Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold Days in the New Year

It's a frigid day at the farm--12 degrees at dawn, and only 15 now at midday. Cats are snugged tight under quilts, their sleepy faces barely poking out of colorful folds and crevices. Both Trixie and Beau are on patrol and will soon be jumping in the dog door for an early afternoon nap. Margo and Peaches stand shoulder to shoulder in the pasture, heavy feed warming their bellies. Their thick winter coats make them look like giant teddy bears with hooves. When we walk together in the pasture or around the yards, their sweet breath flies in puffs and flumes, warming my hands as I scratch and rub their faces.

I've been looking through seed catalogues, wondering what to start in my friend Jane's greenhouse. Having completed Master Gardener training in November, I've been awash with ideas for volunteer projects and plans for my little raised beds out back. My favorite seed purveyors, Territorial Seed Company and Seeds for Change, have sent their Spring offerings--so many wonderful varieties of tomatoes, peas, and eggplants! Jane and another friend, June, both Master Gardeners of many years' experience, will be directing the greenhouse efforts, and I am consulting with them before placing my orders. Forever a homegrown tomato lover, I welcome the experience of starting from seed (rather than from wilted, often diseased sets found at the local big box stores).

Starting in September, I began putting the raised beds to sleep for the winter. Turning the soil with compost added, placing a thick layer of leaves and straw on top, I hope the preparation for planting the new seedlings is adequate for their taking off and producing a bountiful table of good eats in the late Spring and Summer. I've been an enthusiastic if ignorant gardener for years, will use what I learned in the Master Gardener classes in developing more raised beds and making sure that plantings are well-spaced in the proper mix of soil.

What, in addition to tomatoes, to start?