Nowhere is spring felt more keenly than on the small-scale, diversified farm. Every day the snow recedes further from the gardens. The three foot drifts present only a week ago have been reduced in some places to two or three inches of stubborn hard packed ice, in others flowing water and in more and more places each day grass and garden.
The Earth is alive with potential and every farmer is euphoric at this season. There are two times of year that keep a farmer going. One is the harvest season when the work of the past year is paying off with bountiful, overflowing baskets and the promise of a winter’s worth of excellent eating. The other is right now. Spring. When the weeds and bugs, freak frosts, hail storms, ignorant market customers, broken electric fences and tractors that break just when you need to get the hay in are all somehow, if not forgotten, ghosts of memories. The Earth is coming alive again. Everywhere you look there is rebirth. The grass is turning green, the buds are beginning to swell on the trees and the grape vines, the chickens are laying more eggs than you know what to do with. The weeds are non existent, the bugs are still asleep, there is plenty of water and plenty of sunshine. You open up the seed packets and sprinkle seeds into flats with the distinct feeling that anything is possible, obstacles are nowhere to be seen.
One of the major contributors to this wonderful feeling here at Parker Family Farm is a yearly event which just occurred. Scarlet gave birth to her piglets on Saturday night. She has traditionally delivered in the early hours of the morning but this year she threw me for a loop and started around 8pm two days before her due date. Perhaps she couldn’t wait any longer because she had her largest litter ever. She was carrying a litter of 14!
Scarlet and Indy now have 12 little piglets to look after. Two of them were still born. While this may sound tragic to some, and it certainly saddens us at the farm, there is a necessity to it. A sow can only support as many piglets as she has milk to feed. Scarlet has room for 12 at her udder. Her body knows. And the twelve that remain are doing quite well.
Along with the piglets we have other things arriving and returning here at the farm. Today I was hoeing carrots in the hoop house and transplanting bunching onions among them (and among the choi, chard and kale in another row). The first two rows of peas are up and off to the races. Nothing says spring like peas.
Except of course the reemergence of the chives, perhaps the most steadfast harbinger of the change in seasons. The snow recedes and there they are pushing their way up through the mulch and last year’s growth.
The chickens are also loving the warm, sunny days. Here at Parker Family Farm our chickens spend the winter in a bright, warm hoop house where they are bathed in sunlight. They walk around on about a foot of hay which covers some of the most fertile soil imaginable. They also have the opportunity (which they take daily) to scratch and pick through finished compost looking for bugs. This makes even our winter eggs more nutrient dense and richer in flavor and color than anything you’ll find at the store. Soon enough they will be out on the grass again and their yolks will darken even further.
But for now the farm is still in the throes of transition. This morning there was less snow than the last and tomorrow will find less still. The grass is standing up slowly and green is returning. The world is coming alive and so are the possibilities of a bountiful season. Find a local farmer and join in the painting of another blank canvas. At Parker Family Farm our CSA members are currently purchasing spinach, turnip greens, eggs, onions, shallots and potatoes but as Spring continues forward the palette will expand. Local Food. Eat well – be well.