The pandemic has all of us trapped and cranky. But the nice part about living on a farm at this time of year is that you can stare out at the green fields and take comfort in the coming season of growth and regeneration.
Our false spring is behind us (Sacramento County always seems to have an incongruous warm spell in late February or early March, just before the last gasps of winter take over again). More rain is ahead, but probably no freezes.
Ken has been consistently busy since we closed our first season of running a produce stand last September. Apparently the pledge to spend the winter with his feet up was one of several white lies told to make farming seem more appealing to this city girl.
The day we closed the stand, Ken was busy ripping out plants, taking down support structures, and bringing in compost material to plow into the ground. Then there were the cover crop to sow and tend, drainage ditches to improve, vines to tie up, an orchard to prune, and more than 50 replacement trees to plant.
Since January, he’s been in overdrive. He planted tomatoes in the greenhouse shortly after the first of the year. We’re experimenting with growing this first crop entirely sheltered to try to coax Early Girl tomatoes into production by late May. That way we will have something to sell besides the sweet red apricots and early peaches that should be ripe by then. By mid-June, our other vegetables should be coming on strong, followed in July by a weekly succession of fruits and melons.
Out in the field, Ken’s work has included thinning fruit, tree by tree, warding off fungus on the grapevines, and mercilessly hunting down gophers. He’s built bigger and stronger structures to support an enlarged tomato crop, as well as erecting scaffolding for the cucumbers (too many rot when the vines sprawl on the ground).
The onions have sized nicely this winter. They will be harvested soon; he’s working on a better way to dry them so they don’t mold before we can sell them. And we’ve just acquired three hives of bees so we will have ample pollinators and our own honey next year.
Back in the greenhouse, Ken has completed first and second plantings of bell peppers and melons. A second round of tomatoes is already “hardening” in the sunshine outside the greenhouse so they are ready to plop into the ground on April 1 for late June production. Other vegetables will wait for direct sowing as the earth warms.
Right now, the pandemic has left us yearning for summer’s fresh food. On too many days, there are sparse or empty produce bins at many grocery stores. Who imagined it would be difficult to find a potato?
Nonetheless, at Full Flavor Farm we can see a bright future growing around us. Not even the pandemic can diminish spring’s promise when seen from the window of a small farmhouse.