Hibernation to Germination 2017

Widget requests picking up
Widget requests picking up

Three days ago, I packed up all my wool blend socks, sweaters, long underwear, and winter boots.

some of the new chickens had never been outside before coming here. they thought that the snow was lava and went to ridiculous lengths to avoid touching it
some of the new chickens had never been outside before coming here. they thought that the snow was lava and went to ridiculous lengths to avoid touching it

I was feeling optimistic, and perhaps hoping that by taking this step I would help do my part to ensure that winter goes away for the year. I’ve been premature in my Spring-faith before – even just earlier this month a wet, heavy snow took out the gutter I’d eagerly reinstalled on the side of our high tunnel greenhouse, hoping to collect some early rainwater for the first high tunnel crops.

snow cover from inside the greenhouse
snow cover from inside the greenhouse

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when this cold snap hit – highs in the 30s, lows in the 20s. I just finished putting sheets and buckets over the raspberry canes, rhubarb, and asparagus, which are apparently just as foolishly optimistic as I.

But even with more snow and cold, it’s indubitably Spring, albeit USDA Zone 4a style. Nature’s signs are everywhere – the evening choruses of peepers have returned, the evil quack grass is lushly taunting me, we’ve had our first tick and mosquito bites, and the hungry black bears have begun their raids on the Neighbors’ birdhouses.

emerging rhubarb brain
emerging rhubarb brain

Robins are twitterpating, dandelions blooming, rhubarb and asparagus emerging from their subterranean winter slumber.

frost bow arcs over the newly-fenced field (electric polytape for the deer, and chickenwire beneath for the rabbits and raccoons)
frost bow arcs over the newly-fenced field (electric polytape for the deer, and chickenwire beneath for the rabbits and raccoons)

Human signs of Spring abound as well – we have the fence up around the field to defend against critters great and small, the loggers are back to ravaging the surround forests, and we joined the annual horde of scavengers to Bloomington’s Curbside Pickup days to get free materials for the farm.

a good haul of materials for the farm, thanks to the annual Curbside Pickup in Bloomington MN
a good haul of materials for the farm, thanks to the annual Curbside Pickup in Bloomington MN

 

The first big push of seeds are all done germinating, and have now moved out of the trailer (where we kept them toasty near our woodstove), and into the greenhouse.

In there, the seedlings get ample sunlight during the days, and the hot weather plants (peppers, tomatoes, etc) stay warm overnights on the rocket-heater-warmed clay bench (we’ve improved our firing routine such that they’re enjoying temperatures around 30 degrees warmer than outside, all night long).

firing the rocket mass heater for a night of warmth
firing the rocket mass heater for a night of warmth
using an infrared sensor to read the top of the barrel temp (at these high end temps, the center of the lid glows faintly although you can't see it here)
using an infrared sensor to read the top of the barrel temp (at these high end temps, the center of the lid glows faintly although you can’t see it here)

 

warm season crops snug under cover on the heated bench, while more hardy cool weather crops hang out in the nude
warm season crops snug under cover on the heated bench, while more hardy cool weather crops hang out in the nude

The first rows were planted in the high tunnel a couple of weeks ago – reluctantly, since we discovered that rabbits have been partying in there through the nights, and we feared devastation … but a combination of scent deterrents, homemade hot pepper spray, and wire fencing seems to have moved them on to less hostile environments.

skulking rabbit in the high tunnel
skulking rabbit in the high tunnel

 

In the last couple of days, the first field plants went into the ground, ready to soak up the days of rain that followed – peas, salad mix, turnips, radishes.

In other news, we’ve doing lots of spring cleaning around the farm, building a larger screen porch in preparation for the annual mosquito blood- drive, clearing out a patch of large oak-wilted trees to make room to plant new fruit trees (and to make firewood of course), plugging new mushroom logs, using the chickens to break down our abundant piles of oak leaves for use in compost, and experimenting with controlled burns in the meadows and woods on the margins of the field.

 

Holy shiitake! The logs we plugged two years ago are putting out tons of delicious mushrooms
Holy shiitake! The logs we plugged two years ago are putting out tons of delicious mushrooms
fresh shiitakes & fresh eggs with spicy noodle leftovers
fresh shiitakes & fresh eggs with spicy noodle leftovers
Sehr family project - Kristin with Matriarch and Patriarch Sehr, working on the expanded and improved screen porch
Sehr family project – Kristin with Matriarch and Patriarch Sehr, working on the expanded and improved screen porch
Eugene helping with the screen porch roof
Eugene helping with the screen porch roof

 

froooooost on the gaaaaaarlic (dum dum-dum, dum-dum dum dum, dum-dum dum, dumm dummmm!)
froooooost on the gaaaaaarlic (dum dum-dum, dum-dum dum dum, dum-dum dum, dumm dummmm!)
hens checking out the fresh;y-tilled soil. Hope they devoured some cutworms
hens checking out the fresh;y-tilled soil. Hope they devoured some cutworms



down, down, down in a burning ring of fire
down, down, down in a burning ring of fire

Fire Marshal Neighbor Marcia supervises one of our burns
Fire Marshal Neighbor Marcia supervises one of our burns

 

We’ve battled quack grass, spotted a fisher (a giant weasel basically), cursed the insanely-intelligent voles … and sat inside on a chilly gray day and finished this webpage update for you.

Rain and sleet cannot dampen Kristin's commitment to her post running the booster fire for the greenhouse, as we charge up the thermal mass to keep the warm season seedlings toasty through a night in the 20s
Rain and sleet cannot dampen Kristin’s commitment to her post running the booster fire for the greenhouse, as we charge up the thermal mass to keep the warm season seedlings toasty through a night in the 20s
if you look very closely, you can see me at the far end of the row, working the broadfork
if you look very closely, you can see me at the far end of the row, working the broadfork
freshly-tilled and ready to rock!
freshly-tilled and ready to rock!

Hope you, too, are enjoying this slow, beautiful transformation from winter to spring! Life is strange and beautiful, and the struggle is the joy … we’re grateful to have such lucky abundance, such interesting problems. and such folks as you in our lives. Thanks!

 

One thought on “Hibernation to Germination 2017”

  1. Do all you can to make the Fisher feel at home. It will help reduce the rabbit and vole population……and, well, chickens too! Looks like all is well. It was fun to see you all in the Keys. We look forward to a summer visit.

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