Saturday, February 15, 2014

Farm Bulletin: Indicators of Spring

Here in the city we're seeing the green spears of daffodil leaves poking up from the dirt, and my red sorrel is unfurling in the raised bed. Out at Ayers Creek Farm, contributor Anthony Boutard sees other signs that the turning of the season is at hand.

The large predators are often described as indicator species by ecologists. On the 1st of February, around 2:30 pm, our great horned owl laid her first egg and settled in for a month of broodiness. Last weekend she was dusted with snow, and now her plumage will have to shed the rain. Don't feel badly for her. She would be out in the snow and rain anyway, and her mate is keeping her well fed as she sits on the eggs and later keeps their chicks warm.

The second egg was likely laid around Wednesday of this week, judging by the amorous sweet nothings we heard a bit earlier. Otherwise, they discuss more prosaic matters and keep track of one another sotto voce all night long; her voice is low and soft, his moves about the savannah and is higher and sharper with an urgent edge. In about four weeks, we will see the first downy face poke out from under its mother's wing.

For us, the owls are an indicator species with a different twist; the incubation of the eggs indicates it time for us to attend to matters close at home as well. Even though 2013 was, in the technical jargon of farmers, a real stinker at every turn, we always know the next season will be the best ever, our version of the Big Rock Candy Mountains, otherwise why would we bother. Machinery needs maintenance and repairs, perennial crops need pruning and fertilizing, buildings need sprucing up, and the early crops, chickpeas and favas, need planting as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The nesting boxes for the birds need cleaning and we are putting up a new development for the kestrels on the south side of the property. More on that interesting project later.

Consequently, tomorrow will be the last time until July that I load up the van for the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this season. I will have corn in its various forms, sweet and Virginian potatoes, soft red wheat kernels, adzukis, onions, squash, ash gourds, preserves, cayennes and plenty of horseradish.

We return to the market on the 6th of July. This year, our annual farm ramble will take place the Sunday, the 5th of October. It is about time for a harvest season ramble, and a good opportunity for you all to see our new harvest shed, as well as the many other changes that are afoot for 2014.

Photos by Anthony Boutard from 2012. 

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