Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chicken Story Sans Moral

There are, at times, things that should have seemed a lot more obvious from the beginning. We get comfortable in our own spaces and overlook that there are other spaces out there.
The portable chicken coop is an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while now. I built it last fall, and last week, hitched the tractor up to it and hauled it on its maiden voyage. From one side of the raspberry field to the other. All of 150 feet.
The portable chicken coop replaces the old rotten, moldy, possum infested death trap chicken coop, and it seems to be working out just fine. The chickens, at least, seem happy. That’s all that any of us really want, anyway. A home. A hearth. A place that makes us feel warm and secure.
What didn’t occur to me, and this, as I say, should have been a lot more obvious from the beginning, is that I am of a culture and generation that equates a sense of home with a structure. Any one in a series of domiciles,that's where I live now. Then I'll live someplace else. Chickens equate home with a specific place, and the structure there-on is secondary.
Thus we had eighty chickens all clustered around an empty space last night, and a completely vacant chicken coop on the other side of the field.
I’d have thought they’d go right over to the chicken coop when I threw some grain down onto the ground. No. They ate the grain and then went "home." I thought they’d waddle over to their old familiar nesting poles as soon as it got dark. No.
We’d carry one or to of them to the coop, and go back for more. The chickens, meanwhile, had jumped out of the coop and followed us "home." It was getting dark and the chickens were starting to freak. All I could think to do was to park the van where the coop used to be. All the chickens immediately jumped in and went to sleep. We then picked them up one by one and carried them to the portable coop. And shut the door. And didn’t open it again until we had a fence up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Getting Shit Done

I'm trying to gt shit done. Like, I'm goal oriented and I focus on tasks until they're completed. That transition occurred with-in the past few days, when I wasn't looking and I had let my guard down. Somewhere between the time I hauled the old, used, but what is going to be the new greenhouse over here, and the time I moved the chicken coop, the season began. Inexorably. There's no stopping it now. It is now a non-stop, laugh filled fun fest until frost, but that is a long way off.
I have spent the year thus far working on sideline projects - the stuff I've ben meaning to do for a while but have never had time. A few new shelves in the shop. Better areas to sit down and hang out around the pond. Moving the clothes line. Painting the interns outhouse. Stuff like that. The nonessentials. I knew that as soon as I did something significant, something key to the approaching year, the dam would burst and there would be no going back. And I've been putting off that dam bursting for as long as possible, because early January is a nice time, perhaps the only time, to accomplish the nonessential.
That's all in the past now. All that stuff will lay and wait for next January. I'm working now on projects that I expect to bear immediate results. Projects key to the operation of the farm as winter slowly gives way to spring. I'm getting shit done. I'm rolling with the tide. No, I'm caught in the current, unrelenting, unceasing, and the other clothes lines will have to wait til next year.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

In The Nick of Time

Freezing rain started just a moment ago. Not really expected – drove home from a friend’s birthday gathering under what I thought were clear skies. Punched the button on the answering machine and heard the voice of a friend in the mid-West: I’ve called twice and you haven’t been home. It must not be snowing there.
Well, it is now, or it’s damn close. And been bitter and frigid for two days. The mild early winter spoiled us – it’s been freeze the inside of your nostrils cold the past two mornings, at least here on the creek. In other news, friends down East report their strawberries are flowering.
All this leads me to a gambling tale that I feel needs to be posted in this space. I spent the evening with a group of farmers, and after cake and ice cream we got into a bit of a dice game. You roll the dice trying to get close to a certain number, trying not to get over. Or something. You have to roll a few times to get close to that number. If you go over, you lose everything and have to start the whole game over. Or something. You see how keen I am on games.
Okay. Most games –cards, boards, dice – afford an opportunity to view people’s different personality types based on how they play the game. That’s what makes them just so tedious.
It occurred to me, halfway through the game, that every single player – farmers, all – were taking every chance they could and continually betting everything, certain the next roll would bring them just what they needed. Caution and strategy and palnning were not present at the table. "Gimme the dice! I know I’m gonna make it!"
It’s a weird defect we all have, but we have fun together.
Speaking of gambling with everything, the following weeds have developed a resistance to Round-Up: buckhorn plantain; goosegrass; waterhemp; fleabane; Italian ryegrass, rigid ryegrass, palmer amaranth and common ragweed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's Alive!!!

