I am all snuggled in on my nice soft couch, in my nice warm home, to wait out Mr. Winter?  We have not really had much of winter here in Greene County, TN, since our last snow storm in January.  Our winter has seemed very much like spring, with temperatures reaching the mid 60’s, and on occasion, the mid-70’s!  At work, and home, our peach trees think it is time to bloom.

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(My heart is crying as I will more than likely loose all my peach tree blooms at home this year, as they are too big to cover.  But, I am happy that the trees at the farm are still small enough and we have bundled them up for this winter blast.  They may still set on their first fruits.)

My three peach trees are all in color at home, and our baby two-three year old trees are starting to flower at the farm.  But, this weekend’s freeze, and frigid temps dropping into the teens this upcoming week, is reminding us all it is still winter here.  So many of us are wanting to jump into our boots, grab the hoes, pull the tractor out, and begin tilling and planting.  This cold snap has reminded us to wait a bit longer and be patient.  While we are trying to be patient (who am I fooling!  It’s like taking a kid to a candy store and telling them they can’t buy anything!), we are starting plants in our greenhouse.  The teens, Taylor, and a volunteer from Walters State Community College, Kristi, have been busy planting seeds that need extra attention and time to grow before being thrown out to face life on their own.

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Our newest group of teens, who have decided to call themselves “The Savager”, are having their first introductions to the greenhouse.  They came out two weeks ago and started a few cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, and broccoli.  Today they were able to check in and see how well their plants have thrived!  Questions were still being asked on why their is plastic on the greenhouse, why a heater, and noticing the difference in the cold temperatures outside and the tropical heatwave inside.  (It was only 80 degrees in the greenhouse, but outside was 35 with winds!  So yes, it was a tropical heatwave.)  I love the questions and what the teens notice.  The interest they take to really understand how the greenhouse works and benefits the plants.  And above all, it gives me a chance to open my mouth and talk!  Taylor and Kristi have spent this past week starting peppers, tomatoes, more cabbage, more broccoli, more cauliflower, strawberries.  We have never tried starting strawberries from seed, and cannot wait to see how they turn out.  A lot of our teens love and want tons of strawberries.  If this works well, we will drastically cut our expenses down by not ordering strawberry plants each year.  Last year was the first year we began rhubarb from seed and we had great success with it.  We are hoping for the same with the strawberries.

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We have over 1600 plants started for our garden at the farm and our teens’ home gardens.  Taylor has been working with the teens to map their garden spaces, calculating how many plants and seeds they can get into their garden based on their square feet.  These garden plans have helped the teens to think through how much spacing is needed for plants versus seeds, how much they can truly fit into their growing space, and the potential harvest they will get from their space.  With the maps in hand, volunteers are being organized to go out on March 24 and March 25 to help till gardens, make garden beds, and build raised beds in about 15 homes, as of right now.  Who get’s the tractor tiller? (wait, that will be me!!! 🙂 )  We are excited to have help putting gardens in this year, and are hoping some of those volunteers will stick around and help mentor our younger teens through the growing season.  With all of this growing and planting, I am biting at the bit to get my 1/3 of an acre garden started.  I have ordered my seeds, and am waiting for the ground to dry from the rain to begin tilling.  I have my garden map in hand and am dancing around like a child who needs to go to the bathroom in anticipation of the moment “go” is yelled!

So, some other excitement around the farm:  On Thursday morning, spring was definitely in the air as our first calf was born!  As I turned around the bin, came insight of the fields, there was a tiny black blob sitting by the watering trough fence, and there sat Virginia, our Jersey, near by.  She has had the first calf of the season!  As I pulled into the drive, I realized that somehow that little calf managed to get on the other side of the cattle panel and couldn’t get back with his mamma.  Well, I couldn’t have that!  So off I trotted, well, walked through the pasture, around the poor calf who must have thought I was a monster because he was trying his hardest to get through the fence and away from me.  I went down to the gate to convince Virginia to come through.  Well, she would start walking then would go back, then walk, then go back.  The calf wasn’t following down the fence line so she wasn’t leaving – such a good mamma.  I managed to get another cow to come down the fence line to the gate, then they all started coming, even the calf.  Wouldn’t you know, he found a low spot in the electric fence and got back to his mamma.  Now, since Virginia is a Jersey we have to start milking her, which means moving her and the calf to another field.  So, reinforcements came to help and we decide to try to move them.  Virginia and her calf were not ready to move.  As we kept calling Virginia to us with grain at the gate, she would come and the calf would begin to follow.  Then Virginia would turn around and nudge her calf back.  She wasn’t quite ready and was telling us she needed a bit more “alone” time.  While being distracted with Virginia, we now had some other cows we needed back into their area.  I have, or should say had the grain.  As I dump it where I need the other cows to be, one of them nudged me and I received a nice jolt of electric on my backside!  Yep, the wires are hot!  I am sure the cow knew that and wanted to make sure I knew!  A couple hours later, Virginia and the calf were ready to leave the field for their life in our dairy barn and field.  Our cover photo shows the calf today, with his admirers!  We are expecting another calf any day, and about 2 months a third calf.  I think there was something in the water!

With much planning and preparation for these gardens to go in soon, it is time to go.  So, until next time, Debbie Strickland signing off and wishing everyone happy planning and planting!