Post by John
Equinox Community Farm
We have been trying our best to savor the calm and the relative quiet that winter brings for the farm. The rhythm of winter is certainly slower, more like a sleeping heartbeat than the rapid trilling of spring or the drumming footsteps of summer and fall. We wake up a bit later, we take our time feeding the cats, the goats, the pigs. And then we go back to the warmth of the woodstove to plan for next year and remember our hobbies that are long forgotten the rest of the year.
We've both taken some time to do some reading for enjoyment (many of you may be surprised to know that Farmer John is a big Sci-Fi fan!) and some occasional naps. We've tried out a few new recipes using our canned goods we so frantically squirreled away a few months before (blackberry maple preserves are divine on homemade cheesecake). It's also a great time to bounce new ideas, good and bad, off of one another when planning for the future. What direction should we take? How fast should we get there? How much is too much? How much is not enough? These are all important questions that are best discussed when wrapped in a warm blanket when there is plenty of time to ruminate over all paths.
But despite the freezing temperatures that seem to slow everything to a stop, we are still making progress. In fact, we are getting started on a daunting remodel of the 1940's farmhouse on the property. While it has fantastic "bones" we have had to essentially empty out most of the inside structure and start anew. We are looking forward to the end result, although we know it will require a lot of hard work and elbow grease to get there. Reading up on all aspects of the remodel process has kept us plenty busy on these dark days. Our hope is to be finished and moved in by the time the first few CSA boxes of 2014 are delivered.
We're also busy ordering seeds, supplies, and "big ticket items" for the farm. Each year we continue to grow and the planning phase of the year becomes slightly more intricate and we need our equipment to help us grow. The item that Farmer John is most excited about receiving this year is a water wheel transplanter. One of the most time consuming (and back aggravating) tasks on the farm is transplanting our little seedlings from the greenhouse to outside, often into black biodegradable plastic mulch. Planters must punch a hole in the plastic mulch (with your hands, or my personal favorite, a tiny stick) then dig out some soil, place the seedling into the hole you just made, and then cover it back up with dirt so it is placed securely and straight up. Then, since you are already on your knees, you crawl over to the next spot and do the whole thing over again dragging the tray of seedlings with you. Our hope is that the waterwheel transplanter will greatly speed up this process and use our human labor more effectively.
The waterwheel transplanter is pulled slowly behind one our our tractors between the rows of black mulch that have already been laid down. They have a punch wheel which acts to punch a hole in the mulch and then fill it with water from the two big water tanks creating a nice little mud puddle. Then, two workers who are sitting in the seats gently drop a seedling into each hole as the tractor goes by. As the plant is pushed in the mud is pushed up over the seedling to cover the top of it. It's a handy tool to have, and we are excited to try it out and see what it can do for us.
In addition to planning and purchasing, we have also taken this time of rest to go out and explore. Summer vacation is a much tougher and sometimes impossible venture, and so when we had the opportunity to visit family and do some traveling this winter we jumped on it. During one of the coldest weeks we've had in a very long time, Farmer John and I were visiting both Las Vegas and Palm Springs. With my brother graciously volunteering as cat and farm sitter, it was relatively easy for us to take a few days off. We were mostly mystified by Las Vegas, and Palm Springs was also a very different environment and ecosystem than we were used to having been born and raised in Wisconsin. But we got to see some cacti, some huge palm trees, and family. It was a great trip, and it made us appreciate our little piece of land in the middle of the heartland even more.
Despite all of this, we are beginning to feel the itch for spring. The itch to see and smell and feel growth again. To put our hands in the soil again. And of course, to taste the deliciousness of fresh produce again. How many more days until we can start making rhubarb jam again? How many more days until we see the asparagus stalks thrusting up out of the ground? For now we will have to content ourselves with the quiet of winter, while planning for the excitement of spring.