Farm update: March 22

We are sorely disappointed to report that we did not receive even one paltry inch of snow from the massive spring storm that walloped Denver and the Front Range last weekend. To add insult to injury, snow was in the forecast again today, to no avail – I promise you that it is clear and dry outside right now. We joke regularly about checking (In)AccuWeather on our phones, where it’s always “currently snowing in Delta County” – no. No, it isn’t. We have learned from our time here to only trust the weather that we can actually see and feel. All other promises and forecasts ring hollow.

So what we’re not doing on the farm right now is plowing or shoveling snow. But here are a few other things we’ve been up to lately, if you’d care to see.

That soil looks dry even now.

With the aforementioned dry, warm winter we’ve had, it’s no surprise that spring has made an early appearance. Green shoots and sprouts are peeking up all over the farm; the bulb flowers, like crocus, daffodil and tulip, are typically the first to show their pale-green leaves. It’s always interesting to see what overwinters successfully; I’m particularly interested in the perennial herbs (thyme, mint, oregano) to see what I’ll need to replant this spring. I love the hardy alliums, like chives and garlic, that arrive early and offer a bright, snappy garnish to eggs and soups. We’re also hopeful that we might see substantial growth on our nascent orchard in its third year.

Increased egg production is a sure sign of lengthening days.

Another sign of spring? Our hens are consistently producing between seven and nine eggs per day. Laying hens are heavily influenced by hours of daylight, which is why egg CAFOs keep the lights on at all times. At the moment we have fourteen hens – five of our original flock, who are essentially living out a comfortable dotage, and the nine chicks we raised last spring. The older hens lay infrequently if at all, but our younger hens are one year old and therefore at peak production right now. We have one Whiting Blue, which (unsurprisingly) lays blue eggs, and two Whiting Greens, who oddly seem to lay not at all. (All breeds that lay blue and green eggs are collectively referred to as Easter Eggers, and genetically their production is far lower than brown-egg or white-egg hens. This is why you rarely if ever see blue or green eggs in the supermarket – they’re far too expensive to produce.) We don’t plan on raising chicks again this year, but may add a few pullets to the flock if the opportunity presents itself.

Supplies needed: sharp pencils with good erasers, a calculator and a squeezy stress ball.

If you are one of our many international readers, you might be unaware that in addition to eggs and flowers, spring in the U.S. always signifies tax time, too. Every adult taxpayer is responsible for preparing and filing their own income taxes each year; though the job can of course be outsourced to paid preparers, it will likely surprise no one that I actually enjoy completing our taxes. (I am a riot at cocktail parties. Really.) I took a tax preparation course last fall to give me additional confidence in completing our return. The forms are a bit complicated, yes, and the rules do seem to change every year (especially in the wake of the dumpster fire that was 2020) but the sense of satisfaction in finishing the job successfully is immense. Plus, this year is our first time filing Schedule F: Profit and Loss From Farming – filling out that form makes me feel like we’re legitimate farmers!

If these jars could talk…

We can all agree that Craigslist is, like much of the Internet, a terrifyingly creepy place to hang out. If one is careful and disciplined, however, one might find treasures! Such was the case recently when N spotted “free canning jars” in our local listings – it turns out that they’re free because they’re covered in years (decades?) of soot and grime and possess a vaguely smoky odor. Considering that canning jars are never free any more, and certainly not in the wake of last year’s mad scramble for canning equipment, it seemed worth taking a flyer on these. (I am desperate for a backstory on the jars, some of which are definitely older than we are, but that will remain buried in the annals of history.) We will give these dozens of jars a thorough scrubbing with boiling water and dish soap, then a soak in diluted bleach, to see if they might be salvaged. One great benefit of glass: it does not absorb odor or color, so we’re hopeful that many of these can be used again once they’re completely sanitized.


Sandhill cranes can reach four feet tall with a six-foot wingspan!

And finally, the true arrival of spring is always officially heralded with the lovely cooing sound of our transitory sandhill crane population. Though we have a few small groups of cranes who do live here year-round, most are migratory. We see the cranes most frequently at our big irrigation reservoir in the early morning and late evening, because they spend the night in the shallow water, but we also see (and hear) them flying over our farm in flocks. Cranes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they’ll eat just about everything that crosses their path, but they do love the corn fields, where they can eat corn and insects and mice to their hearts’ content. Once we see and hear the cranes, we know that it’s time to buckle down and get ready for the busy season.

And with that, we wish you a calm and peaceful week ahead, dear friends. Hoping you see a few signs of spring in your world, too.

7 thoughts on “Farm update: March 22

  1. I am sorry you did not get any snow! I hope you get a little this week. We have seen a few bulbs peeking as well and our lettuce has sprouted in our seed starters! The birds are beautiful. Love reading your farm updates.

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  2. Elizabeth, enjoying your newsletters!

    You may want to try soda with hot water and/or vinegar on those canning jars.

    Karen Nelson

    >

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  3. Some of my old quart jars came from a basement of a house not too far from here many years ago. The room they were in had not been accessed in a very long time. The doorway had been boarded up. We only found the room because we needed to work on plumbing at the rear of the basement, but then realized that the basement did not go back as far as the rest of the house and its associated foundation did. The jars were still neatly arranged on shelves, but the lids had rusted though. Small ‘mummies’ of dehydrated sauerkraut remained within. They were labeled as such, with dates from the early 1920s.

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      • It sort of looked like one of those old horror movies at first, but then became fascinating. The jars were later washed and incorporated into service. They were so old that they were easily distinguishable from newer jars. I suspect that the great grand daughter of the original owner is still using them.

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