Every morning, little Miss Sundog puts her feet up on the bed and wakes me with copious kisses, usually right around 5 am. She’s learned to wait patiently (sometimes) while I rouse Ella with pets; morning pets are like caffeine to Ella. This morning, after these loving rituals, we came out to find the downstairs door wide open. (Gary always scolded me for not making sure it was shut tight!) Even so, and without an evening fire, the thermometer upstairs stood at 60 degrees, just a shade warmer than the rainy morning temperature outside.
It’s felt like Spring for much of the winter. But it was the 18th of March when I felt Spring had truly arrived. Not one but two Blue Herons appeared around the pond, apparently in a mating dance. The river otters, which I’d thought gone, reappeared. A mated pair each of wood ducks and mallards swam companionably. Sunny and a frog surprised each other on the porch.
Though I often feel nothing gets done around here, I know it’s not true. What doesn’t get done is housework and taxes. But the farm is showing signs of life.
The garlic we planted in the first days of November is coming up beautifully, along with a fine turf of wheat grass from the not-so-clean straw I bought as supplies dwindled. I officially created Blue Moon Stead, LLC, so I could hire some help. And I found a chef who wants to become a customer! I’m experimenting with growing a custom mix of microgreens for him, and he’ll be looking for green garlic and garlic scapes when they come on.
Andrew, my helper, is here most days as we make up for lost time in preparing for spring. As I take the pups on their walks, I’ve been pulling knapweed and other invasives and pruning elderberry trees; Andrew is burning the piles while fire danger is still low. He’s hand-tilled and amended the high tunnel soil, and put low tunnels inside so we can get an early start on planting. Although I’ve never wanted to grow market vegetables, this year I need to generate income along with this new expense, so we’ve decided to trellis tomatoes and cucumbers in the high tunnel and grow lots of basil, all of which are in high demand. I’ve also started veggies for personal use.
The microgreens are another project altogether. It’s a question of whether I can get the hang of growing many trays of different vegetables and get them to germinate at the same time. Some need more heat and light than we have now, so we are adapting part of Gary’s workshop, which has heat and electricity, with heat mats and grow lights. I’ll grow beets, carrots, kohlrabi, peas, broccoli and kale, among other things, and just as the first true leaves appear we’ll harvest them. It’s more intensive than ideal, but fairly high value. Because I do have indoor space it may be something I can do year-round. Most importantly, I have a potential buyer! I attended a cooking class at one of the good local restaurants with my friend Norma, and the chef mentioned using microgreens. Norma reminded me of that when she took me to lunch for my birthday, so I emailed him just to find out what he looked for. To my surprise, he said his supplier was retiring after 10 years, so could I grow these for him? We’ll see!
The chef is also interested in green garlic and garlic scapes. I’m not sure how much green garlic I want to sell, as it is early harvesting the whole clove at a smaller size and weight, so the economics may not make sense. But the garlic scapes, a seasonal delicacy in June, I believe, need to be cut anyway to encourage the growth of the bulb. (Note to Annette and Terry: they have to be harvested long before they get tough like the ones we tried to eat last year!) I don’t know how many scapes there are per pound, but I will have many pounds of scapes to sell.
I’m also growing mushrooms! I’m taking an online course through Cornell on growing mushrooms commercially on logs. I’m planning to start at a sub-commercial level of 50 3-foot logs of shiitake mushrooms, and the first harvest will be next year. I’ve started one log of shiitake as well as some oyster and stropharia (wine cap) mushrooms. The oysters and stropharia come on more quickly, so I might do more of those as well.
I’m not the only one in school. Ella is taking her first class ever, joining Sunny in learning Nosework. They love this class. What’s not to love? I hide cubes of ham or something tasty inside boxes, on top of chairs, under baskets and just in a variety of places at various heights. The dogs do what they do best: sniff around to find them. Eventually they will learn to find non-food scents, starting with essential oils of sweet birch, cloves and anise. Most mornings I hide the treats out on the deck, and one at a time the girls diligently (and eagerly!) do their homework. But I have to make sure the cat is inside – Mira is a pro at nosework, and can beat the girls to a treat if I’m not careful!
As I wrote this morning, Mira sat on my lap. It had taken her months to get on reasonably comfortable terms with Sunny, who takes a bit too enthusiastic interest in her. Ella, sitting on the couch next to us, turned to see me rubbing under the kitty’s chin and decided if I was petting I might as well be giving her a tummy rub. As she turned belly-up, she “accidentally” kicked Mira in the face. So my lap is now cat-free, the sun is long up, and it’s time for me and the pups to go on our morning walk this warm and rainy spring morning.
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, Brady Udall (Highly recommended!)
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, Timothy Egan
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickenden