Truth to tell, sitting by the woodstove while listening to the Labradors snore this morning feels mighty good. Siskins, chickadees and finches visit the feeder, silhouetted by a gray and foreboding sky beyond. Most of February gave us ample sun and warmer temperatures that sped us toward spring, while easing up the cold lock January held on the land. I won’t lie; we all enjoyed the sun and thaw – even if seemingly premature. Just as fast, however, the chill has returned in a bitter East wind. Tonight the mercury will drop again to below zero and the remaining snow will be solidified into a brand new crust. Dang!
Although we’ve had no snowfall at all here in the Valley for over six weeks now, I am remembering all the wonderful fall rain we received last year. These important rains opened the ground and set the stage for the absorption of this years’ snow. What is more, as the snow melted I could tell most of it was sinking straight into the ground. Yes, we had some mud but we also had layers of solid ice that rapidly disappeared out of sight. This all leads me to believe our soil profile, despite a dry second half to the winter, will still be favorable come true spring. You can tell by now I’ve already been thinking about our fields and, well, planting!
Even after all these years of farming – 30+ now – come February and without fail, my mind begins to wander toward spring. As you know, I am a man of the colder months but still, the longer light, the gathering sun, the baring slopes… That fast, it will be here. What most excites me about this up-coming farm season is the opportunity to truly turn our systems over to minimal tillage and ultimately, proven regenerative practices. If you’ve read my farmer notes long enough, some of you know this has been an on-going goal of mine these past years.
All of the acreage that I farm here in the Methow will be planted to spring cover crops in 2022. In doing so, I can intentionally reset our crop rotation. I have most of the equipment to do this and am lacking just a roller crimper. This type of machine enables one to kill a cover crop without the usual tillage of a heavy disk, or plow. A crimper leaves all the green crop packed onto the surface of the soil, and I will then plant directly into this mass of green with our no-till seed drill. Some of the acreage will be doubled cover cropped; some I will plant fall grains for harvest. Soil test results will help determine what, if and where.
Whoa… I’m getting a ways ahead of myself! Outside that biting East wind blows and the fire needs another log! We will explore the concepts of Regenerative Agriculture, the importance thereof and the reasons we have chosen growing partners who use this practice, next time. For now, we are still trying to get through one more winter up here on the hill in our stout, wooden granary with no heat. The road ways are back to dirt, and freight trucks can get to the driveway now, but Dan and Steve are still going through the hand warmers as they continue to clean and mill our grains to order after officially kicking me out of the granary. The rugged working conditions are not lost on me, however, having been in there a time or two over the years! But they really have been doing a great job and are as excited about our new facility as anyone.
Which is coming along nicely despite the winter trials. Both the processing room, and the packaging and office mezzanine have all been drywalled, taped and painted. Next, a continuation of the electrical work and in May we are still hopeful that all the milling equipment will be installed. Operations to begin around Summer Solstice? Fingers crossed! We will definitely keep you updated, and write more about this.
Meanwhile, inventory of all our grains is holding up and each week we are still processing to package all the goodies you continue to order. Owls and coyotes own the night; the whirr of the milling line owns the day. As always, we are grateful to you. I hope that this finds you remaining healthy as we navigate the vagaries of another winter. More snow? Let’s hope.
More peace? Let’s all do our part.
Yours, Farmer Sam