No, those aren't my strawberries or spinach, but I am thankful that neighbors down the road at Good Turn Farm grow early greens in their hoop houses to treat my spring craving for fresh. From further down the road in Arizona and Mexico we get a taste of spring two full months before our own really arrives. I do acknowledge the carbon footprint and extreme luxury of strawberries in April, however, I am tapping into my privilege, indeed. I am antsy for salad, to graze the gardens, and to watch my peas unfurl their tiny tendrils. Ansty, impatient and slightly irritated.
One of our neighbors came up the hill the other day wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I was in jeans and a sweater feeling quite comfortable in my warm layers, but the wind was coming in from the north, picking up pace, and I could sense a growing chill in the air. "Brr. I was down at our place wearing this!" She gestured to her skin-exposing outfit while bristling with cold. Her t-shirt, I noticed, said, "Aloha."
Without much buffer, here in West central Wisconsin, we stand solid in zone 4A for planting, but down in the valleys (especially on the south slopes this time of year) it's nearly tropical - well, at least as tropical as zone 4B can be! These fluctuations in microclimates always astound me. Those of us exposed to strong north or west winds really see the delay in our ability to plant. Prudent veggie gardeners (I have not yet been accepted into this club!) planting without a hoop house or greenhouse will wait until mid- to late May to get the full garden growing. For direct seeding things like beets, beans, corn, and squash, the warmer the soil the faster the germination. These things won't even think about germinating if the soil isn't at least 55 degrees, but really prefer somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees. I've had such slow germination some years that I've planted a second time only to find the original stuff popping up later in the summer. I jokingly say it seems a waste of time to plant much before the 4th of July around here - starts and seedlings, yes, but anything direct-seeded in the veggie patch wants warmth. My neighbors down in the valley and those protected from the north winds will be able to plant a couple weeks ahead of me. Grumble gripe!
Along these same lines I was shocked last week to hear of folks a little south of us planting sweet corn! William says their farm is in a valley and they have sandier soil that tends to warm up quicker. Up here on the hill, we wouldn't even dream to put in sweet corn until May. Organic corn is especially prone to rot and fungus, so we want to make sure that our silty loam is warm enough for those as-Mother-Earth-intended-them-to-be seeds (aka untreated with fungicide).
In case you're curious about all this talk of "zones" here's a handy map. It's not too microclimate accurate, but clear enough to make some of us wonder why we hadn't chosen the East side of the state to land ourselves!
WHAT'S NEW IN THE STORE?
Our chickens are laying eggs in the coop - mostly! So, we have many dozen available. There are also a couple of bundles of Wild Ramps in the fridge. These are a wild onion with a mellow, almost garlic-like flavor. They are great grilled, zinged into pesto, chopped into a warm grain salad or made into salad dressing. We have a Ramp Chili Paste to try this week if you're one of my spice lovers!
Since the wait time for beef butchering and processing is away and gone, our freezer is instead full of farmhouse treats. These are the goodies that Grandma kept stocked for the hard-working farmers in her family. We have a variety of her fruit shortcake bars, Grandma's Chocolate & Almond Magic Bars, and Butterscotch & Peanut Haystacks.
Also new this week is a farm made, aromatic infused apple cider vinegar. I'm excited to try this zesty punch on some roasted potatoes. Giving a nod to my English ancestors with a little "Chips and Vinegar" on the table. The other new thing you will want to try if you are familiar with the terms "Negroni" and "Sazerac" are our new CBD Bitters. These are Gentian and Cherry bitters infused with our decarboxylated CBD and exotic spices including cardamom, star anise, nutmeg and cassia. A mist of this in the glass before adding your mixed drink will awaken your senses and taste buds.
Next week we'll be warming back up with night time temperatures above freezing. That means I'll get serious about my foolish gardening practices and tempt fate with a row of beets here and perhaps some lettuce there...patience is a virtue, I do believe, but rarely one I practice!
Sending love to you all from this windy cold farm!