planting schedules and surprises. And…routine.

Daylength increases bit by bit, straining to accommodate the workload that increases exponentially. Then suddenly, we have a gorgeous day and realize that it’s 9:00 and we haven’t eaten dinner, and it’s a SCHOOL NIGHT! But hey, it’s ok because we got all the squash planted, right? (Tell that to the teachers.) We wonder how long it is until summer vacation from school. How much easier it will be when that day arrives. Not only will be kids be able to help out a little more, but we can have a more flexible daily plan. Free-choice grazing for food makes for easier parenting. I’m sure I read that in a parenting book.

Our honeybees in early March. My girls have been out foraging on willow and hazel pollen since February, and they're finding nectar somewhere as well. Pollen feeds the babies and nectar gets turned into honey. They won't bring home pollen unless there are babies to feed, or at least eggs being laid. So, it's a good indicator that there are queens in the hives, without having to pull out all the frames and examine them on chilly days.

Our honeybees in early March. The girls have been out foraging on willow and hazel pollen since February, and they’re finding nectar somewhere as well. Pollen feeds the babies and nectar gets turned into honey. They won’t bring home pollen unless there are babies to feed, or at least eggs being laid. So, it’s a good indicator that there are queens in the hives, without having to pull out all the frames and examine them on chilly days.

Teo announced that he is getting married in June. He’s a really wonderful guy, and we are so happy for him. He struggled to tell us that he would like a couple days off after the wedding, and he doesn’t usually work on Sundays anyway, so it’s really only two days off. We were puzzled. Of course he can have as much time as he wants—he’s getting MARRIED! Besides, we reassured him that it will all be fine because by then our two fabulous interns will be entrenched and used to our routines.

We are so excited to not only have extra hands to help with the workload, but also to be sharing what we have learned with young people who want to continue farming on their own. They will arrive in late April, and we have purchased these charming vintage accommodations for them. Thank you, Craigslist! We have a few weeks to refurbish the interiors, but really they are only lacking showers, which will be installed shortly. Everything else works.

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Aside: If anyone out there is skilled in basic RV shower installation and grey water plumbing, we would be happy to TRADE FOOD (veggies, eggs, meat) for LABOR. We are pretty generous in our bartering, so please sally forth with your offers. It would be a huge help for us in these chaotic times.

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