A miraculous March

How can I not share this photo? Two beautiful babies outside in makeshift baths with hats askew. Sweetness!

It’s my job to build fires for our house, and a couple weeks back, I noticed this year’s firewood supply was getting perilously low. Right now we only have enough seasoned, split wood for about half a dozen more good fires. When I mentioned it to Casey, he and I agreed that we — oddly — weren’t very concerned.

And, no wonder. This morning, as I turned our calendars to April, I reflected upon what a truly amazing month had just passed here on the farm (and in the Northwest in general). As March progressed, I found myself more often than not skipping the fire. Some mornings it was still a bit chilly first thing, but the days brought plenty of warmth by bedtime, so we put on an extra sweater and went on with our days. But, this last weekend was truly unprecedented — highs in the upper 70°s, blue skies, warm sunshine, and the perfect light breeze to make it such a heavenly Easter weekend.

I cannot immediately remember such warm weather so early here on the farm — I heard geese honking overhead as I was sweating and realized that for me, these two sensory experiences do not usually line up! It was a moment of severe disconnect, but in a happy way!

We thoroughly soaked it all up — lounging in our yard, visiting the river, eating meals outside, going on bike rides a plenty. Meanwhile, all over the island, there were sounds and sights of farmers at work. Big tractors, sprayers, planters — all out earlier than we’ve come to expect around here! Casey kept pausing to wonder whether he too should be on a tractor, but we checked the weather and saw that there was still time in this predicted window of weather. Waiting another day or two would just help us prevent working it too early (i.e. while still too wet below), which is often a risk on warm days in the spring. The warm air can cause us to forget the months of rain and cold still lingering in the soil. Soil worked too early is a very sad thing; the texture is off all season long (and often even beyond — it is very damaging!).

And, we also kept remembering that work was happening even without Casey’s help. All the green things were in major growth mode — newly sown pastures, over-wintered cover crops, sugar snap peas, and more! Spring warmth brought with it major activity regardless of tractors doing their work. The greens in our high tunnels are getting close to picking size; orchards are blooming everywhere (including the first of the cherries in the orchards to our north and south); robins are building nests; sheep are shedding; and houseflies have started circling in our house again (that was fast! hard to keep screen doors shut with littles around).

After two very hard springs indeed, I find myself continually knocking wood and adding caveats to all my exclamations of wonder. Rain can and will come. But every day that goes by without inclement weather brings us closer to summer.

On a particularly exciting note for us: our earliest plums were in bloom during the warm weather, and we witnessed a great buzzing of pollinators in their branches. Most years, these trees bloom too early for good fruit set (pollinators just don’t fly when it is cold or wet), giving us just enough to gorge ourselves once or twice. This year, all of the plums were loaded with blossoms, and we have great hope for trees similarly loaded with fruit later this July. That would be a very special treat!

On the homefront, the weather has inspired some major rounds of spring cleaning. It’s amazing how a new baby can bring a tide of stuff and chaos into a living space. Thankfully, Dottie is now getting old enough that she’s not growing out of her clothes every five seconds. And, now that she’s fully mobile (sitting up, crawling, standing, climbing stairs!), the baby gear is less relevant too. I’m also now fully out of anything resembling maternity clothes (and then some!), but many such items were still hanging in my closet and taking up space. Plus, we all needed to pull out warm weather gear! Time to take off the wool long underwear and put on short sleeve t-shirts.

And, so, in spite of the lure of the weather, I did spend more than a few hours inside sorting and making piles for giving away and putting things away in new places. Casey and I even took a few hours to totally move around furniture so that the kids are now in our old bedroom and we’re in the one Rusty used to sleep in. These projects can be crazy making while they’re in progress but are so worth it for the sanity they bring to a space.

It’s funny to be living outside more and more and yet bringing more harmony inside. But I suppose this is the inspiration behind spring cleaning — once we can leave these spaces empty for a few minutes, the work can be done. Plus all that beautiful sunshine streaming through the windows is inspiring!

So, a very happy April to you! Here’s to more beautiful spring weather and very possibly a more forgiving and generous farming season than we have had in a while (knock on wood!). Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Stinging nettles — This feels like one of the earliest nettles harvests we’ve ever done, but they are on, on, on! For the uninitiated, stinging nettles are a wonderful spring culinary herbal treat. They are delicious in place of any strong flavored tender green, so consider using them in place of spinach or basil in dishes such as omelets, pesto, etc. They also make a delightful nourishing tea. BUT, please be aware that when they are fresh and uncooked, they do sting! Handle with gloves until they are cooked. Most cooks address this by quickly blanching or steaming the nettles and then preparing in a dish (they can be handled once they are wilted). But have no fear: they are totally worth the careful handling.
  • Kimchi
  • Rapini — This week’s rapini is a mix of the many kinds of plants that are throwing up buds and shoots right now: turnips, radish, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc. Remember that you can eat all of this plant. Just trim off the ends if they have dried in your fridge and then roast whole, chop and sauté, add to soups, etc.
  • Broccoli — Also a plant that you can eat all of — the leaves are as delicious as the sprouts and tender stalks!
  • Salad mix
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes
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