The mercury is finally above 20 and Spring Equinox is here. Alas, the birds are the reminder that daylight grows and, true enough, daytime now runs 6 to 6. Ahh, the bird….
What a wacky winter for birds. I know this has been the “Farmer Notes” theme season-long but I can’t help myself! We had the bluebird family here around winter solstice – completely goofy. We’ve had robins on and off all winter. Red-wing blackbirds showed early in February in some spots, and have yet to show in others where they always have by mid-February. At one point with the mildest of December and January in many years, I began to think we might be in for a very early spring. But no; February was as cold as any I can recall, and here winter is rolling on right into March. As “they” say: Go figure…
Figure this, no two years are alike. As a farmer colleague in North Dakota once claimed: “I’ve witnessed 39 unusual farming seasons in a row.” With that in mind, I’m guessing all is well. Our snowpack has grown and with this moisture gain, I’m leaning toward a later spring, as the previous two have been. The “3-year trend” here in the Methow seems to be a later start to winter and a later finish. Truth to tell, we’ve just had our two latest farming starts and two of our earliest harvest in 2017/2018. ?? So, Mother Nature continues to make amends and continues to keep us on our toes. I’d have it no other way.
The juggling act of being a producer/processor, as is the case here at Bluebird, in many ways connects the seasons altogether. When we fire up the cleaning line to run weekly orders and we see the hard, deep-colored emmer kernels released from their shiny, bright hulls and go pouring onto the gravity table, another season entire is brought to our senses – snowstorm be damned! It is that sun-cured, summer ripened season that graces many a palate year round no matter what the calendar reads. This is what brings such pleasure to this farmer. This sanctifies what we do at Bluebird, with the final joy being able to share the richness with so many of you.
By producing these grains and then truly custom milling them, not only do we get to know our food from plow to plate but so do you! I’m not sure there is another way to ensure the freshness, and therefore the flavor other than doing the cleaning and milling on an as-need basis. When we fire up our flour mill and the whole grain einka gets ground into a light, fluffed sweet smelling flour as it does every Monday, we know your customers are getting the soft, amber light of a season released. And, thanks to so many of you, we’ve had a busy past month cleaning and milling and delivering the goods for sure!
This upcoming farming season – and yes, it will come – I’m going to concentrate on really growing out our seed stock for the einka and emmer. We’ve now been growing these two Mother wheats many years here in north-central Washington – the Methow in particular – and therefore feel we’re nailing down some of the best of these varieties for this northern climate. By next month, we will be selecting some of the “best of the best” and making sure we plant this seed out. Now that we’ve arrived at the consistent, nutrient-rich grains that we’ve had the past 3 years, we want to ensure that the seed stock from these crops flourishes for seasons to come. Seed selection and seed saving, after all, has been the age-old cornerstone to all farming. As some of these tricks to the trade get ever impinged upon, it is even more important to keep this tradition alive for the generations to come. When all is said and done, if Bluebird accomplishes nothing else, we hope to at least accomplish this.
I look forward to sharing next months “Notes” when it is…. Spring??!!
Yours, Farmer Sam