Greentree Naturals Newsletter Spring Into Summer 2021
It seems appropriate to write this newsletter during vernal equinox. After a winter of the woods around the house being silent, assorted flocks of birds are returning. Canadian geese are gathering in neighbors fields to pick through any leftover grain they can find, feeding and resting for their next ascent to the north. The buds are starting to swell on the lilacs, promising a sweet fragrance wafting through the air in a month or so.
The flock of twenty or thirty wild turkeys have returned for breeding season. They roost up in the Douglas Fir trees behind the house. The males are all fluffed out and strutting in attempt to make the hens notice them. I don't know where they go in the winter, but every spring, they return to Greentree, breed, hatch and raise their little ones. Out of a clutch of 15 babies, by the end of the season when they are ready to move on, they have lost all but 3 or 4. That is just the nature of things. Those baby turkeys provide food for a number of other species like skunks, raccoons, eagles, hawks, bobcats and coyote.
The turkeys have been returning to us for over a decade. It makes me happy that we can coexist with the wildlife around us. Our farm is bordered by hundreds of acres of non-populated forest, which offers a refuge for them. The white tail deer often give birth in the lower field, right next to the garden fence. The grass is tall enough to offer some privacy, and they seem to recognize that we are not much of a threat and just doing our thing in the field beside them. Over the years, we've also seen twins of white tail deer, moose, and bear. Our farm offers us a kind of peace that has allowed us to move through this pandemic somewhat unscathed. We are both grateful to live where we live and do what we love. We are certainly finding that the physical aspect is getting a bit more challenging. Easy to get down; not as easy to get back up again! We manage and do so gratefully and look forward to another year of growing food for ourselves and our local community.
Spring weather offers chaos where we live, offering constant changes that include snow, sleet, rain and sunshine all in a day and sometimes in a matter of an hour. We learned long ago to dress in layers and are constantly dressing and undressing during the day. Heating with a wood stove, it's a crap-shoot figuring out whether or not to throw another log on the fire this time of year. Mornings are in the 20's and 30's so it's cold and we need a fire. If the sun comes out for any extended period of time, the solar gain heats up the attached greenhouse and brings in plenty of heat, and combined with the wood stove, heats up the house to too hot, so we open up the door to cool things down. It has us once again, taking off a layer of clothing, then the sun goes away and it starts snowing again, and the cycle continues.
The bulk of the snow has just recently melted off of the gardens so the earth is still pretty saturated and too wet to do much of anything out in the gardens just yet. We appreciate having a slow start to the season to give our bodies the time to adjust to physical labor after a long winter of not so much. Winter was a mild one for us in that the snow blower was only used once to clear off the driveway. Some years snow removal is a frequent activity. No complaints of not having to do it or shovel off roof tops.
Photo from 2007
before we had the big greenhouse
I did all the seeding in the kitchen
and carried the trays out to
the attached greenhouse.
I have been seeding in the big greenhouse and now have a couple of thousand seedlings starting to sprout. Seeding time is such a satisfying activity for me. I still find magic in the fact that a tiny seed can turn into a six foot tall tomato plant, abundant with starry shaped flowers, and all sizes of green and green turning to red orbs of deliciousness. My mouth is watering just thinking about a vine ripened tomato! This is one vegetable/fruit that we will only eat our own. A store bought tomato that has traveled 1,200 miles and was picked under-ripe for shipping doesn't even taste like a tomato. Vine ripened tomatoes are at the top of my favorites list of things that we grow.
I had a small contract with University of Idaho for consulting and teaching a few sessions for a Cultivating Success Crop Production for Beginners course. Everything was presented using Zoom platform which has become the normal way for meetings as well. It seemed like I was teaching something every week in February, if not for UI, for another entity called Annie's Project. Annie's Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational programs designed to strengthen women's roles in the modern farm enterprise. This was the 25th year that I've taught the organic gardening portion of the UI master gardener program for our two local counties. UI also hosted an on-line field day at Greentree Naturals so we could share our wire worm field research from last summer. Needless to say, I always seem to have something going on with assorted board advisory meetings and happy to have the opportunity to provide input with a small farmer perspective. I miss in person teaching and look forward to a time that I can return to a classroom format. I've decided to cancel our summer organic gardening workshops again this year until this health risk as passed.
Meanwhile, the farming season is about to begin. This year, we have a young woman interning with us with the goal of researching the possibility of eventually transitioning the farm over to her. Rose has been volunteering on the farm on and off for many years and has expressed an interest in farming as a livelihood. We are hopeful that we can figure some kind of workable transition to provide future generations an opportunity to keep our farm alive. We will work towards developing a good working model and share our outcomes with other farmers down the road. We want to do everything that we can to keep this a working farm because once farm land is lost, it is gone forever. Wish us luck!