Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hay - Is It Spring Yet?

I'm Superman in the winter. As I browse seed catalogs, I'm certain I can do anything.

More trees to plant? No problem.

A gazillion new varieties of things "we just have to try"? It'll be fun!

That's the trap we fall into each year as our love for small farming and life on the island overwhelms time, space and common sense.

It's a lot like the whispers Susan and I trade as we solemnly promise not to go overboard on Christmas spending each year.

Each spring, as soon as the ground warms up and the earth is ready, it's as if a starting gun has been fired. We're off in a cloud of hopeful ambition. Each year our ability to produce is limited by how fast we're able to prepare the ground, plant the seeds and tend to the needs of man and machine.

When spring comes, there will be days on end that start early and end late. There will be days when a person can scarcely notice any difference from before and after except for aching muscles and a nagging feeling that not enough was done. Each year, we stack a little more on the plate, even after we've promised ourselves, "we'll cut back a bit next year." Somehow, we never do and we always manage.

Some of the ideas we're considering this year include suggestions from chefs and requests from friends to try this or that. We'll be trying some new techniques with mesclun greens - a very popular but labor intensive product. And this morning I was looking into artichokes. They like cool, coastal conditions and are a major cash crop in northern California. Probably not too popular on PEI...but if we steam up a couple, serve them with melted butter and a pot of PEI mussels at the shore next summer, we'll have a few new fans for this wonderful treat.

We also have a practical need to get serious about our hay crop. I can easily put away enough mowed timothy and clover (with assorted weeds) to feed our horses for a few weeks. But I need to grow enough good quality hay to bale and feed over the winter. I'd like to lower the cost of their winter boarding by sending the horses to board with their own feed. Or if not, I'd like to have enough good quality certified organic hay to sell. I've even started looking at hay prices in the drought stricken south west. Hmmmmm. Wonder how much it costs to ship a ton of hay?

We'll see. Meantime don't let the red "S" on my chest fool you. It doesn't really stand for Superman. It stands for Spring.

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