We create things that seemed like a good idea at the time, and then they run amok across the countryside, scaring the old and the infirm. It’s just not understood, we argue, but the simple village folk don’t listen, and grab their torches and pitchforks. In the aftermath, as the smoke clears, you just kinda wonder whether well enough should have just been left alone.
Plans were floated a few short years ago for yet another farmer’s market. A big one, though, big enough to accommodate all farmers who wanted a place to sell. Well, we formed a committee. We looked around for a place to hold the market, and set about drafting rules and regulations. We met with City Hall and urban planners and development people and landlords. We met with managers of markets from other cities and farmers who sold at markets in other cities and people who said they were experts in this or that. We applied for grants. We came up with logos and slogans.
This market idea seems to be rolling with a momentum all it’s own, now. It’ll get started any year, now, being very well planned.
Whether anybody shows up or not is another question. Many who expressed enthusiasm early on have cooled, and others have shown outright hostility. Change seems to be a hard pill to swallow.
The original character of the market morphs as we go, slowly, without anybody really taking notice. Any form that the market takes at any given time is that form that makes it most agreeable to most people. Thus it survives. Sail all the way to Galapagos and study finches, if you want to. What it will be in the end is anybody’s guess, and will be interesting to find out,
The core idea is simple enough: you show up, you sell stuff, you go home. God is in the details.
I’ll let you know what happens at the next committee meeting.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I can't think much of a people who drew cats the same for four thousand years.
-Lord Kitchener, on the Egyptians

It's final. We'll be building another greenhouse this year. And with that sentence I now must confront the cyclical nature of time.
Wasn't it just last January that I was building another greenhouse? Why, yes, it was. And the year before that, wasn't I rebuilding my first greenhouse? Why, yes, again.
This is not acceptable. There must be some sense of progress, some sense of a forward motion through both space and time where-in I get closer and closer to something that vaguely resembles success. Mustn't I? As it is, I repeat myself every year, not unlike the trees budding leaves or the daffodils coming up or the grass starting to grow again, or any one of those examples of things don't really seem to be getting anywhere.
All this is reinforced with-in me with the realization that I spent a great deal of time during the first week of the year placing seed orders. As if I haven't done that before.
I have it down by now, at the very least. Mark out a rectangle, then remeasure it to make sure its right. Then dig a lot of holes in the ground. Then, dig them deeper. Then put a lot of metal things in the ground. Hope they're all straight. Pull some of them up and redig some holes. Then, dig them deeper. Wait for a calm day. Try to put the plastic up. Wish you had waited for a calmer day. Keep knocking down all the weeds that are growing inside.
There. That's the process. I'll spare myself (and you) the tedium of documenting each and every task in this space.
A more troubling thing to me is the increasing amount of plastic in the front field. It used to be flat and green, and is now pitched and arched and hooped and plasticked. It's about the first thing that is seen when rounding the bend and coming onto the farm - not exactly the greeting I want to have for my visitors. We've been planting sunflowers along the road for a few years, and that's the kind of bright cheeriness I want people to see when they arrive. It's only for a few months, though. I'd like it if they were there all year. Perhaps I'll put up yet another greenhouse to grow sunflowers to hide the other greenhouses. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


This is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
- Willa Cather

These are querulous times, distasteful and confused, and the wise seek counsel from no one. Things are not as
they seem, all is illusory, and quotes from Celestial Seasonings boxes double for wisdom.
Strawberries and spinach are the only greenery in the fields now, but the grass has luster brought about by uncommonly warm days. The daylilies are peeking above ground, and some report apple and peach buds. I am not fooled. Spring will come in its own good time.
The chickens work more than anybody these days, scratching away at whatever it is they scratch at. Everything else seems dormant, suspended in mud. It waits. It rests. It rusts.
Yet another greenhouse goes up soon, though it’ll be a bit complex. Current ownership of the greenhouse is a bit nubulous, and how exactly it will transfer to my hands remains to be seen. It will happen if you believe, or something like that.
The future of this business remains unknown; the next few chapters should prove interesting. Demand increases at a pace that can only be met by commercial growers, but that demand seems in part caused by a family farm pastoral idee fixe in the mind of the consumer. Thus they buy an illusion from a corporation. Meanwhile, back on Spring Creek, a naked 4-year-old helps gather eggs.
Learned a new term the other day, from Virginia Woolf or one of them. Sun stop. Just as you’d think. The mountain over on the back side of Harold’s farm, where the sun is still shining after it has completely left us: Sun stop.

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