When it rains, it pours – in Texas at least. More than nine inches have dropped on our River Farm during the past three weeks, more than we received in all of last year. Last year’s baked fields are a succulent green, as stunning to the eyes as a bright light. Just months ago, green was not a color we thought we would see anytime soon. Here it is now, a sea of it, undulating with waves of renewal and hope.
One of the mildest Januarys in history has played tricks on us farmers. We were ready for a winter’s nap but all the signs of spring are drawing us into the fields. Only we can’t get in. Fields that were too hard to plow now grip our tractors with mud and make us turn around. Seed potatoes sprout in the cooler. Transplants pile up in the greenhouse. Farmers get beside themselves, as if someone fired the starting gun while they were still in the bedroom getting their wet boots on.
There is no race with nature, of course, because nature always wins. But we tend to race each other, if only for bragging rights – who dug the first new potatoes, who put that first red tomato on their basket. This year the starting time was pulled back a couple weeks. It’s exciting but also a little ominous. If it’s this warm in winter, what will summer be like? Another scorcher like last year is too much to contemplate, so one doesn’t dare complain about the mud and rain. If I sit here quietly enough, I can almost hear these trees, those tough survivors from last year, lapping up this life-saving water.
We’ve been busy putting more infrastructure on our River Farm. Last week, with the help of Tony Grasso, Steve O’dell, and others, we trenched 900 feet and laid down 3’’ water mains. Once we install a bigger pump, we will be able to expand our irrigation to the upper fields. We also built more interior fencing so that our sheep and goats will have more pasture and our pigs can start mowing down the great cover crop we have this year.
Angus and Steve also worked hard to build a stairs for our barn house. We can get to the second floor now without a ladder! And Erin’s 50th birthday present – a treehouse overlooking the river — is almost complete. It’s already been tested by the elements. The deluge that brought historic flooding last month raised the river six feet over its banks. Picnic tables and trees floated by but the treehouse stood its ground.
Another exciting development is all the activity at our neighbor’s land to the south. As you may know, Tecolote Farm bought 20 acres adjoining us and this winter they have been clearing fields, putting up fences, drilling wells, and installing irrigation. It’s nice to have another farmer growing here. Sharing the challenges – and opportunities – that this new land offers us will benefit both farms.
Thanks to the unseasonable rain and warm temperatures, the spring season is shaping up to be a banner one. In fact, we could be ready to start our CSA spring season in three weeks.
Since this fall we have been participating in Sustainable Food Center’s Farm-to-Work program. Each week we deliver about 25 shares to several local businesses, including Texas Parks and Wildlife. We are adding more this spring. What that means is that our shares are filling up faster than other years, so you need to sign up soon to guarantee a place this year. We are offering more flexibility in ordering and have added three new drop spots.
This week we received our first donation to the New Farm Institute library. It will be a hard one to top. Will Debrill, an Austin attorney and ardent local food supporter, has been subscribing to Small Farm Journal for more more than 20 years. These broadsheet magazines take up a lot of space and Will was looking for a home for them. We gladly accepted them, as each quarterly issue is filled with sustainable farming advice and lore. It’s a must for anyone who want to farm with horses. This generous gift – bound in a dozen volumes – is hard to match and will serve our new and aspiring farmers well. Thank you, Will.
Another donation demands attention. Kert Peterson, who is working on a farm in North Carolina, made a donation to New Farm Institute this winter. We put it to the best use by finally buying two rugged carts that won’t crack or go flat anytime soon. Built in Italy and distributed by Earthtools, these carts will save our backs for sure. Thank you, Kert.