Equine, Feline, Avian, Apian . . . Farmerian?

Many things happened on our New Hampshire vegetable farm in May that were supposed to happen.

Most importantly, according to the equine department, the horses went out on pasture, galloping and kicking up their heels and rolling and very happily munching on the green grass.

Secondarily, for the horses, the paddock and stable area were cleared of their deep winter pack of hay, bedding, and manure. This gives a horse a light-footed, heady feeling too, or at least it gives a horse farmer that feeling: ah, the winter accumulation has been cleared out! No snow, no ice, no below zero temperatures, and a tidy barn to boot.

According to the feline department on the farm, however, the most important thing in May was the fact that the farmers started getting up nice and early, and thus letting the kitty out to greet the dawn.

Secondarily, for the kitty, despite the fact that May ought to be warm and spring-like, the farmers had to keep the greenhouse heated to a balmy 65 degrees to protect the seedlings. This is very pleasing to a kitty who needs a daytime nap, especially since the farmers no longer fire up the woodstove in the house in May, no matter how cold and rainy it gets. The kitty can curl up in the straw pathways in the greenhouse, as long as she can find room next to the (hard-working, of course, not napping) farmers.

The best of May, according to the avian and the apian departments on the farm, most likely comes from the stronger and longer light, and the bugs and worms poking up their snoots for a hungry bird, and the nectar and pollen for a hungry honey bee or bumble bee.

Secondarily, for the bees and birds, the farmers continue to provide ample nesting area in the stable and over the back porch door, and there is plenty of room and healthy habitat on the farm for all manner of birds and wild bees and wasps. There is also the friendly local beekeeper who helps the honey bee colonies he tends on the farm thrive.

Now, according to the most minor of departments on the farm, which would be the farmerine (or farmerian, if you prefer) department, the primary thing in May is planting, planting, planting! There is planting in the greenhouses, and there is planting in the fields. The planting in the greenhouses has been going just fine, with its preparatory weeding, digging, composting, raking, and watering the beds. We've planted spinach and tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, strawberries and greens, among other things, and they're happily flourishing.

But with rain nearly every day in May, the field plantings have been a little trickier. In fact, the rain has prompted us to fill our greenhouses even more than usual, with kohlrabi and pac choi and scallions, which are usually outside crops for us. But it's been plenty cool enough for those crops to thrive in the greenhouses this year.

Outside of the greenhouses, the farmers race between raindrops, fill the spreader with compost, groom and harness the horses, spread the compost, disc the compost in, harrow the area, and make beds. Then the horses rest, while the farmers rake the beds, and finally sow the beets, the carrots, the snap and snow peas, the salad turnips and the salad greens. The farmers also transplant kale and chard, and cabbage and broccoli, and second batches of lettuce and scallions and greens. The crops that get chewed on by bugs are covered, and the horses are unharnessed, and led back to pasture.

At last the farmers go in for the evening, sighing with relief that they've actually gotten something in the ground, despite the soggy conditions. Supper, on more than one hectic planting occasion, has consisted of a bowl of oatmeal, or a dish of popcorn: nice hot meals for a cold, cloudy, wet month of May!

Secondarily, for the farmers, May means fixing fences, spreading fertilizer (composted chicken manure) in the hayfields, mowing the garden pathways, replacing greenhouse baseboards, tidying up the farm in general, putting screens back on the windows, potting up and watering, farm paperwork, clearing off the front porch, and keeping track of all the equine, feline, avian, and apian departments.

All of this is supposed to happen, in May, and happily, there's been only a few things that weren't supposed to happen: first the rain, rain, rain, and then the farm truck died, and then the plastic ripped off on our little greenhouse, and then the lawn mower wouldn't start.

But that's not too bad for one month, especially if all the things that were supposed to happen in May on a vegetable farm lead to all the things that are supposed to happen in June: bountiful CSA harvest, and a full stall at the Farmers' Market. In other words, vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, June 5-11, 2019