Alone on the farm

Today was one of the rarest days on the farm.  It might happen again only once or twice this whole season.  I love days like today, but they also give me a chance to appreciate the normal flow of people and projects calling my attention.  I was alone there, all day.

And I wasn't surprised at all.  It was in the thirties, raining hard, then snowing and sleeting, and none of our regular volunteers have been coming on Fridays, anyways.  While I would have loved some help, I tried to savor the solitude.  Being alone with a list of projects gave me space to better see how my brain works through tasks, organizes my time, and daydreams.  While I checked on the tomato grafts, I got to fly back to last spring when we were transplanted our first grafted plants in the ground.  While I walked back and forth from the nursery to the overflow house countless times with plant sale starts, I got to set my own pace to stay warm.  And while I set starts outside to harden off under shade cloth, I had my usual flashback to 2012, when it snowed a few inches the night I set out our first starts, and I walked four miles in the slush the next morning to try to rescue them, and they eventually bolted early from the stress.  It's been snowing off and on this evening, and I'm trying not to worry.

After moving a bunch of trays from greenhouse to greenhouse to get our plant sale inventory organized, I was warm enough to slow down for a while and spend time carefully checking over flats.  There's still a bit of work to do to get every last six-pack of starts dialed in for the sale, but most of them are full and healthy.  I thinned a bit more, transferred some babies from cell to cell to make sure everything is full, and fixed some labels that had already been hastily stuck into trays.  It takes a day with no interruptions, no one else to manage but myself, to wrap my head fully around what's happening in there, and what is still left to do.  I made a list of what's ready for sale (and therefore ready to be labeled with our little white sticks) and what still needs rearranging before we should label them.  We'll end up with a bit less of some varieties that haven't germinated well, and while we filled in with others where possible, by now we're only two weeks away from the spring sale and we'll just have to live with what we have.

After that detail work, I was ready to get my blood moving again, so I moved more plants for a bit, then got ready to warm up some new cucumber transplants.  Michael and the interns planted them yesterday with spinach running down the sides of the beds.  This first greenhouse planting of cucumbers tends to be pretty precarious, since it's often (and is very much so today) still cold and gray.  Cucumbers are sensitive to chill and dampness, and will just give up one day if they've had enough of it.  (Often this "damping off" is caused by a disease, but they can also succumb to cold temperatures and slow growth.)  To help protect the young plants, I fished out a couple swaths of old row cover and got to work tucking in the plants.  The cover will keep them just a smidge warmer, which might make all the difference over the next few nights of near-freezing temperatures.  If it doesn't make them any warmer, at least it did for me!  Since I watered them in yesterday, the soil around each bed was heavy, and shoveling mud is no joke.  I quickly broke a sweat and stayed toasty until the end of the day.  I thought about snapping so many photos today, but when I looked back at my camera, this happened to be the only one I actually took.  Fitting, for a rare solo day on the farm.

 Row covering cucumbers in the high tunnel to keep us all warm

Row covering cucumbers in the high tunnel to keep us all warm