I used to feel on New Years that winter was just beginning. This year, with a 20’x50’ greenhouse constructed and ready for starts to begin this month, the cooler walls erected, seeds ordered, and the solstice passed, my thoughts have turned to spring. Completing the greenhouse and the major work of the walk-in cooler in December is a weight off my shoulders, and I’m excited for the actual growing to begin. In a couple weeks, I’ll be starting onions and leeks in the greenhouse and inoculating some recently felled oak with shiitake mushroom spawn.
We’ll be planting 138 varieties of 35 different vegetable and herb crops, an exciting mix of farmers market standards like Brandywine tomato and Provider green beans, underrated crops like Kolibri kohlrabi, and heirloom southern treasures like Carolina black peanut and Jackson Wonder butterbean.
Brandywine Tomato and Moon and Stars Watermelon
As much as I’m ready for planting to begin, there are still a few more infrastructure and equipment matters to take care of. I picked up a riding cultivator yesterday from an elderly gentleman north of Durham who restores horse and mule drawn equipment. It’s a McCormick-Deering model: though these went out of production 70 years ago, they are still used on thousands of farms in North America. They may seem like anachronisms today, but there was a time when they were state of the art. This gentleman told me that when he was a boy raising 20 acres each of tobacco, cotton, and corn, all of their implements were walk-behind, and the riding cultivators were for “rich folk”. Funny how these tools come full-circle, though. Many of the new tools coming out for market gardens today are just updated replicas of implements from that era gone-by. The cultivators certainly inspire some nostalgia as well. On the way home at a gas station outside Raleigh, a man called out from the store, “hey, what year is that?”. He proceeded to engage me in an impressive soliloquy—which felt like it lasted at least 15 minutes—about mule-drawn equipment, rows of corn, cutting firewood, hens, hogs, and Mrs. Baker’s dogs across the way, all of which used to line the road that now consists of pharmacies and fast food.
McCormick-Deering horse drawn riding cultivator
A piece of news from the wider world of farming: NPR ran a nice article last week on Natural Roots Farm in western Massachusetts. I can attest from my two day stay there last fall that it truly is an impressive operation and a farm that serves as a model in many ways for Lazy Heron. One of the somber notes of the story was farmer David’s disappointment that two of his former apprentices, now on their own farms, had transitioned from horse power back to tractors. Lucky for me, though, the timing of one of those farmer's transitions coincided with my search for horses.The result was Sunny and Kate’s move to North Carolina.
Happy New Year!