Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Highs and Lows

Spring in Kansas--now you see it, now you don't. Since my last post, we've had lows in the mid-teens...and tomorrow may hit 80.

The variable weather makes it hard to plan tasks, and hard to know when to plant things. Our early-planted radishes and other crucifers were nipped by that cold snap, but were seeded pretty thickly so actually I think the cold just did the thinning for us. The tiny spinach seedlings just paused, then went on growing. The peas were still snuggly under their mulch, and we covered the more mature overwintered spinach, cilantro and walking onions so they look great.

We were supposed to receive our nearly 100# of seed potatoes the week it got cold...and almost paniced when the "shipment notification" came on email the day before the lowest forecasted temperature. But the great folks at Potatogarden.com (there, I've given away a trade secret!) reassured me that my potatoes were safely in their warm-enough-but-not-too-warm warehouse until the forecast cleared. We don't normally make much effort to plant on the traditional St. Patrick's Day date, but we do like to give them time to pre-sprout in the warm house several weeks before planting into warmer April soil.

This week is a buzz of barn-cleaning and reconstruction, as we prepare for shearing. This morning, two apprentices and I replaced the very worn tarp that has served in place of a "normal" roof over the west end of the "green barn". Each time I tarp it, I learn more about effective ways of doing this. While the temporary roof does take some maintenance, I think in the long run it is pretty cost-effective at less than $100 per set of tarps, which last a year or more. The trusses I installed last year were a great improvement over the old structure, and they look great: some old wooden extention ladders I bought for a couple dollars at an auction. This year's innovation is using two tarps to better cover the entire roof, right up over the end of the arched section of the barn. Another experiment is using parachute cord as a securement. My main question is the longevity of the parachute cord in the sunlight. Time WILL tell....

In addition to several local "day apprentices", and occasional short-term WWOOFers, this year we're hosting our first live-in, full-time apprentice. She's a teacher in another city, so she's doing an intensive "Intro to Pinwheel Farm" over Spring Break this week, and will return as soon as school is out. In just a day and a half, I can see the progress of having such an energetic helper. I'm also realizing that there is a lot of common ground between teaching high school and working with sheep! So whatever your current trade, don't discount it as a good foundation for living out your dream of farming.

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