In the small, everyday conversations of life at this time of year, lots of people ask each other, "How's your spring going?" and this year more so than ever before I find myself honestly responding with "Really busy. And really good." This is our third year growing for our winter CSA members, and the first year that, when it has come time to plant onions, that I've been excited to do it and then excited while doing, and not pestering myself over the questions like: How did we do this last year? Was it right or wrong then? What should I change? What should I do the same? Am I forgetting anything?
We grew over fifteen thousand onion, leek and shallot seedlings in the greenhouse and, over the course of last Thursday and Friday, planted all of them. The weather was perfect: cloudy, with occasional precipitation and a nice little downpour at the end, and the planting operation was essentially seamless. Seth and I dunked each flat of seedlings in fish emulsion water before loading them into the truck; Seth shuttled them out to the field as needed, one or two people stayed busy pulling the seedlings out of their tray and separating them, and most of us spent hours on end digging small holes with one hand (right, for me), tucking in an onion with the other (left), and patting the soil back around it with the first (right). Fifteen thousand onions in one and a half days of work is not bad, and just as good was doing such satisfying work in such above-average company. The usual suspects (the farm owners) all participated, Tyler only occasionally when he wasn't busy spreading two semi-truck loads of chicken manure over the back hayfields before the wet weather came, and we got to experience the stamina and conversation of our two apprentices, Miriam and Mark, and our good friend Graham. Nonnie-Chris spent time making life interesting for little Ada, and that made it all possible. Thank you, all of you.
Another major part of this time of year, working backwards, are those little baby fruit trees we talked about last time. Those grafted trees are now planted in long straight rows just a few feet away from the onion patch. That was an epic project as well, in true Seth fashion--after thinking about how long it would take to plant the eight thousand fruit trees we needed to this spring, Seth decided we'd need a tractor drawn tree-planter. After thinking about how long it would take to design, build and tweak one from scratch, we decided to import one from Damcon, in the Netherlands. After it arrived (in the nick of time) we discovered our tractor couldn't drive slow enough for a person to pop the trees in at the desired spacing AND the part that opens a furrow in the soil was unnecessarily wide to the point that it was bogging the tractor down and digging in too deep. So, naturally, Seth up and welded a new shoe and sweet talked the neighbor into lending us his 20-hp hydrostatic transmission (aka really really slow) Kubota lawn tractor. And in a few short days, those little trees were out of the sawdust and into the soil.
Over the last week or two, thinking about an upcoming blog post, I have been realizing that the nature of farming could lead to a rather boring blog for the same reason that I love farming as work and life: the same things happen every year. Over and over again. The weather changes, and sometimes the field or the people or the exact varieties of plants and trees and cows, but the more we refine what we do, I think the more repetitive this blog will become. Sure, the tree planter is a new development and hopefully by next year I'll be able to show you pictures of a barn with new windows and siding, but the reality of the natural world reigns over all. I basically give you the farmer's picture of the seasons. Enjoy!