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Two of the most common questions I get this time of the year include:
1. What do you do in the winter? and 2. Do you still have eggs?
1. The trend over the past few years has been to build stuff in the winter. There’s nothing quite like starting new building projects around the farm, whether it be new chicken coops, or planning for season extension through the development of a root cellar, cold dry storage for cured onions, shallots & garlic, and greenhouses! Similarly, that feeling of project-completion is probably just as sweet – something I am steadily moving my way towards realizing!
I also do alot of reading, crop planning, number-crunching and visioning, as well as my fair share of romping around the neighbourhood in one way or another. But I’ve got to tell you, I can’t help shake my fascination in knowing that under this amazing, insulating blanket of dust & crystallized water (snow as it is more commonly known), soil life not only continues to tick-along, but thrives and is making important progress for the season to come.
In my reading I’ve been delving into historical texts describing the french method of intensive, year-round cultivation of vegetables, and I can’t help but sit back in amazement at some of the techniques they used to employ. One of the most outstanding was the commonly recommended application of 200 tons of fresh or aged horse manure per acre of garden!
Its hard to fathom, but then again, back then there were all of the stables in Paris to empty out in a timely fashion.
Second is the widespread use of various tools to extend the season. Glass cloches, very similar to the fancy cake & muffin tray coverings in local shops & cafes were used in the field over frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes and romaine lettuce, and kept from burning the plants to a crisp with little wooden pegs that held the cloche up on one side so it could breath. I have a hard time trying to imagine employing the use of these on a commercial scale, but it was common practice in the 19th century.
Another common tool that’s popularity has made it a relatively common occurrence in many home gardens today is the cold frame.
Simply a pane of glass hinged on a wooden box, this technology allows for reliable frost protection (to a point) as well as an easy way to vent excess heat – simply lift the lid and prop with a stick.
The only problem is imaging those, again on a commercial scale, here on the cusp of snowy Kolapore. While I’m sure it would be good exercise trudging through the snow to check on them & continuously sweeping the snow off of them, I’m not sure if it would be worth it, calorically speaking. You see a lion, in the Serengeti, will carefully calculate the amount of expected energy output in chasing down prey and weigh that projection against the estimated energy available once the prey is taken down. Similary, any good farmer needs to consider the energy output compared to the energy received from such a venture. I’m just not sure if mass amounts of cold-frames in Kolapore fit the bill.
So what is a young farmer to do? I still want some time to snowshoe, x-country ski and maybe even take in a hack every once in a while, remember.
While still requiring the occasional brushing of snow, these structures allow for an efficient way to get a serious head start on the season, as well as extend tomato & cucumber production into the chilly fall weather. To boot, I plan to protect hardy greens in these structures from the desiccating effects of winter winds through the darkest months of next year. For now, I’m very busy working on getting them into tip-top shape. (a warning, I may be putting a call out to help cover greenhouse #2 in the next little while…)
2. Eggs. After a bit of a slump in November egg sales (and a near-mind boggling over abundance of eggs for a few weeks) I’ve put many of the layers to rest in the freezer and reduced the flock size to a manageable winter size. That being said, I’m working hard to meet a new surge of egg orders and will do my darndest to keep everyone happy, it just may take a little longer than usual.