After a Saint Patrick’s Day meetup with friends in Iowa City I drove home, parked my car in the garage and haven’t moved it since.
It was too cold for outside work on Saturday so I stayed in, did laundry, cleaned the bird feeder, wrote, read, and cooked dinner of bean soup, Carnival squash and applesauce cake.
The ambient temperature is expected to rise to almost 60 degrees, so I’m planning to work outside after a shift of soil blocking at a community supported agriculture farm.
I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History in its entirety this weekend. Her combination of background information with personal stories of field trips is eminently readable. I can’t remember a day so absorbed in a book since leaving transportation. The main takeaway is how uncertain scientists are about changes in earth history over the long term and the consequences of our lifestyle.
The broader meaning of words like “Anthropocene” is not settled, nor agreed. What I know after this immersion, and after reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Haran, I am ready to move forward with something other than narratives of how homo sapiens swarmed over the planet like Japanese beetles.
I buy more bird feed since working at the home, farm and auto supply store. Counting whole kernel corn, I have five different varieties in the garage. Each type attracts a different bird and we enjoy watching them through the French door off the dining area. Some days I feel like picking up a 20-pound bag on sale, and do. I went overboard with 50-pound bags of whole corn and millet, although sparrows seem to really like the millet. There is no science to my purchases.
Bartering is making this year’s garden planning a lot different. Part of the barter system is trading labor for a spring and fall share. Each side of the deal can be defined monetarily. I get a credit of $13 per hour for labor which is applied to retail price of the shares. I use greenhouse space and materials to germinate seeds and care for seedlings until planting in my garden. I will also acquire onion sets and seed garlic through the farms. Where there is a clear financial value, the barter system is simple and easy. This part of the exchange translates into things we can use in our garden or kitchen.
The exchange for specific produce is more complicated.
Tomatoes are a large part of summer. Last year I planted them in three different garden plots. This year I’ll decrease my plantings to what we’ll use fresh and rely on the farms for canning tomatoes. In 2013 the farmer provided crates of tomatoes which I canned. We split the canned goods 50-50 that year. That was a bit disadvantageous to me considering the amount of work. We haven’t finalized the split, but both farms I work on produce many more tomatoes than needed for their members. One farmer wants lots of canned tomatoes. Something can be worked out.
Bell peppers were a garden failure last year and for many previous years. I’m eliminating them completely. The farms produce bell peppers with a high frequency of imperfect fruit. I plan to trade labor for these seconds and get all of my bell peppers from them. In addition to fresh eating, I seed and freeze them to use throughout the year. We did a 50-50 split on these in 2013, however, this year I’m considering a straight trade of labor hours against a to be determined cost per crate.
There are a number of items we don’t use much in our kitchen but are abundant on the farms. I don’t plan to grow any kohlrabi or cabbage. Should be no problem getting what we need without occupying space in our garden. I’ll barter for some additional broccoli for freezing.
Likewise, I don’t plan to grow lettuce outside my small plot of Belgian lettuce. In between the spring and fall shares that’s coming from bartering.
Summer squash is abundant and available from the farms as are many kinds of greens: collards, chard and “braising greens.” I will grow my own kale and spinach, and everything else will be bartered from the farms.
Eggplant? If Johnny’s Selected Seeds proofs and sends Black Beauty seeds I’ll plant them along with Fairy Tale eggplant. The former can be sliced thick, baked and frozen. The latter are good for the kitchen while in season. There is always an abundance of eggplant at the farms.
Yesterday was the last winter Saturday of staying indoors. Going into the planting season it will also be my day off from the home, farm and auto supply store and the farms. Yesterday was a good day, made better by a feeling of accomplishment. As humans we sometimes need that.