Allow me to switch gears just a bit this week from talking about chickens (though my "meat seeds" are enjoying their time outside).
On the farm, I not only raise chickens but also attempt to grow some sort of edible produce each year. The garden is set in an open field that just a few years back was a corn/soybean field.
That being said, I have tried each year to enrich the soil to make it a more hospitable place for vegetable plants. The extra brewer’s spent grain that doesn’t go into the dog treats or to the chickens, vegetable peelings and the ever-prevalent offerings of the chickens are put onto the soil each fall and are then worked into the ground in the spring to make the soil as rich as possible.
The first year I moved to the farm, I tried desperately to grow every type of vegetable I could lay my hands on.
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Of course, this was absolutely a disaster because the ground had recently been a field of soybeans and, no surprise that first season, volunteer soybeans continued to pop up between the tomatoes, peppers, melons, corn and broccoli.
Not deterred, I planted a smaller amount of vegetables the next summer and saw fewer soybean plants; however, the ground decided to rebel and the weeds took over, choking out the tomatoes and peppers and covering the watermelons and pumpkins.
So much for opening a small roadside stand to sell official Jackson County melons. If my memory serves me, I at least had a tiny harvest that season — four pumpkins and two watermelons.
YouTube has a host of videos from other people that are trying their hand at the "homesteading" thing, and I began to glean every bit of information from these videos on how to prevent weeds. What I discovered was a plastic woven cloth that is fastened to the ground with landscaping staples or sandbags and blocks the ground from sunlight, effectively preventing any undesirable plants from growing. Genius!
I purchased the woven cloth last spring and put it on the ground. All I had to do was burn small holes to put the plants I wanted into the ground. Enter the propane torch, which I failed at. How was I to know the flame was so sensitive to the ever-present wind that blows on the hill?
Frustrated about the inability to even burn a small hole, the chickens took over my focus, and there was not a garden last year at all.
The only way to win at this farming thing is to make sure there are multiple sources of income coming in, and after attending a small farms conference this February, I decided to try again.
This time, I didn’t burn holes in the plastic but cut them. The ground below the plastic is wonderfully weed-free, and the earthworms love the protection and warmth it gives. I planted six tomato plants and a variety of radishes, lettuces and rainbow carrots. I’ve already gotten a small harvest of radishes. So far, I’m winning.
There’s an old saying that if you plant after Mother’s Day, any threat of frost should be past, but this year is a little bizarre in so many ways. It appears any of us who decided to put plants into the ground a bit before this date will need to tuck in the sensitive plants from threat of frost this weekend.
It is Indiana after all, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get small flurries on top of everything else.
My moniker on the street is Mutha Clucker amongst friends, and this weekend gives me a moment to realize how much mothers near and far give to make sure things grow and flourish.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother to adorable little humans, fur/finned/feathered babies or plants. Anything that grows, grows because someone cared.
A large wish of thanks to all of the mothers out there this weekend, and stay warm.
Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected].