Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox, meaning the first day of spring! While many of you might be in the throes of spring weather, here in Northern Vermont we still have snow on the ground and flurries coming down. We can expect more snowfall for about another month, although if it does snow, it is not likely to last long. The ground is starting to warm up and with longer days, the sun is out in full force to melt it. Even though on the surface it still looks like winter here, spring has definitely sprung!
Yesterday morning when I was out feeding and watering the chickens, I heard lots of birds singing and squawking in our woods. Little squirrels have been scampering all over the yard and for the last week or so the sun seems brighter and feels warmer. The air is the slightest bit warmer, smelling of spring. In the middle of the night, we were woken to the howls of coyotes, and all the little streams, brooks and maple sap are flowing. These are all portends of spring in this part of the world.
Gardening is still a little more than a month away. Here in our Zone 4 conditions, Memorial Day is often touted as the last danger of frost, and gardening takes over most people’s free time for the rest of the spring. But it is good to start some seeds early.
We are really lucky – we have a beautiful 4 season sun room and last year when we got serious about gardening for food, we bought a grow system, so that we could start seeds indoors while a blanket of snow still covered the garden beds or the danger of frost still loomed. Last year we started our seeds late, because we had just moved at the end of April. So we started some seeds indoors and others we just direct sowed into the ground the first week of May. Other seeds we direct sowed in July when the ground was up to the right temperatures. Unfortunately, our peppers, melons and squash (the ones that need warmer soil) really began to take off as the fall frost was imminent and we lost a lot of those plants, many of which were to be storage crops. So this year, we decided to concentrate our seed starting efforts on those more temperature sensitive plants: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, melons, squash and herbs. We also started several trays of marigolds – indispensable companion plants to vegetables in an organic garden. This way they will have a much bigger head start!
It only took about 2 hours on Sunday (a week ago) afternoon to get our seeds started. First we mixed the organic compost with water, to get it to a moist consistency. Then we loaded the trays with compost and planted the seeds. We labeled each plant, and placed the trays on the grow shelves. In about 5 days the first bit of green started to shoot out – thyme was first, then a baby pumpkin and some oregano. We are still waiting for the rest to show signs of life!
Last year was the first time we saved seeds. We saved seeds from the best specimens that we ate – the biggest and sweetest tomatoes, and the most tender eggplants. We also saved a lot of marigold seeds, dill seeds and radish seeds – these we need a lot of for companion planting. As for the other plants, we got all of our seeds from High Mowing Seed Company – a local company (they are less than 15 miles from us) who specialize in organic and heirloom seeds. We figured those seeds would do best in our particular zone, since they were also grown in it! We are going to try some different varieties of beets, turnips and carrots, plants that did not perform like we thought they would last year. We also got pepper, melon and squash seeds from them this year, thinking we would have better luck with some hardy varieties grown nearby.
If you are new to gardening, no matter which zone you live in, it is a good idea to start tomatoes indoors first and then harden them off for a few weeks before planting. Tomatoes are very delicate when they are young, and if you put seedling out too soon, they are likely to wilt and die in the heat of the sun. So put them out for an hour or two at a time, working them up to being outside all day before putting them in the ground.
In other exciting news, today is a busy day on the homestead, with spring fighting for dominance over winter skies, we will welcome our two baby Alpine goats home! This photo was taken about a week ago when we went to Fat Toad Farm, where they were born, to pick them out. In the picture above, the black colored one is called Claire, and the tawny colored is Astrid. Aren’t they just the cutest?! This is a long-time dream coming to fruition and we look forward to working with them. If you have not “liked” my facebook page, I suggest that you do – there are a lot more cute goat pictures!