Saturday, May 4, 2013

First Spring Planting 2013

First Spring Planting

We've been busy busy hobbit-folk here at The Shire Farm, catching up in the wake of the epic rain we've had the last two weeks. When I say epic, I mean a 100-year flood. Grand Rapids and Ionia near us were particularly bad hit, the Grand River swelling and overflowing its banks to take over streets and fairgrounds.

Rosie and the chickens enjoying some lush pasture

Thankfully we live on a sandy hillside, and had no problems with flooding.  Once the soil was dry enough to work we got cracking, seeding snap peas, lettuce, radish, arugula, spinach, green onions, red and sweet onions, kohlrabi, beets, and carrots with an Earthway Seeder. The Earthway Seeder parts the soil, drops the seeds at specific intervals, and then drags a chain over to cover the seeds. Yesterday we also planted seed potatoes--Red Nordland, Goldrush, Yukon Gold, Russet, and Yellow Finn. 

Snap peas sprouting in the field

We transplanted onions, leeks, and green onions from our grow room, and will be transplanting more plants next week, just waiting on the plants to get stronger and older. We've covered our first planting with row covers, to protect our transplants and new seedlings from any unexpected rain, hail, snow or a freeze. 

Swiss Chard-Bright Lights in the grow-room

Row covers can increase the temperature underneath them 10-20 degrees, giving us a cushion against the unexpected. With the welcome heat we've been having this week however, row covers have to been taken off in the morning and put back on in the evening to protect the plants from overheating. With all things, balance. 

Our first planting of leafy vegetables, and up the hill is our first
planting of root vegetables.

Already in the field, the radish and arugula have sprouted, writing green lines on illegible beds. When you start a garden of any magnitude, you will inevitably find yourself staring at your seed beds and trying to envision your plan, for some a rough sketch, that exists in every gardener's head. 

The soil underfoot has to be mentally divided. Aisle--Seedbed. You have to train yourself to walk here, not there. An errant foot out of place can compact the seedbed, squishing sprouted seeds or compacting the soil making it difficult for them to sprout or break the soil surface. So instead we have to tiptoe and hop over the beds in a kind of contorted lunging dance to the safety of the hard-packed aisles. 

Rows of Arugula 

We measure out our beds and our aisles, but they both look like blank pages. We sow our seeds and imagine green sprouts and future crops in long straight lines, like these sentences. But these sentences are rooted, they will grow and expand over time, swelling with captured water and energy to be plucked at that perfect moment and disappear. 

Spring on the Farm

"What a rich book might be made about buds, including, perhaps, sprouts!"
                              -Henry David Thoreau

Spring is a time of revelation and discovery. For us, this spring doubly so. 

When we were looking at properties to buy a farm, we saw many of them in the fall. When we looked at the property we ended up buying, most of the perennials had already lost their leaves, and neither of us have the skill and knowledge to identify a bare tree. We resigned ourselves to waiting until spring with a plant identification book in hand, and here we are. 

This spring then will be for us a literal period of discovery as we find out just what we have on the farm, including a small orchard of 13 fruit trees (we know there's a red delicious apple tree and an apricot tree among them) and 2 small berry patches (in which we can spot a few blackberry bushes). 

So we thought we'd share some pictures of Spring on the farm, and see if anyone had any ideas on what plants these might be. Leave a comment if you can identify any of them! Either way, we'll be exploring the farm with a plant identification book as everything starts to leaf out!

In the Orchard...

In the fields...

A large shade tree near the barn

A willow tree?

A hardy small shrub in front of the house
Some kind of tall, ornamental shrub 

A tall shrub budding on the back pasture


  1. Looks like you have a pussy willow, and possibly a lilac? (the shrub with clustered purple flower buds) I'm not good with fruit trees but I'd guess apple and cherry?

  2. Ya certainly a pussy willow and a lilac, the fruit tree's were still guessing we know at least an apricot, and apple out there. . . I'm hoping a cherry yum.