Teachers everywhere

This morning I woke up about an hour and a half later than I planned. Jeff had shut the curtain, plus it was gray and rainy and dark. Whenever this happens I kind of jolt out of bed because I hate to keep all the animals waiting. It’s not a super rigid schedule we have going here (we are certainly not as early rising as many farm folk out there), but we are fairly consistent. Every morning I’m aware that those ducks have been quacking in their little coop since the break of dawn, all just waiting for us to pull the string that lifts the little door. They come pouring out, every morning they are so ready to greet their day. Every animal here relies on me, and my internal sense of responsibility has really grown over time. These days it’s less of a box to check, more like they themselves draw me out of my bed. I feel like this is a good shift- the magical lived distinction between a chore and a felt commitment.

I have never really enjoyed sleeping in, it has always left me feeling more disoriented than well rested. Sweet Vera feels the same way. Generally she gets up at the earliest an hour after the rest of us, and now that she’s fully entered adolescence she’s predictably more tired than before. Late this morning she came stumbling out of her room and exclaimed “Oh nooooo! It’s so late! I hate sleeping in this much!” I tried to comfort her, telling her she must’ve needed the sleep. But I know how she feels. It just knocks things off-kilter.

I invited her to take a slow walk with me around the farm to get fresh air and get out of our heads. It was still pretty cold and dreary but I knew there were lots of spring treasures to discover.

We visited our little greenhouse and seed starting area in the basement. We’ve got lots of peppers and eggplant just waking up. The brassicas I potted up are doing well and starting to look a little more sturdy. I’ve started lots of kale, collards, kohlrabi, a variety of Asian greens, broccoli, early cabbages, etc. We’ve also got artichoke and cardoon just starting to emerge.

I’m experimenting with propagating some jade plants, as well as some other succulents. I can’t tell yet if it will work, but I’m hoping they’ll take root soon.

This is the first year I’ve been able to save all my own seed potatoes. I decided to try “chitting” them this year- the practice of letting them sprout a bit in a window before planting out to give them a head start.

Out in the greenhouse we’ve got celery and celeriac and lots of onions and leeks.

Last fall I potted up a bunch of strawberry plants to share this spring. I wasn’t sure they were going to make it but they are all waking up! They don’t look like much right now, but almost every plant has new green emerging from the center. It never ceases to amaze me how hardy some of these plants are. These strawberries handled weeks of temps in the teens in just a little plastic pot.

It’s been a lot of fun to talk foraging and wild plants with my kids. When I was their age I hadn’t the faintest clue about that world. Vera and I particularly connected with motherwort on our walk. It grows like crazy here, and is one of the first things to emerge. We wondered if we might need some of its early spring medicine and picked some for tea. By the end of our walk she had a big handful of herbs- motherwort, mullein, yarrow, cleavers, catmint, nettles. I’m sipping the bitter earthy tea right now as I write, and I swear it’s making me feel more alive.

We also witnessed the early emergence of garlic mustard, a villainized plant in these parts. She and I got to talking about the concept of invasive species and deconstructing the narrative around “good” and “bad” creatures. It’s something I don’t have solid answers for, but I have a lot of curiosity around the root of imbalance and disharmony in our ecosystems and in our social spheres. I find there to be many parallels. Anyway, we plan to eat lots of garlic mustard, and feed plenty to the animals, and I’d also like to try making paper out of it!

I’m pretty excited about all the perennials we’ve put in over the past few years. The American hazelnuts are really getting big, and the catkins (the male pollen-producing part of the plant) are so interesting this time of year. Also pictured are our perennial “walking” onions, sorrel, garlic, rhubarb, and the overwintered spinach and cilantro in the hoop house.

There’s so much more to share about what’s going on around here, but I’ll leave it there for now. <3

“The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.” (Wendell Berry)


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