Thursday, April 14, 2011

It gets kinda rambly at the end

Lets start this edition with an account of my visit to Seattle. It was overcast the entire time. I spent too much money. I was tired the entire time. It was wonderful. So many friends, so much fun. The overcast skies strangely felt more fitting than they do in Idaho. Toby and Shannon's wedding was beautiful. It was an honor to be a part of as best man. Aside from the wedding, I saw a ton of friends. Big thanks to Adam and Katie, Britt, Erica, Michael, and anybody else who hosted me! Fun times were had, and I always fail to take pictures when I'm out doing fun stuff, so no pictures. The only pictures I was actually actively taking were pictures of the sky from the car on the drive from Idaho. The sky was beautiful for those two days. Perhaps I was drawn to the sky for its feeling of freedom.

I left Idaho feeling like I had my soul sucked out of me by the long, cold, grey winter. I came back feeling refreshed, inspired by the Seattle Spring, daffodils blooming, everything being bright and green and full of life. I brought that feeling back with me, determined to get things going here on the farm. I think I've made a good start on the growing season, even though I SHOULD have started a bit earlier if I could have been around.

After the Seattle trip, when I stopped through Fruitland, ID at my grandparents' house, my Gramma sent me home with some onion sets... she called them Multiplier Onions, and they originally came from her brother, who was a farmer down in Kansas. I was very grateful to be able to accept such a wonderful gift, and be a part of something that is the definition of Heirloom vegetable gardening. I got those onion sets in the ground, as well as the chive plants she sent me home with.

As for all of the almost $200 of seed I bought,  depending on their germination times, they are starting in my room. I bought a heat mat to raise germination temperatures, a four foot shop light with florescent lights in them, and set my growing operation up in my room where my TV once was. Its pretty fun having this all in my room, being able to wake up and monitor overnight progress, and having it super humid in the room at all times because of the plant respiration. So far, Basil shot up first, within 4 days of planting the starts, tomatoes took 7 days (right on time!), and the peppers are starting to come up today, a mere 10 days from planting time. Standard germination for peppers is said to be 14 days. TOTALLY BEAT IT. That's not to mention the onion, leek, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley, and rosemary starts that are all in various stages of germination.

Seed Start setup (I plan on expanding this for more space, since I'm going to have to pot on the small seedlings into larger pots)

Soil Blocks, with Tomato, pepper, and broccoli
So, I mentioned before how I had bought these Soil Block contraptions. Now, I have to say, I'm not usually one for newfangled widgets and con-sarned fizznats, but I thought I'd give them a try. I have them in a seed tray, but the difference is, everything is so much more controlled. I mixed the potting soil correctly so they would keep their form, and I'm keeping them moist my spraying them like it was suggested. Just one seed per tiny block. Those blocks above are seriously tiny, I was surprised at how small. However, they seem to work wonderfully, and the Broccoli seeds I put in them are actually already sprouted 4 days later. You have to marvel at mother nature sometimes. How DOES that old bat do it year after year?

My dad has been gardening in a bed close to the barn for the last few years, and he has graciously allowed me to use it for early-season things. Right now I have the aforementioned multiplier onions and 2 pea varieties in the ground in that plot. I'll also add some beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, and various other cold-weather crops. This is due to the fact that I currently have annual rye growing in my 1/8 acre plot I'll be using for the main growing season. The rye is to add organic matter to the soil, which will help with nutrients once they break down after I till them in, and also water retention. I planted the Rye last week on Wednesday, so it has been now 9 days... I am hoping it sprouts any day now to get some growth on that field. I really should have done the rye last year, after tilling the field, but I was young, foolish, and uninformed. What a dumb kid I was! In addition to the Rye, I planted a Dryland Mountain flower mix as a perimeter to the 1/8 acre vegetable field to encourage beneficial insects, and to add some color to everything. It'll help brighten it all up and make working out there as pleasant as possible.

In addition to planting the rye and flower mix, I erected my greenhouse/cold frame.

