Last I wrote, it was with great happiness to introduce the new Farm Dog. Alas, two days after that post, the Farm Dog made a third hackles-up, teeth-snipping lunge at the neighbor children, unprovoked (unless standing there, guilty of being four, is provocation). So our smart, enthusiastic, loving (or, otherwise loving) little lad is back at the Humane Society, per their advice and much soul-searching. I write this as I would announce a death in the family, and it feels like one; I made promises to little Sputz that I was ultimately unable to fulfill, and now I am dogless and he is searching for his ideal home again. Now that the busy season has begun, there isn't the kind of time and care a new dog search requires, never mind the sort of slow, gentle introduction and bonding time a new friend needs and deserves. So it will be a bit lonesome this summer here at First-Flower...
On other cold fronts, the big improvement to infrastructure is a new walk-in cooler for what I hope will be an increased focus on, and market for, cut flowers. Hopefully, having something other than a corner of the basement garage to keep them cool will mean I can pick farther in advance of delivery, making market days a little less hectic.
The cooler room is built almost entirely of reclaimed materials: Framing lumber we had sitting around, built to enclose a 4' X 6' space in the SE corner of the room. The walls are masonry and the Patient Spouse is a mason, so I had his expertise for fastening wood to concrete and getting those corners square. The door, painted in my favorite '30s green, came from another use in the basement. The insulation on walls and ceiling is supposed to be R30, but that would have cost me twice the price, so this project will begin with R15 in all but the outermost wall, which is R30 rock wool we had sitting around - in a frame scavenged from one side of an old rabbit hutch that was here when we moved in (and which was eating up basement space as a chick brooder-turned-scrapwood bin). Still to come: an AC unit to attach to a CoolBot, which will enable that simple window-mounted unit to chill the space to a recommended 45 degrees.
A nearly-finished walk-in cooler isn't very photogenic. That said, here's a before and after of the project. ...Where you are planted...
Followers of the old version of this blog will surely remember the Farm Dog. 35 (okay, maybe 38-ish) pounds of pure mutt, answering (before he went stone deaf) to the name "Curtis", and living here alternate weeks because, like the children, no one wanted to surrender custody to this rather furry son post-divorce, the Farm Dog was a curly-brisketed mutt of uncertain parentage. We adored him. The Ex, a.k.a "Tall", sobbed like a child as Curtis passed into a gentle final sleep, his beloved treat ball clenched between his paws. I have been weeping inside ever since. A special pet, the sort we take the time and chance to get to know for the fullness of itself, has as legitimate a place in the heart as any human family member. No dog will ever be Curtis, and I miss him terribly.
Evidently, however, another dog WILL be the Farm Dog. Enter Sputnik, which means "little traveller" in Russian. Sputnik has already travelled from unknown origins in Arkansas, to a shelter in Mississippi, to the Berkshire Humane Society, where it was love at first woof. Apparently there were not leashes in Arkansas. There weren't commands like "off" or "come" or "leave it"; no restrictions on "shopping" from the grocery bags placed in the back seat of the car for the two minute trip home. In Arkansas, carrots and apple cores were not for eating, but pins and plastic-wrapped four-packs of toilet paper are. There was heartworm, tapeworm, earmite, fleas; there were restrictive cages that make a guy panic when placed inside, but the handling of paws, tails and ears by anyone over 3 feet tall was a positive experience. But let's hope there were squirrels. Because, boy-oh-boy!—live revolves around squirrels. Time stops. No voice can be heard. No treat is compelling, no matter how much it smells like bacon. Neither leash, no fence, nor door latch shall keep this pup from his appointed rounds.
The former Farm Dog was happiest in the sun. This one is happiest with his font paws on the windowsill and his nose against the glass. A brilliant canine with the will of a two-year-old, this little satellite has three months of complete bed rest prescribed as he recovers from a case of heartworm that surfaced en route from the south. If he can be trained to listen to anything beyond the call of the wild, he will make this the first year I haven't had to evict a single bunny or woodchuck from the farm. But it's spring, now: new dog, much training, and red squirrels taunting from every branch. I am remembering what dogs teach us about parenting, commitment, and patience. So long, old Farm Dog. Welcome, Sputnik.
Bloom Were You are Planted...
April is the cruellest month... I can never remember if it was Shakespeare who penned this bitterly accurate observation, or one of those romantic English poets (during a not-so-romantic day, apparently). If I was not a Luddite and thus iphone-less, I suppose I could look up the answer and be instantly gratified, as well as have the correct attribution. But there it is: those of you familiar with me from my blog of the past, http://newfarmancientjoy.blogspot.com, will know that I still dial my calls from a rotary phone, use a flip version whenever I absolutely HAVE to, check my email at least once a week, and was already carping about Facebook's evils back when the term "social media" was coined. You might say I am antisocial when it comes to my media. Or, as the younger daughter observes, "Mom, if you had a T-shirt, it would say 'I said it before it was right.'"
...But I digress...
April this year has been cut from a harsher cloth than even that poetic and un-Googled Brit proclaimed it. Here in Western Massachusetts, we are in a zone 5, with daffodils only just budding and crocuses tolerating their fourth snow since the vernal equinox. There are plants started in the hoop house and downstairs on top of the furnace, but so far only one or two days have reached above 50 degrees, leaving more than too many days to get the less desirable tasks on my desk out of the way: things like consolidating my blogging and website presence into one unified space.
My former blog traced the first year of First-Flower's development. Looking back, it already seems it must have been more than just two springs ago that I first began tearing up sod to create those initial planting spaces, turning our backyard homestead into a market garden.
Anyone who isn't my parents but who followed me there (there are a few of you) knows the cast of characters here at First-Flower Farm: the Patient Spouse, Boss Lady (of the T-shirt invention aforementioned), her Elder Sister (Who is Grown Up and Busier than a Trojan Beaver) and the Farm Dog. You also know my penchant for writing, which perhaps works against me in that it makes me a poor candidate for most brief social media formats, but probably also keeps me from writing, since I expect whatever I post to be well-developed. Nobody has time for cogency and frequency both, during a growing season on a one-woman farm. So after this first wordy introduction, I plan to make my subsequent postings both brief and frequent.
Eleanor Roosevelt managed to write a daily column for years, despite her very active role in politics and home life. My cousin Fran Ransley turned years of struggle with lucky livestock, governmental red tape, amazing parenting and bare-bones living into a beautiful account, This House Protected by Poverty. My mother's friend Gloria Bake churns out an annual farm log that reads like the cliff notes version of James Herriot. Together, these three women will serve as my inspiration as I try to share with you, at least minimally, some of the details, both social and antisocial, of First-Flower life in this cruellest of months and the kinder ones to follow.
Bloom Where You are Planted.
I've been farming since I was a toddler, when my grandparents showed me how to put onion sets point-up in the sandy furrows of our Michigan homestead. It's taken thirty-odd years of horticultural jobs—from potting up lilies by the thousands to managing a 150-member CSA at Hancock Shaker Village—for me to embark on cultivating a farm of my own. Hence, the title.