I could never have guessed that January would leave us in the same fashion it arrived: Gray, mild, soggy. This, following our one stretch of sunshine during mid-month when temperatures dropped to 20 below zero! My goodness, are we in North Dakota all of a sudden? Or New England? Nope. Still here in the “Sunny Methow.” To be taken with a grain or two… our weather leaves little to complain about comparatively, in regards to how it affects the surroundings. Sure, we’d take a stronger if not prettier snowpack and a lot more sun but we’ve no flooding (yet), no wildfires (yet), and surely no drought (yet!) The roads may be mucky but the ski trails are still good, as is the eating!
Weather is a frequent topic amongst us two-legged folk – often a “safe conversation”. I wonder if any of the birds or other wildlife ever partake in this sort of chatter? It seems as though a chickade’s varying song might express a mood, as might a coyote’s yip, or sharp bark or long-drawn howl in the moonlight. However, since I don’t speak in their tongue I’m left to speculate. Speculation happens to be a specialty of farmers. In case you were speculating, this is where I bring my notes back to farming.
Right now, I’m feeling good about our soil’s moisture profile. Truth to tell, I’m not sure whether or not our winter peas even stopped growing under the snow? This important cover crop sown early last fall here in the home field, I speculate is simply grooving on this weather. Come late – April, I’d guess for a thick, lovely crop of lush peas out there as they build back biology and fix available nitrogen.
In my January notes I touched upon the rise of interest in the Regenerative Farming movement. Regenerative Farming is not new, although some make it sound so. The term is actually newer than the real practice although the practice itself is becoming continually refined. One of the long-standing premises of Regen-Ag is the use of continuous cropping and lots of cover legumes. Although we have a very modern crop cleaning line here in our new granary, once in a while even with all the different screen sizes, air speeds, and pitches of our equipment, fragments of these cover crops make it through to the finished product. If you happen to notice a broken pea, or a fragment of lentil or even a chipped bean in one of your grain orders – rest assured this is more a shout-out to good farming practices than a result of an inadequate cleaning line. Cover-cropping and crop rotation for nutrient growth are absolutely real here at Bluebird Grain Farms. We all embrace this, our crops embrace it and hope all of you will as well.
Yes, our cleaning line has been busy and so has our dang flour mill! Someone keeps tagging promotions to our website here (Larkin?) and our first month of direct retail has been very busy. We are grateful, even if it means 3 days of straight milling. Our miller, Dan, loves consistency. And his weekly runs of our different flours most of you know are very consistent. This is one of the reasons our flour performs so well: Consistency, quality, and freshness. Thanks Dan!
The pancake and baking mixes are quite popular this time of year, also. As are the hot cereals. And my favorite dish: Grilled wildfowl served with split emmer or our Potlatch pilaf. Mmmm… I can not get enough! This is my idea of comfort food. Maybe with some lightly sauteed kale and onion, or longer cooked chard as a side. And a heavy red wine, if so inclined…
I feel that this half-way point of winter here in the more northern latitudes is the defining line between last farm-year, and the one upcoming. Long enough time has passed and the calendar has turned to a new year and despite cleaning and milling the past year’s crop, one’s mind has already turned to the coming growing season. Our good friends and partners who are leaders of Regenerative Farming out on the prairie spend a good chunk of their winter in a heated shop working on all kinds of specialized machinery that enable them to farm proficiently in a minimum-till, continuous cropping system. They have an amazing amount of equipment to maintain, and make sure it is ready to roll when the window opens this spring. Based on the past year’s sketches, conversations, and jotted-down notes all come out their maintenance and re-fab projects have begun. In this way, farming indeed goes year-round. Being a shop monkey isn’t everyone’s gig – myself included – but it sure as heck helps when you want to run a good farm!
Farming is not only labor intensive but often is quite equipment intensive. This is one of the more challenging parts of farming any sizable amount of acreage. Most farm implements were invented by farmers, and based on necessity. As cropping systems change, needs change and thus innovation remains alive and well. What I love is when you get a brand-new piece of equipment and immediately begin modifying it! This seems to be more prevalent in the past 20 years or so, as most equipment is now developed by engineers, not farmers.
The use of these large specialized pieces of equipment, one might think results in an excessive amount of resources. True, the construction of this equipment takes resources, as does the operation. However, under a Regenerative/Organic farm system, practiced farmers can cut way down on their carbon footprint not just by using less fuel overall, but by sequestering all the carbon in the crops through minimized tillage, and growing their nutritional needs through continuous cropping. A lot of speculation with this system has come and gone. These systems are proving to be sustainable and profitable. Perhaps even more so in this day and age, when it is ever the more important to protect and enhance our soils.
Ode to the clever farmers worldwide. Ode to our Mother Earth. She not only feeds us, she keeps our minds speculating! What more could we ask?
I leave you with my latest speculations: February will be drier here than January. And Organic Regenerative farming will continue to grow in importance.