Happy spring from Muddy Pumpkin Farms, where the early warmth caught us all a bit off guard! My favorite way of talking about "feel good" weather anomalies is:
We're going to enjoy the mild winter and the early spring. We're going to get busy planting and transplanting. And we're going to appreciate the chance to get outside earlier than usual. But the thought of these weather patterns creates a bit of anxiety in the larger scheme of things. We enter the growing season worried we could see a late frost or too little rain. We worry about the role played by cold winters and deep frosts in keeping certain insect pests at bay. And we wonder what a more volatile climate might mean: prolonged droughts and harder rains, more violent storms or earlier springs, or maybe just a warmer, gentler version of what we've come to know. Despite these anxious thoughts, we can only enjoy the coming of spring, the greening up of cool season grasses and the unexpected over-wintering of our kale plants, and the blossoms on the wild plums and not-so-wild cherries.
Central South Dakota has been a land of extremes as far back as I can remember it, and certainly for longer than I've been around, but the weirding of day-to-day weather, here and across the country, makes life more and more difficult for those who work most closely with the land and weather. For now, it's safe to say that many of the things we're seeing here around the farm are arriving early, 4-6 weeks early (and we're not talking in the hoophouse). The feel of spring is here, and we'll celebrate the end of winter by planting seeds in the warmth and wind.
The cherry bushes bloomed.
In the hoophouse, early signs of life and green sustenance. (In our kitchens, we've been enjoying the early bounties of spring: wild greens like nettles.)
Last week Matt's experiment in sustainable living and science for kids was a mini solar oven, which he and E built and tried out.
The weather was pretty good for using a solar oven, though the angle of the sun will only improve its functionality as we approach summer. Up at ~44 degrees north latitude, we're still waiting for some hard-hitting sun rays.
Here's Hal unloading the new cover crop planter, which we're excited to use for green mulches and soil building.
And just in case you wanted to see some real pre-garden work, here are the soil blocks we're preparing for transplanting. Usually this time of year, we're yearning for the last of the snow to melt, for a little hint of green in the grass, and the feeling of a little warm sun on our faces. This year, spring has come early, so we're going to enjoy it the best we can. Lots of hard work ahead...
Vinny says hello! (and check out my garlic!)
Welcome back to the Muddy Pumpkin Farm Blog as we begin the 2012 growing season, albeit earlier than we thought. Spring came to Muddy Pumpkin Farms early this year, as it has across the midwest. For more information, check out Jeff Masters' weather blog where he has highlighted our close neighbor Winner, SD for nearly hitting the state's all-time March high and gives some insight into why. We'll be doing our part to monitor the weather here at the farm from now on with our new weather station (we'll even try to integrate it with this website so you can see real-time what our weather is like: expect lots of wind).
For us, an early spring and mild winter has allowed us to make good progress on the bunkhouse we're building. Matt and Hal have stayed busy since they got the footings in the ground in January, and now it's starting to really look like a house. We can't wait to show you the view as things begin to green up a bit.
The newest member of the family is Emma, a puppy from our cousin Heather, who is friendly, stocky, and excited to meet everyone. Charlie (the older dog) tolerates her well enough, as does Burt the cat, and we all like having a young pup around the farm.
As you can tell, both Vinegar (Vinny, up above) and Emma enjoy patroling the newly sprouted garlic, our Montana Giant variety that came up earlier than we had expected. The garlic is probably the most interesting garden-related news have, but it's good news since at least in the short run, an earlier spring means earlier produce. Our tomato and onion starts are coming along nicely, and we'll have more news soon.
One last note, that might be a little bit trendy, but also is quite important, close to home and further away.
Last night I was watching "The Kennedys" on PBS's online American Experience archives, which by the way, are amazing. The documentary was well done, and one of the important storylines (for me anyway) was the time Robert spent on the Mississippi Delta among poor, hungry Americans. And it was striking and somewhat relevant in light of the upcoming release of the movie Hunger Games, which offers a heroic tale of not just a dystopian future, but also a disturbing present. And hunger is not something far off in time or space, weighing on distant others and fantasy-obsessed young readers. Because of a variety of background economic conditions and streamlined, even threatened, school food programs, hunger is back on the Mississippi delta 45 years later, and prevalent across the country.
Here in South Dakota, we hope that you'll support food banks and pantries. Support organizations that are working to improve and fund school lunch programs, including farm-to-school programs like those coordinated by Dakota Rural Action. And lobby your congressional leaders to make sure that tax dollars are getting spent on important programs like keeping children healthy and food secure.
The weather here at the farm has been decent the last week or so, a little windy for our liking, but overall not that bad. It rained some last Wednesday and Thursday, which we needed, and the forecast is for both more rain and highs in the upper 60s to lower 70s the next week or so.
One of the things I like to track is weather/climate variability since no year is ever really average, which makes gardening and farming exciting and, at times, frustrating. But as we sat here today with temperatures in the upper 60s (it felt cooler than that because of our good friend the wind), I took a look back at the historical weather data for the month of May around Oacoma (I'm not sure exactly where they're getting this historical data, but I won't worry about that for now). Check the record high temperatures for May 16-20 and May 27-31, and you'll quickly see why we're glad it's not 1934. You'll also get an idea of how hard it must have been to live happily, let alone grow any produce in the 1930s (specifically 1934) in central South Dakota. As Hal would say, "that's rugged," and it's only mid-May.
So tomorrow, we'll be trying hard to get the next starts in the ground, take care of everything we've already planted, and be thankful we aren't in the midst of a week with highs in the 100s because honestly, the Missouri River isn't warm enough yet to make an afternoon swim a very enjoyable break.