Grow Dead Grow
From the wheelbarrow of soil (Frog Log 3/5) to the tower of seeds (Frog Log 3/10), we now have little seedlings starting to fill the flats. Here is the beginning of our salad mix; these are all flats of baby lettuce seedlings.
A few nights ago I woke up with the words "grow dead grow" running through my mind. Kind of ominous when I write it, but I really didn't feel too bothered at the time. It was a weird night, but it reminded me of our very first greenhouse at the farm. We took the side off the old south-facing chicken coop and tried to figure out how to give the plants a head start. We probably didn't have much in the way of heat; I can't really remember - it was so long ago and I was so clueless about the growing process.
We weren't really based on the farm much in those days -- still trying to pay for it by working in town. So, not surprisingly, a cool night came along in early spring and we either didn't notice or weren't around to place the plastic covers over the seedlings, which were about the size of those in the photo above. The next morning we sadly viewed the results of our neglect - dozens of baby plants laying flat, having obviously succumbed to a killing frost.
We stared - and stared - incredulous that our work and hopes could be erased so quickly and absolutely. And as we stared, something moved! Or did it? Yes, that plant lifted off the soil ever so slightly! And then another one -- and another. Holding our breath, we watched as the tiny seedlings started to revive in the warming sun.
At that time, and I remember writing, we were sure we had witnessed a miracle. Now, though hopefully not jaded, we know more about the resiliency of the plant kingdom. Luckily for us, and for the planet, a desire and determination to grow is encoded into every living thing. Conditions may be challenging, harsh or downright impossible, but each plant will try its darnedest to adapt and thrive.
And the plant kingdom in the northern climes will experience a massive recession and regrouping throughout the winter months. As temperatures plummet and snow blankets the ground, the plants take their necessary rest, magically awakening to the springtime's first warmth. The cycle repeats itself each year - grow in summer -- die in winter -- grow again in spring.
And that's why I wasn't so upset by my dream. It's Spring -- the cycle continues to spin. We had "grow"; we're almost done with "dead", and we're on our way back to "grow"!
Spelling it out
Being somewhat a linguaphile, I subscribe to a nifty little web offering called A Word A Day (AWAD), written by Anu Garg. Five days a week I receive a word, its definition, and its use in recent publication. The author always includes a quote from known and unknown thinkers from the past several centuries -- no specific word emphasis, but almost always thought-provoking.
There is a guest author this week who seems to be a vegan and encourager of food awareness. This was a recent entry:factory farming (FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun An industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine. [From the idea of operating a large-scale farm as an efficient factory.] Some of the characteristics of a factory farm include intensive crowding of animals, trimming of birds' beaks, cutting pigs' tails, force-feeding of ducks, injecting artificial growth hormones, restricting mobility, etc. A factory farm is also known as a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation). "'When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,' says [geophysicist Gidon] Eshel, 'nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is 'optimal' only as long as degrading waterways is free." Mark Bittman; The Meat of the Matter; The Dallas Morning News; Feb 10, 200
I thought the above quote most interesting -- that nearly all of the environmental problems in the U.S. have their source in food production
. The author emphasizes meat production, but the negative effects of herbicide and pesticide runoff, associated with large-scale vegetable and grain production, are well-documented. The polluting emissions generated from trucking food long distances are also implicated in our environmental crisis. And note the above quote is from a geophysicist; I think he might know a little bit about the state of the earth.
I've been told that the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is starting to bustle a bit. At least two growers are bringing fresh greens from their all-season hoophouses. Apples and cider are still abundant. Some stored root vegetables are also available. If you can't find them there, head on over to the nearby People's Food Coop where local, organic food has been a long-time cornerstone of their product-line philosophy.
We don't have to be part of the problem. In small everyday choices we can vote with our dollars, minds and bellies for a saner, cleaner, more compassionate environment for all -- animal, vegetable, mineral and human.
See you at the market! (We hope to be there mid-April with seedlings for your garden -- and that's one of the best ways to eat local!)
Last but not least, the quote included with the AWAD entry follows:
There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare. -Sun
Tzu, general (6th century BCE)
Tower of Power
One son was taking the seeds up to the greenhouse -- all the seeds. And in one trip. It wasn't working so well and as he stopped in the kitchen to regroup, I realized that he was trying to carry our entire season's worth of seeds. So I took a picture and there it is. Those few boxes, with a little added sun and rain, will expand into a colorful cornucopia of vegetable nourishment.
You can see that we get a lot of seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds out of Maine. I believe that Frog Holler and Johnny's both began in the same year. Johnny's has definitely thrived and a year or so ago when the founder, Rob Johnston retired, Johnny's became a company that was owned by its employees. No sell-out to Burpee or Monsanto here.
Underneath the Johnny's boxes is a box of yummy "baked stuffed potatoes". Good old Fedco seed company. These guys are righteous to the core -- but does a seed company that deals in the thousands of orders, really go out and trash pick used boxes for shipping their orders? If so, wow! Fedco is a coop with an inbred organic proclivity and moral integrity. You can trust these guys. Fun to thumb through their catalog and just read the descriptions.
Small boxes on top are from the earlier mentioned Italian Seed company (Froglog 2/10) and a little bit from Stokes, that actually offers some organic seed now.
The seeds did make it up to the greenhouse and many are now nestled in their warm and cozy cradles of soil. Stay tuned!
We mixed our first batch of soil this week. There it sits in the wheelbarrow in the greenhouse. Nothing too special -- peat and vermiculite for the most part. But we'll start our first batch of seedlings in that soil. Once they have two or so "true leaves", the tiny plants will be transplanted to their little compartments -- three or four to a "cell". They will continue to grow in their new quarters until the stems are stocky and the roots established. When the weather welcomes, we will transplant the young sprouts to the field. There, good Lord willin', they will thrive in the springtime sun, rains and gentle breezes. When they have come into their varieties of vegetal fullness - mostly green and leafy - we will harvest them, wash, pack and transport to market. They will shine on the market table, waiting for you to put them in your basket. They'll ride home with you, to be washed, prepared and set on your table. From there to your plate, and then your belly and then a smile on your face.
And it all started in the wheelbarrow. Spring beckons!