Last Thursday’s New York Times had an article on Eliot Coleman and Barbara Wamrosch of Four Seasons Farm. They are raising food year-round in Harborside, Me. Mr. Coleman purchased 60 acres of land from Helen and Scott Nearing in 1968 for $33 an acre. The Nearings, socialists and free thinkers, built their house out of stone by themselves and grew their own food during the Depression.
The Nearings’ back-to-the-land 1954 book inspired Eliot Coleman and many others, including yours truly. I saw Helen Nearing speak sometime in the 1970s after reading the book.
The Colemans are growing in very cold conditions, but use a various assortment of unheated hoop houses, a glass greenhouse and mobile row houses. The sun returned to 10 hours a day at the beginning of February. Ten hours of daylight are required to actually get plants growing. In December and January, one must rely on plants that have grown and are simply waiting to be harvested. For example, lettuce planted in August or September can be transplanted as heads into a hoop house or under Reemay in November. Those heads will freeze at night but warm up to be pickable by midday. I’m happy to report that I have been able to eat my own greens all winter. This, of course, is with the exception of Cronig’s salad bar when I’m too exhausted or darkness crept up before I was able to pick.
I’ve been eating my radishes, tops and all, for a few weeks. They are barely recognizable — still too tiny to form true globes but very tasty. The greens have the familiar “bite” and perk up a salad. Both beets and carrots are up with their true leaves. I seeded them into deep fish totes a month ago in a plastic covered house. I covered them with bubble wrap if the night was particularly cold. It took the carrots almost three weeks to germinate.
Speaking of carrots, I dug a row of tiny ones in the garden. I never had thinned them, so the poor things were not much bigger than pencils. Nevertheless, I gave them a scrub and tossed them whole into a leek and kale stir fry. They were very sweet and a colorful addition to the dish.
I’ve been busy in the greenhouse. I have transplanted lavender, yarrow, hyssop, hollyhocks, platycodan and foxgloves. They were all started on a propagation mat the beginning of January. Hopefully I’ll bump them up into four-inch pots by mid-April for sale. It would be great to put a few dollar towards my seed bill. One good thing about me, I don’t resent the time spent because I enjoy the work. Like most garden chores I find transplanting relaxing.
Oh! When transplanting tiny seedlings, hold the little one by its leaf, not the much-too-fragile stem.
I just read a printout about kaolin clay. I mentioned using it last summer in this column. Kaolin clay is a common ingredient in toothpaste, aspirin, paint and kaopectate. Commercially, as a pest control agent, it is called Surround Crop Protectant. It works by coating the plant surface with a powdery film. Some pests are repelled by light reflected from the coated plant surface, some do not recognize the plant as it feels different, and some find it too irritating and leave. We used it last season and it did make a big difference. It needs to be reapplied every few weeks. Not to be a prophet of doom, but, I do wonder if this mild winter will bring us more bugs this coming summer? I already found a flea in the house. Yikes!
There is a reason for the separation of church and state wisely included in our Constitution. It is disturbing, of late, to hear about certain presidential candidates’ religiosity. Some of the rhetoric coming from Rick Santorum, specifically, hints at some sort of theocracy he wishes for our government. I cannot help but make a leap into the behaviors of other would-be theocrats.
The early Puritans fled England to find religious freedom in Massachusetts and promptly began persecuting others who did not share their beliefs.
Space prohibits mentioning the endless wars fought over religion. The deaths in Afghanistan over reaction to the burning of the Koran are the latest in a series of intolerance turned deadly.
What I don’t know about God is a lot but I’m pretty sure of one thing. He values human life much more than a book whether a Koran, the Torah or a Bible. I can picture him saying, “People, please, don’t make me come down there!”