...aaaaaand it promptly fell down yesterday after a thunder and windstorm. Balls. I have some ideas for fixing it in the future, but that can wait until the wind isn't blowing like it is currently.... constantly and at high magnitude. At least there wasn't any plant material in it to get ruined. Disirregardless (that one's for you Craig), it was reaching temperatures upwards of 30 degrees F above outside temps before collapsing. Not bad, I'd say. now if I could just get it to STAY UP! Much thanks to Dad and Sis for help putting it up, as misguided and doomed to fail as it may have been...

Ah the chickens. We've reached this topic. They're certainly not as cute as they once were. And they're rambunctious. And they're about 3x bigger than they were before I left for Seattle. I barely recognized them when I got back. I'm slowly making mental notes on what to name them. Probably not going to name them all. Some might be named Dinner. Who knows!? I just know I have one that looks like a falcon, so I'm naming it Mordecai, after the falcon in the Royal Tenenbaums. Another that's super ornery, and Dad suggested the name "Henry" in a french accent. I'm also convinced I'll name the rest after dinosaurs.

Band Photo

They now have the entire coop to run, play, jump, harass each other. They're, you know, Chickens.

In addition to all those crazy projects, Dad and I started demolishing a pasture fence that needs to be replaced if we're ever going to run goats there. Dad bought a custom mix pasture seed where I bought my annual ryegrass. The pasture mix was dryland seed, so we wouldn't need to really water it after it gets established. It is also an important step in cleaning up the farm. It gives us an end goal to finding junk that is laying in the field and dealing with it. It also is going to help us accumulate a bunch of old lumber and round poles we can use as materials for other projects if/when we find a use for them. Again, it was too windy today to go out on the tractor (It was a very unforgiving wind today), but we should get all the old grass and weeds ripped soon, and the new pasture mix put in.  We won't be able to run the goats on the field until the fall, but we should be able to cut it and use it as hay for goats to eat through the winter.

Aside from a laundry list of things I'm getting done, I'd like to day that I'm starting to feel like all this farming stuff is nothing new. I don't know if that's good or not. I still feel wonder and excitement at things happening like seeds germinating, chickens growing, and baby goats chewing on my pants, but I think I'm feeling more and more comfortable with this being regular life. Accepting it. I don't know what I was expecting when I moved, maybe just a long vacation? Was I expecting a complete life change? I still don't know. But I can tell you now that I can see the progression of the changes I've made in my life. Example; I just made bread on a whim today because we were making soup for dinner. No recipe. I looked at a book once to see if I was setting the oven temperature correctly. I would never have been able to do that a year ago. I feel more confident in my abilities to just jump in and DO something. Its liberating. Its surprising.

I've been blissfully going about my business since moving out here, but now I'm faced with a choice in the next 6 months or so; Stay here and farm, move back to Seattle, or move someplace completely different. My life choices have really put me into a place of complete freedom to do what I want to do at the end of this farming adventure. I have nobody and nothing counting on me to be responsible for anything.

I met a man in Alaska who took Michael and I fishing and sailing during my travels last October that really made me realize that life can be SO full if you chose those paths. That man was a captain of a ship during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He had at one time been a pilot. He had raced yachts. He had worked in Antarctica. Exciting stuff! It made me so glad of my decision to get out from behind the desk and do physical work again. However, this new found sense of freedom begets an equal feeling of uncertainty that I had not experienced before. Where am I going? What am I doing? When I took myself out of the mainstream commerce machine, a bunch of social supports were taken out from under me, like financial stability, close friends nearby. I am completely in charge of my prosperity in the next few months. How I am able to sell my produce and products directly effects my future. These are real issues that I have to deal with when I decided I want to be lazy that day, or the weather isn't cooperating, etc. Being directly responsible for your own prosperity completely and utterly lets you see what you're made of. And the only one to judge if it the job you're doing is good enough is yourself.

ENOUGH philosophical Mumbo-Jumbo. I guess I just want to point out, I'm thinking hard about my future, and trying to figure out WTF I want to do, since it doesn't seem so clear right now. But I'll figure it out (I'll have to), and I'll be sure to let you know when I do.


-Jon E