Dateline: 16 May 2006
Spring is in full swing here in central New York state. Lilac blossoms are out in all their splendor. Strawberry blossoms opened with the full moon a few days ago. Marlene tells me it was a “strawberry moon.” My son James picked his mother some apple blossoms and gave me a sprig. They are so fragrant! A mother robin is tending her hatchlings in a nest she built on what remains of last winter’s woodpile— we can watch the nest from a side window of our house.
Birds, so many birds. My two youngest sons are becoming very attuned to the many different birds around our home. This is a result of Marlene’s influence. She was an avid bird watcher as a young person. My sons have recently started compiling a “bird list.” They are even learning to identify the calls of different songbirds. Some days when I come home from work, they tell me excitedly of new birds they’ve seen, or bird nests they’ve discovered. Things like that please me greatly.
A couple weeks ago, Marlene and the boys went to Montezuma Wildlife Refuge which is a wetland about a half hour from our house. There they saw an osprey and a bald eagle in their nests.
Spring is the time to plant and we have been doing that. Peas and spinach went in the ground weeks ago and are doing nicely (we have been eating spinach). My garlic, planted last fall, is looking very robust, especially after the recent rains. Garlic needs lotsof rain early in it’s growth.
James (11 yrs) and Robert (15 yrs) helped me plant three rows of potatoes, 70 feet long, and five rows the same length of open-pollinated dent corn. The corn will be for our chickens. We’ve never grown corn for our birds before, mainly because we lack the land to do so. But my neighbor has graciously given me permission to expand my garden into a portion of his field that is beside my property.
The boys and I will harvest the corn by hand, husk it, and put it in some sort of homemade corn crib, probably inside my workshop. Through the winter we will shell and coarse-grind it for the chickens.
We will also grind some for ourselves. The seed catalog said the corn is good for feeding animals or making cornmeal for people. The thought of fresh-ground, whole grain corn bread from our own corn is very appealing.
The bulk of our vegetable garden will be planted Memorial Day weekend. With that in mind, I helped Robert plant seeds in trays for two varieties of heirloom cantaloupe and the heirloom “Moon and Stars” watermelon. Robert is the melon-growing boy. Last year we bought cantaloupe seedlings from a greenhouse. This year we are starting our own.
I have started my own tomato plants inside for several years. In my anxiousness, I typically start them much too early and the plants get long and “leggy” by the time the ground is warm enough to plant. This year I waited until the forsythia were in blossom, which was just a couple weeks ago. The seedlings are only a couple inches high but they are looking good and I will transplant them on Memorial Day. I think the shock of transplanting will be less with the smaller plants. I also started lots of parsley and lavender when I planted the tomatoes.
I’d like to have a small hoop house one day for starting plants. That would be much easier than windowsills in the house. As the plants start to grow, we take the flats outside and set them in a garden cart with plastic stretched and clamped over the top. It’s a makeshift greenhouse but it does the job.
Robert is learning. James is learning. We are all learning about planting and growing and harvesting. The beauty of this agrarian life is that there is so much to learn and discover and experience when it comes to producing your own food. I expect to do this all of my earthly days and still be learning to the end. I hope that my sons will do the same. When we work to grow our own food we are, as I have said before, co-laborers with God. And I suspect that, even into old age, the wonder of it never ceases.
Over the weekend I sent out several review copies and news releases for my new book. James visited with me while I was doing this. Looking over the sealed envelopes, he noticed one was addressed to the New York Times Book Review Editor. I explained to him that sending review copies of the book out to different publications is like planting seeds. I plant the 'seeds" and the Lord will provide reviews as it pleases Him to do. If the New York Times does review the book, a lot of people will know about it and I could sell a lot of copies as a result. “Like how many?” James wondered. “Thousands!” I said with a big grin. He liked the sound of that. So we prayed that God would send a spirit of favor with each book I mailed out.
Chances are slim that a self-published book like mine would ever get such attention as a NY Times book review. But still, I’ll plant such seeds and see what develops. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
My home-based entrepreneurial efforts in the writing business have, in recent years, born modest fruit because God has blessed. But it has not always been so. I’ve had my share of failures and disappointments in the past. I like to think I’ve learned from the failures, and I hope they are all in the past. But I’m afraid they probably are not.
Last Sunday, the whole family drove about an hour from our home to Miller Nursery in Canandaigua, N.Y. We bought a dozen blueberry plants and enough red and black raspberry canes to plant a 50-foot row. Marlene says homemade jam sells very well at the farm market. It seems to me that such a product, made from your own homegrown fruit, would be an excellent value-added homestead enterprise. We certainly would not do this on any significant scale with the few plants we bought at Miller Nursery. The fruit will be for our family. But we are, as I’ve previously noted, learning, and we can, one day, expand our operation when we have more land to do so.
My oldest son, Chaz, who doesn’t get mentioned here nearly as much as his two younger brothers, has started working mornings for three hours and on Saturdays at the local lumberyard in Moravia. He will be working there full time this summer, as he did last summer. It is a physical job which is just what he needs. Last fall, after working the summer, he had saved enough to pay cash for his first car— a nice little Honda Accord. I worked on a dairy farm for a year to earn the money to buy my first car. I was 20 years old.
There is so much more to be blogging about but the days slip by so fast......