Ahh Spring...or as we like to call it, the Season of Never-Ending Anxiety. It's great, isn't it?
The transition from Winter to Summer (because assigning "Spring" might indicate a consistent climate pattern) seems to be one long game of tug-of-war between windy, wet cold-snaps and gorgeous singsong days bursting with cherry blossoms. My wardrobe can go from sandals and a T-shirt in the morning to a scarf and rain boots in the afternoon. Now, I'm being dramatic, but Spring can be frustrating, particularly for farmers who do not live at their farm. The characteristics of this season - oscillating between hopeful and dreadful - are reflected in the ups and downs we experience as commuter farmers...and we thought we'd share some of those with you here.
The snow is gone!
After a few late snowfalls this winter, we had about two feet of snow on the field until the 13th of April. During the week before The Boston Marathon (which your farmer, Brian, ran and conquered!), the snow finally melted, meaning we could get to work building a larger hoop house for the seedlings. Since we are on such a small scale, we don't have any permanent greenhouse structures like most larger farms do. We're okay with this, but it does mean we have to wait longer to start seeds in the spring than other farms in the area.
But now there's water everywhere...
With all the snow melting in virtually two days, accompanied by a very persistent month of rain, we had (and still have in parts) a lot of standing water at the farm. We're also cursed/charmed with a high water table, so the standing water doesn't have anywhere to go. This means we have to be very patient about getting a tractor onto the fields to till and prepare beds for planting. A tractor should never be driven over wet soil because this can lead to compaction of the soil and a stuck tractor!
The sun is out!
We've seeded thousands of vegetables and flowers over the past couple months and there is nothing quite like walking into your greenhouse every morning to witness a new seedling push its way out of the soil. The strength, the energy, the promise of life and abundance...we should all hope to have the same ferocity as a young plant! It is so rewarding to take care of these little lives by giving them rich soil, ample water, and a controlled environment to thrive in.
But there's still not a lot to DO at the farm...
While the seedlings need a lot of attention, the fields don't yet. With such wet soil, we are still playing the waiting game when it comes to prepping beds and staking out fences. Additionally, there is nothing to harvest, nothing to weed, nothing to fill the hours between opening the greenhouse and watering plants in the morning, and closing the greenhouse at night. This is where the biggest challenge, and flaw, of the "Double Life" comes into play (see our fist blog post): Springtime equals a lot of time on the road often to simply open a greenhouse door and water a few dozen trays of plants. We do our best to use time at the farm proactively, but some days are filled with more time driving than farming. On top of this idle time, we spend a lot of energy in Portland worrying if our babies are too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. It can be emotionally taxing to not be in throwing distance of our veggies for most hours of the day!
It's time to plant all the things!
As the season leans into summer, there is an urgency to plant all the things! Longer days and warmer nights mean we could theoretically seed everything we have and watch it grow! A portion of the field has been tilled and we have been able to plant onions and leeks into the ground, as well as direct-seed radishes, turnips, peas, carrots, and greens. Meanwhile, our brassicas and solanaceae, curcubits and amaranthaceae are bursting to life in the greenhouse alongside dozens of flower varieties itching for more sunshine! It's a very exciting time of year!
But we have to time everything just right...
Since we don't go to a farmers' market, everything has to be timed just right for our CSA starting June 6th. Vegetable plants are predictable, but a lack of sunshine in the last month has really slowed the initial growth of most varieties. Fighting the urge to plant all the things in an anxious frenzy can be hard, especially when growth seems to be slow. But we've tried to keep in mind our lesson learned last year when we seeded radishes and greens too early and had to scrap together the first couple weeks of CSA after the radishes had turned woody and greens had gone to seed by the time everything else was ready for harvest.
Spring is a time of restlessness and busy-ness; patience and preparation. Like the weather, the day's activities can be unpredictable and frustrating. But by the time summer rolls around, all this planning and worrying will be worth it when the field is lush with juicy tomatoes and crunchy carrots...just as the season itself prepares the ground with enough cool water to sustain a vibrant year ahead!