Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The February Itch

The crocus are eager.
Last night I stood in the bedroom and listened to the geese call as they flew overhead. They have been on the move for more than a month, chasing warm weather and open water. They come calling to spring.
By February, northeast Kansas usually has said "goodbye" to single-digit temperatures.
Daffodils testing the air.
But recent years have been anything but usual, and this past year or more has taken us on a roller coaster ride usually (there is that word again, "usual," aka "typical," "normal") limited to early and mid-spring.

So, anyway, our "normal" January brings the coldest temps, with single digit lows (sometimes below zero single digit with occasional double digit belows) and February eases up a bit, but remains cold cloudy and icky.

This January, a couple of weeks of definitely early spring-like weather had me a bit worried about early emergence of plants and buds. Then February hit and looked more like January. We've seen several nights of single-digit lows and some days with highs only in the 20s. Lots of cloudy days, some sunny days. In general, February keeps winter hanging on and there is nothing different about my itch to get back out in the garden and start readying for spring.
Even the tulips are checking it out.

I've all but given up on the kale and such held in suspended animation beneath plastic-covered low tunnels. The last time I looked it all seemed alive, but hope fades, especially when a nasty infection in a salivary gland knocks me down for a few days.
Apparently, we've still got at least one more night in the single digits (that's Fahrenheit, in case you are wondering) before it's over. I had hoped to put pea seed in the ground shortly after the first of March, but I don't know for sure where the roller coaster is headed. According to the forecast, March will begin with cold, rain, snow and sleet.

However, in spite of the unusual February chill, the crocus have started to spring up right on time (above photo). One little snowdrop has a drooping bud, and I have even seen the tips of tulip leaves poking through the soil.

The call of the geese soothes the itchy nerves rubbed raw by winter, while the sleet pelts t he ground. Got to keep the faith in spring.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Getaway

A small puddle in the grass where the spring has started running again.
Halfway through February already, just another month or so until Spring.
My days are restless, waiting for the thaw and planting time. Plastic tunnels protect last fall's kale. I hope it is enough to keep the plants through the next few frigid nights,
What better time to learn more about the plants I grow, as well as the plants I want to grow? What better time of year to head off to parts unknown to meet new people and learn new things,
OK. So I only traveled a couple hundred miles to Springfield, Missouri. But it was an unknown place to me.

And it was the site of the Missouri Organic Association conference during the first weekend of February. Three days filled with seminars on organic agriculture -- grains, livestock and fruits and vegetables, as well as some miscellaneous seminars for consumers and others. My head was reeling with all the information gathered at the conference, some of which will prove quite useful and some that was simply extremely interesting but I am not sure how I will apply it.

The weekend had various ups and downs.
Multi-colored corn straight from Peru.
Joseph Simcox, who travels the world searching for seeds of unusual and rare food plants, provided fascinating information and was highly entertaining. During one impromptu session that he led when the scheduled presenter was unable to make it, he handed around several ears of maize that he had just brought back from Peru, They were beautiful, ranging in color from golden yellow, to deep red, to variegated kernels in blue, cream and yellow. But his keynote address presented us with types of food largely unheard of here in the U.S., as well as unique variations of foods already familiar to us. Strange leaves, strange fruits, strange roots.

All of the foods he featured in his slide show were from tropical areas. When I questioned him later, he said that he also has studied indigenous crops in temperate zones (like North America) but simply did not get them into the slide show. I wish there had been time for me to talk to him about those, in particular perennial food crops that will grow here. Perennial food crops would certainly add to the sustainability of any operation. I was excited when I read an article about perennial foods and discovered that pigeon peas are one of those... but sadly, only in tropical climates.

I learned about cultivating various "niche" fruits and nuts, such as aronia, hazelnuts and paw paws, companion planting, and liquid crystal water (fascinating, but not sure how it can apply).

The down in my weekend was the session on spotted wing drosophila, an Asian fruit fly that has invaded the U.S. in recent years and now is in Kansas. Yes, there are ways to manage it, but it's tough. I will address this pest in a later post.

Not all of the learning opportunities occurred during the educational sessions. Talking to exhibitors, as well as other attendees provided me with valuable tidbits, such as some growing information about honeyberries (not addressed in any of the official sessions) and a little brainstorming about how I can pull in a bit of income from what I've already built here.

Returning home, I felt refreshed and invigorated and found that one of our springs started running again, enough to start trickling into the pond. As far as we could tell, it took a hiatus for about three years. I discovered it slowly seeping again in December, but that ceased in January. Now it is running strong as if determined to fill the pond again. Spring is running; spring is coming