First Days on the Farm

I’m just about a full week into my first farming experience. It always takes a while to settle into a new place, especially when you are the lone outsider, but my hosts have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. I think all my traveling and visiting friends over the past month primed me to fit in anywhere and with anyone.

One thing that hasn’t changed lately is the weather. Other than a couple of days here and there, spring seems to be waiting in the wings for a cue that should have arrived a few acts ago. The ground is still covered in snow in many places, and areas under shade can occasionally be knee-deep. There’s even expected to be a little bit of snow tonight and tomorrow.

The Transplant Transplants

The everlasting winter makes it impossible to put anything in the ground outdoors or to get new baby chickens (last years chickens were made into soup when they stopped laying eggs). Instead, I’ve kept busy in the greenhouse with the baby plants. We’re all waiting on warmer weather as we keep the wood stove burning at night. In the meantime I’ve been busy transplanting the growing plants from communal planters to their own individual pods. Transplanting helps the plants stretch their roots for better access to nutrition. This makes them more prepared for the harsh world outside.

Transplanting baby kale | photo by Kathy

I got my first lessons in transplanting on a few varieties of heirloom tomato plants: Principe, Blueberry, and Mortgage Lifter (so named because they’re easy and quick — perfect when you need a little extra cash). From there I moved on to transplanting a densely packed box of Lacinato kale. It took three days to complete, and the end result was two tables full of individual kale plants.

Lacinato Kale(the wobbly nature of these transplants is due to the boxes themselves and not, as you might suspect, the inexperience of the transplanter)

This kale and many of the tomatoes will soon be sent up to Hamtramck, Michigan. One of Kathy’s sons (Kathy is the head of my farm) has purchased a few abandoned plots of land in this enclave of Detroit and is creating an urban farm with his fiancée (they’re getting married next month). Kathy offered to house and care for some of their plants until the ground in Hamtramck is ready for planting.

I’ll be helping to deliver these plants in a few weeks, and it’ll be a great chance to check out the space. I’ve read a lot about the changes happening in Detroit, and Kathy’s son seems to be at the forefront of this movement. If you want to see what they’re up to on that farm, you can visit their blog, Grace and Peas. I’ll be following their adventures — as well as helping them out from time to time — because this is something I often see for myself in the future.

Signs of Spring

Despite the persistent cold, there have been a few signs of spring to keep us saying, “Maybe after this cold snap…”

  • The ducks have laid three eggs in the past week.
  • A few of the trees have started budding, perhaps due to impatience.

Actually, that’s about it. Everything else screams winter. It’s supposed to warm up by the end of next weekend, but I can only be fooled so many times.

Other Projects

Today I moved some rocks from the fire pit into the greenhouse to serve as the edging for a new planting space. Kathy spread composted soil on the bed, and it’ll be ready for some strawberry plants soon.

Tomorrow I’ll create some flyers and promotional cards that can be handed out at the farmer’s market in Howe. It’ll be a great opportunity to learn about the many heirloom varieties of tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, kale, lettuce, and other vegetables we’re growing here.

I would love to share more photographs of all my activities on the farm, but my phone’s stopped working (again, again, again). I’m forcing the phone company to give me a different model of phone, because I’ve lost any faith in this one functioning at all. How can a barn built by hand out of wood withstand wind, hail, snow, rain, sun, and time for over a hundred years, while a piece of precision computer technology designed by scientists can’t withstand my pressing the power button for more than a week? I blame our capitalist overlords.

If ever I have a working phone (which will likely happen when spring arrives and pigs fly), I’ll give you a full photo tour of the place and what I’m up to.

Until then, I’ll just be farming up a storm, playing with the cats, and trying to rustle up some money for my tax bill (thanks, self employment tax). If there’s something you’re curious to know about the farm or anything else, let me know in the comments or through some other means.

One Reply to “First Days on the Farm”

  1. oh, that sounds like a chunk of heaven to me, Eric!! I adore the transplanting process! It must be similar to parenting, trying oh so carefully to protect those wobbly legs until they stand strong on their own. I love standing in the midst of our tomato garden, bushel basket ready to be filled, knowing that a few months earlier I took a small seed and pushed it into a small pot of soil in our kitchen. Then, voila! Next thing is quarts of ruby-red tomato juice ready to be cellared and enjoyed through the winter months ahead.

    I look forward to seeing more pictures from your farm and hearing all about what’s going on! I sure wish I had a greenhouse to heat and grow wonderful things in. No regrets so far?

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