How Do We Plan For Spring?

What a spring it has been for all of us- all around the world. We hope from wherever you are reading this, you and your loved ones are safe and well.

chickens and nest boxes at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
These girls have been practising sheltering in place all winter. About the time we humans got stuck at home, they got access to the big wide world. Go figure.

Here at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm, we are four weeks into our new stay-at-home lifestyle.

When I say “new,” this is for the other members of my family. I rarely venture off the farm at this time of year. It’s been a pleasure to have company at home, despite their need to be often glued to their screens for work and school purposes.

Probably just like you, our family is looking for entertainments other than zoom meeting gaffs and watching yet another webinar.  We’ve undertaken numerous projects aimed at keeping our bodies occupied and out-of-doors while distracting us from disheartening pandemic updates.

The Dead Hedge

Setting flags in the meadow at Bird's Nest Garden Farm Wiarton land plan
March 27, 2020 One week into staying home. All. the. time. Peter and I flag the meadow to correspond to his winter farm electronic map-making.

This winter, Peter took another farmland planning course, putting all our homestead experiences and dreams onto one map. We work on plans every year, but this winter it got extra serious. “Google Earth Pro” serious.

We had no idea how soon we’d put this map to good use.

It’s been guiding our work these days as we flag future silvopasture systems and clear out access for fence lines. We’ve cut a lot of brush, removing dead and diseased wood and thinning out overgrowth.

Staring at massive piles of decaying thorny brush wasn’t filling us with glee. Neither was the prospect of burning it.

Enter “The Dead Hedge.”

Dead hedge Bird's Nest Garden Farm Wiarton land plan
April 10, 2020. Behold the dead hedge. It may soon be visible from space.

A dead hedge not only creates a fence, but it also acts as a windbreak and wildlife habitat. Positioned on the thinnest soil in our meadow–and sometimes over bare bedrock–it will also raise the level of local organic matter, plant and microbial life as it decomposes.

Antique oral bits of British agricultural traditions have entered our vocabulary. We enjoyed learning that the woody bits are called “brash.”

That fence represents a lot of family bonding time.

Finishing No-Till Beds

Using a box scraper to prep rows no-till conversion Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Completing the final rows from last year’s conversion to no-till growing. Using the box scraper, Peter removes remaining twitch grass runners by dragging two scarifiers through the soil. Yes, scarifier is a new word for me too!

You can read here about our conversion to no-till veggie gardening last spring. We did it all…except these last two beds. They spent the season under a tarp, as we could never seem to find time (or motivation) to get back to hand-digging out all the grass runners and perennial weeds. Hard to believe, I know.

The tarp did a fantastic job knocking back everything. We easily prepped these two beds and have them sown to a cover crop of oats until I plant them in mid-May.

Veggie Growing

Beets seedling in soil blocks Polka Dot Hen Produce
Beets growing in soil blocks, not brownies.

Getting ready for market season normally fills my April and May days.

Plants gotta get started, watered, then transplanted out. The hoop house needs constant watching for correct temperatures and ventilation. Supplies need constant monitoring and purchasing. And there’s usually a lot time spent on marketing.

Except this year. Our farmers’ market as we’ve “grown to know and love it,” isn’t necessarily a go. We all understand the concerns, although I believe a properly run open- air farmers’ market can be as safe a place to buy food as Walmart or Costco.

But while all the ins-and-outs of “essential services” are getting hammered out, I’ve got to make a plan. I can’t be waiting to find out at the last minute if our farmers’ market is a yes or a no.

My seeding plan starts mid-March. The little veggie plants are growing now. Things are greening up in the hoop house as we speak.

Fresh harvest bowl of claytonia Polka Dot Hen Produce
Space salad! Weird and wild claytonia thrives in the hoop house, providing us with the fresh taste of spring.

A New Plan

It’s takes some fancy footwork, research and reaching out to my fabulous loyal customers, but I’ve devised a new veggie scheme to connect safely and regularly without the market. There’s sure to be a learning curve, but I’m excited to try something new.

One positive that has come out of this situation is feeling renewed in our purpose as land stewards and food growers. We’ll keep updating our plan as we chart a new way forward.

 

 

6 Replies to “How Do We Plan For Spring?”

      1. What holy and important work you do. I loved reading what you are up to. Our Farmers Market went on line. Now on Saturdays people drive up and on your car window you have your name and what farmer you ordered from and runners bring you your bag. People have to order by Friday at 10 am. I look forward to seeing what other new/old creative ways you farm! Stay safe and healthy! Jennifer NB

        1. Hey Jen!! Farmers’ markets are getting really creative, and it sounds like your local market has it dialled in. That’s great. Thanks for the verbal hug. Hope you guys are doing well. xo

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