The Calm Before the Spring

Springtime on the farm is fast approaching. Although spring doesn’t technically start until March 20th according to the calendar, springtime on the farm starts much sooner – as in next week for us! Based on our growing zone (8b), we always start our first round of seeds in the greenhouse during the second week of February. That is usually our unofficial kickoff to spring and the kickoff to “hold on tight it’s about to get really busy around here” season. To add even more to the start of springtime on the farm this year, our baby chicks are supposed to be shipped out early next week! So by next weekend we should have a brooder full of chicks and our first seeds started in the greenhouse. Talk about jumping into 2021 head first!

As far as our chick brooder is concerned, we decided to completely revamp it this year and – surprise, surprise – we haven’t started building it yet. Lucky for us, the little chicks can live in a large plastic bin-turned-brooder for a few weeks until we get the new brooder constructed. Doug has a master plan for the new brooder, so I am letting him take the reins on the building as always. I’m really excited to see his vision come to life! From what he has described to me, it sounds like the new brooder is going to be pretty awesome. And as far as our seed starting is concerned, we decided that we are going to try out soil blocking this year, so for the past few weeks we’ve been experimenting with soil blocking mixtures as well as practicing making blocks. We will do one more trial run tomorrow to make sure everything is good to go with the soil blocking process, and we will also be plugging in all of the seed mats and making sure that they are working and are ready to be used. The greenhouse also needs a little bit of organizing and tidying up, so we will be getting that done tomorrow as well. More to come about the new and improved chick brooder and our soil blocking endeavor in future posts.

This past week has been a pretty quiet one around here – definitely the calm before the spring, and definitely our last week of not having as many mouths to feed and seedlings to tend to. Besides doing the usual animal chores and farm upkeep, we have been really trying to harvest and eat the winter veggies that we’ve been growing. Although we never really have much luck with broccoli and cauliflower varieties, leafy greens like bok choy, kale, and swiss chard always do really well here. Our kale and swiss chard still have some growing to do, but we’ve got lots of bok choy that are harvesting size and some that are even starting to bolt because of our unpredictable warm then cold weather. So far we’ve used the bok choy in a tasty soup, sautéed as a side for dinner, and also in place of cabbage in a lazy stuffed cabbage recipe. Bok choy will always have a place in our garden. It is so versatile and easy to cook with, and we just love it! We also recently harvested a bunch of purple top turnips from a raised bed that we had completely forgotten about. Those were equally beautiful and tasty, and definitely a nice surprise! As part of our winter garden, we are also growing purple lady bok choy and tatsoi for the first time this year. Both have done very well, but we have yet to harvest any because we just don’t think of it. I’m going to try to make a point to harvest at least one of the two to use as part of our dinners next week. We’ll see how it goes!

That’s about all we’ve got to share from this week. Besides doing some prep work tomorrow, we will be spending the beginning of this upcoming week trying to enjoy our final days of being on cruise control. I have a feeling that once next weekend rolls around, things are going to get much busier, but in a good way. Stay tuned!

10 thoughts on “The Calm Before the Spring

  1. Thanks Stephanie. Love reading the blog and I get so many ideas! Definitely going to grow bok choy 🥬 this year.  And now I’m hungry for turnips 😋

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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  2. My Dad dropped off a soil blocking kit for me at the end of last year. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but am looking forward to trying it out when seed starting happens here in MD. It’s always fun and interesting to try new things in the garden. Can’t wait to follow you in this adventure.

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    1. Thats exciting! I was pretty scared off by it because of the soil blocking mixes alone, but I’ve decided to go with a really simple mix and so far my test blocks have stayed together. I’ve been experimenting with the watering and seed mat situation this week. Please keep me updated on your soil blocking as well!

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  3. I’m trying soil blocking this year too. And making my own seed starting mix. What is your recipe for your mix? I’ve almost narrowed mine down but need to make it to the store to get the ‘ingredients’ and then start testing them out. We don’t start seeds for a few more weeks, thank goodness! I’m hopelessly behind, as usual, on all things gardening. But I think I’ll have time this week to start updating my plans and then get everything else done. I did set up the grown station, so there’s that! good luck! I can’t wait to see everything growing.

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    1. The soil blocking mix has been a great source of anxiety for me as I embark on this soil blocking journey. There are SO many recipes and some are so complex. I scoured the internet looking for “simple” recipes, and I ultimately decided that I’m going to just use a 50/50 mixture of organic potting mix and peat moss. I’ve experimented with the blocks and they stay together and absorb water really well. I went with this recipe because it is SIMPLE (a must for me!), and I have bags and bags of unused organic potting soil from last year that I don’t want to waste. Ideally I would have liked to use coconut coir as it is more sustainable than peat moss, but I didn’t have the time to wait for it to be ordered and delivered. I will be starting my first seeds this coming weekend so here’s hoping it’s not a huge failure! What recipe are you using?

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  4. We are envious of you! Being in upstate NY, our growing season starts much later. I can’t wait to get our seeds going.

    I’ve been thinking about a soil blocker for years… but just haven’t gotten around to it. From what I’ve read, it’s with the time and purchase. At some point I will look into that.

    Lovely photos! Who is the pretty kitty?

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    1. Thank you!! The kitty’s name is Marmie (short for Marmalade) and he is one of our outdoor cats who just showed up on day and claimed us as his. He’s our second one to do that!
      Our soil blocking operation is underway! So far so good, but it’s uncomfortable because It’s so new to us. Hoping it all works out!

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