It cannot be denied. The calendar and the farm are in accord here: it is spring.
The really cheap narcissus bulbs I bought last November, late in the season when everything is marked down and the 75-bulbs-in-a-bag mix is available for $10 in the left-over bin, those bulbs have burst out in the most heroic display of aroma and nodding heads.
As I have been restricted to The Construction Garden the last two years,
most all of those bulbs are in pots. But they seem happy enough there, and it’s nice to be able to move the garden bloom around at will. Still nicer, however, will be the day I can have my real garden back. As spring is formally advancing now, I worry we’ll be into full summer before I can contemplate the landscape, and that will be the worst time to be setting plants out.
In the meanwhile, there is the vegetable patch to be attended. Here am I, Farmer Me, on my way to do battle with the winter’s growth of weeds and
the spring flush of new young slugs.
It was cold that morning as I ventured out. Sun was shining, but the air was chill, as you may tell by my odd combination of layers and sun hat. I dress as the need advises. Note the final comment below.
Starting last spring, and continuing in this one, I am converting our old tilled vegetable ground into raised beds. There is real labor in this, more than seems required when I look down upon a completed day’s work. But the payback is substantial. I believe the yield in the raised beds is easily twice that in the native soil. Once they’re constructed, the beds are easy to turn and to manure. And heaven knows, we have plenty of nicely composted manure here. The raised soil dries out much earlier in the spring and allows me to plant long before I could even till in previous years. But there is this matter of getting the work done.
We tried the method of humping earth into long ridges as raised beds. The soil had a tendency to escape from its intended location, and irrigation water ran down the edges. Not all crops are suited to growing in excavated bowls in the earth, and, after all, what is the point of raising the bed only to then dig down into it to hold water in place? In past gardens, I have used wooden frames to contain the piled-up soil. They worked well, but wood in contact with earth lasts only a few years, and I shudder at the thought of using treated lumber in my vegetable garden. This time I am bringing in 6″ by 8″ by 16″ inch cinder blocks.
It turns out they have unexpected advantages. They are ample to stand on, and they can be anchored into the earth with rebar stakes.
So I labored myself into a near collapse on Saturday, chopping out weeds and digging down to set the blocks in something like a level arrangement (be kind: I am a gardener, not a mason). Already my peas are up, lettuce is up, and radishes are up. Parsnips and broad beans are sown.
Not much can beat a day that ends with this:
or, apparently, this:
Other signs of spring on the place:
Chicks have arrived. These are day-old Rhode Island Reds. They’ll join the working girls in the hen yard when they grow up a little.
The rabbits are bred:
This is a Champagne d’Argent doe. These large, silvery rabbits are a quite old breed, raised for meat in France as long ago as… long ago. I am told the breed was known in the 17th Century, but I haven’t been able to find references that do not quote one another. Still, it’s a breed with a long history, a breed known to give large offspring that mature well and swiftly, with good-sized loins and pleasing flavor. Growing rabbits is a return for us, to a practice from the olden days when we lived in the city.
It’s an odd thing, the rarity of rabbit in the meat markets. Rabbit meat is low in cholesterol, high in protein, and economical to produce. This is a kind of French cuisine everyone should be able to afford. And yet, if you ask your market butcher for rabbit, he will shake his head and tell you he can’t bring it in because no one will buy it. He will tell you it costs too much.
How can this be? Beef costs too much! Rabbits on the same alfalfa and the same weight of water, will out-produce a cow 6-to-1. Consider the 2 acres it takes to raise about 1400 pounds of beef to the square yard that can house a breeding doe rabbit. In a commercial setting (not ours, where we are less intense about breeding schedules), a doe can kindle 8 litters per year of, on average, 8 kits per litter. Allowing for some losses, suppose you get 6 marketable fryers from each litter. That’s 48 more or less 5-pound fryers a year from each doe (a doe rabbit and a buck might cost about $15 apiece), on a square yard of housing; the breeding stock will eat about 5.5 ounces of feed each, per day. I am at a loss to understand why we, as a nation, do not embrace this wholesome, economical food source.
Ah, but, in any case, birds are tweeting, the orchard is blooming, lambs are growing in their mothers’ tummies, and spring is in the air.
And it snowed last night. It snowed lightly, but nevertheless, it is a principle of the seasons that it should not snow when the peas are up in the garden. That’s my opinion.