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Homesteading

Leanne Limoges at our table

Leanne Limoges at our table

As we head into this winter season, Outreach events slow down and it’s time to take stock and plan for 2016. I’m looking for ideas of how to impact more folks who don’t yet know about NOFA/Mass. “How can that be,” you say? I wish I could tell you that I’m pulling your leg, but it’s true. At event after event, people tell me that they never knew about us and all that we offer.

In 2011, we purchased 100 4-tiered plastic brochure holders and mailed out around 50. Each holder contained our general NOFA postcards, Summer Conference postcards, the Events Calendar and either the Raw Milk or the GMO information brochures. Since then, each spring we mail out more holders plus refill packets of literature. This year, along with the refill literature, we sent out the last of our holders. We have received enthusiastic support from recipients and are thrilled to know that our information is available to consumers of organic food across the state.

Busy! Busy! Busy! The pace has certainly picked up around the homestead. It seems like we had two feet of snow on the ground, then almost immediately the crocuses and daffodils were in glorious full bloom and the earth had thawed. Pru had to use snowshoes to prune the fruit trees in March and now they are in bud break and it looks like they will be loaded with blossoms by the time you read this. She has already been spraying them using Michael Phillips’ organic techniques.

Well, at first I thought I’d expound rhapsodically about the snow, but realized many of you are probably tired of hearing about and dealing with that topic.  I am enjoying it, however we only have about 30 inches still on the ground, though more is falling as I type.  I do understand and sympathize with the problems it has caused to coastal city dwellers and to folks with large animals.  Luckily our chickens have a covered outdoor winter run allowing them to have fresh air, soil (frozen!) and sunshine.  A friend was telling me she is having a hard time digging out for her goats and keeping

Because it seems like I haven’t focused on anything concrete in a bit in this column, I decided to talk about one of our compost toilets.  It is located in our guest/intern cabin and has been in use for over a year now, so I can share preliminary results.

I call my almost 95-year-old mother (who now lives in Louisiana) every evening to check in and catch up. Once a month, as I tell her about my day and mention the column I’ve been working on, she indicates her desire to read it. Since she’s not on the Internet and I soon forget to print and mail her a copy, I decided to surprise her for Christmas with a booklet containing all the columns that have survived the passage of time. I went back and added photos to the early ones and edited a bit of poor grammar and spelling from the days before spell check. Lots of fun.

It’s a cold dreary day and I’m sitting here thinking about aging and life at Wild Browse Homestead. This is triggered by the aches and pains acquired over the last 2 days while rehabbing the access to our house – once again. We built the house about 100 feet down a moderately steep slope from the road and parking area. Thirty years ago when I visualized the farm layout, I was young and had no thoughts of growing older or that my physical capabilities might alter. Actually, it didn’t take long for us to realize that hiking up and down a “goat path” hauling heavy loads wasn’t much fun. 

It’s a drizzly day and I am hoping that it turns into a good steady soaker, not only because we need it and I planted more beds to their oat/field pea cover crop yesterday, but because it gives me an indoor day and I can finally write this article!

This month’s topic has been eluding me.  However, watching the leaves change color and begin to fall brings up the idea of life/death/change. 

Uncertainties. Do I incorporate new (to me) ideas into my gardening practices or stick to the tried and true or run experiments? That’s what’s been on my mind since the winter issue of The Natural Farmer. You might recall that issue focused on the SRI system of rice growing and featured a couple of articles about Mark Fulford’s experiments with this concept for vegetables on his Maine farm. He is achieving remarkable yields by increasing plant spacing by even more than what is conventionally recommended.

Here it is March with still 2 feet of snow on the garden and orchard, but thankfully there are still plenty of garden products stored away until next harvest time.

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