Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

backyard hens

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Rhode Island Reds

It has been very interesting to notice how hens are spreading through our countryside.  When we first got birds, back in 2008, only our neighbors across the street had them.  The other neighbors looked at us as some sort of throw backs.  But now when we drive down the road from home to work we see many many houses with hens scratching around the yard.  Everyday it feels like someone else has birds.  Is it because of the economy? Is it due to the rise in knowledge of what industrial food means in terms of quality of life, both for us and the chickens? I am a firm convert.  In fact eggs anywhere else just don’t taste as good.  I am an egg snob.  Happy to see others jumping on the bandwagon.



planting the garden

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

garden beds

It occurred to me last night at 3:00 AM, when I had to run outside in the thunder and lightning in my nightgown to put my tools away, that I have been very lucky with the planting of our garden this year.  After each major planting session we have had a couple of days of rain. I left my tools exposed to the elements because when I went in for the day there were no signs of inclement weather. I usually put them away at the end of a session, unless I know for some certainty that rain is unlikely. Spring in Maine can be pretty wet, sometimes for weeks on end. This year we have had some pretty hot sunny days early in the season, including a week long stretch of 80 degree temps in March. I have no doubt that global climate change is a reality. In just the past seven years that we have been growing here we have seen some pretty distinct changes in the timing of seasonal changes.  Every year Spring comes a little earlier, and Fall stays a little later. This year I have been confused about my planting schedule due to the extreme temperature swings since March.  Should I plant the peas?  The potatoes? Is it too early for cucumbers? Zucchini? Am I late for planting my Sweet Peas? I spent three hours yesterday planting a second round of beets and carrots (the bed with the checkerboard mulch above), a bed of shell beans, the pole & bush beans, and a bed with assorted greens- chard, Dinosaur kale, radicchio and (new this year) cumin.  I was going to seed the cukes and zukes, but stopped myself.  Even though it was probably in the mid-70’s yesterday, those cucurbits like it even warmer-say in the 60’s at night- to germinate.  So while I could have planted those seeds, they would have sat miserably in the ground while we have this cool wet rain that we’re having today.

young taters

So I’ll wait another week, or more depending on the weather, before seeding those guys.  But I’m betting the beans and greens I planted yesterday are mighty happy about all this wet today. And the second round of carrots will germinate much better in the damp.  Carrots are always a challenge to keep damp enough to sprout in the Spring warmth. Our garden is down the slope from our house, far enough away that I have to remember to check on sprouters with a trip down the hill. Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen.  So I have had some bad luck with carrots.  The potatoes that were planted about ten days ago are poking up, as are some weeds… Last year out of sheer laziness we planted potatoes that we bought at a local garden center. They were not organic. They were not good. This year I went back to our usual source, Moose Tubers, and am happy to be back with our friends. We’ve got the bed netted to keep the chickens from digging up the little taterlets.  So in order to weed I’ve got to disassemble the protection.  Bit of a deterrent to the humans as well as the chickens.  When this rain stops I will climb in and weed that bed.  By then all of the potatoes should be up, and I can apply the first layer of mulch.  Vegetable garden season is here!



Monday, April 30th, 2012

Last winter a friend of ours decided he wanted to do his part to save the bee population.  Living in Portland he was not properly situated for even one little hive.  We offered up our fields thinking it would be a win/win for all involved.

They arrived a couple of weeks ago, just before we went down to NY for the book fair.  It was pretty cold for the past little while, typical of Maine Spring.  But the past couple of days have warmed a bit and the sun has been shining gloriously, so things are blooming.  This is very good for the bees.  Our Apple trees are blooming their little hearts out, and, for the first time since we came to live here, the trees are covered with industrious buzzing bees.  It makes me smile just thinking about it.  If my camera was better I would have shot a little video.

The whole tree shown here was alive with bees.  I am not particularly afraid of bees.  Have been stung enough to know that it hurts, but somehow do not feel scared around these creatures.  Perhaps because I am concerned for their well being. Perhaps because I am anticipating beautiful apples due to their pollinating.  They make me smile.

We have been talking to some farmers about working this land we have.  A full sized vegetable garden is about as much farming as we two can handle.  But there is much wide open space just begging to be tilled.  Sometime soon we imagine a tractor will show up to start turning some earth.  Then the bees will have even more to buzz around.  I do not know how far the ladies will travel for pollen (I do know that they are ladies, the ones who do the gathering), but I imagine they will have plenty of fodder for their honeycombs in our neck of the woods.

Fly ladies fly.



Thursday, April 5th, 2012

That’s what this time of year is all about. Waiting for fresh produce to appear again at the market.  We are lucky here in Maine to have many farmers who make it a personal (and probably professional as well) mission to fight the seasons and grow as much as possible under cover.  Many of them are quite successful at it, and we thank them hardily for allowing us to eat fresh greens all Winter.  When it gets to be this time of year Spring is on the calendar, yet Mother Nature is slow to wake.  The ground is still cold and germination is tricky. This is when I really start to crave fresh vegetables. I find myself buying eggplants that I know have been trucked here from at least Florida and while they approximate the flavor of their in-season relatives, they are still a pale comparison.  Longing for the smell of fresh soil, the feeling of the sun on your back while you dig around in the garden, and the taste of the fruits of those labors.  The wait does make it all taste that much better.  I just wish it would hurry up and get here.