One of the chief frustrations of farming is how often trying to do better must be deferred for a year. If you want to improve the farrowing structure or the number of cows you have to finish you usually need to be working months out, if not longer. With our short season few things are so unforgiving as starting seeds for the vegetable garden. While I’m happy with soil blocks, I have yet to figure out a way to keep them consistently warm and happily growing through an entire spring. At first I was just covering the tray of blocks with Agribon, then I moved them into a greenhouse, and more recently I’ve tried moving them inside when it’s cold and back out when weather permits. This year I am making a cold frame, and I am hopeful that it will be an improvement. The seed starting mats I use should keep it from freezing, and I can add a heat lamp if temperatures are getting really low.
There’s probably some sort of character building benefit to running up against the limits of nature. But it’s nevertheless frustrating to feel like time is slipping past, and with it opportunities. The longer I farm the easier it is to see the appeal in systems that are proven. Planting corn and beans, putting pigs in warehouses and breeding them for maximally efficient weight gain, using machines rather than livestock to manipulate the land – these may come with costs to the soil, the water, and the animals, but they certainly produce a lot of a known commodity.
The prospect of growing the farm business while maintaining the values the started me farming in the first place and the practices they require is daunting. The limitations of seasonal production compound the difficulties of trying to maintain and increase inventory at an appropriate pace, to say nothing of the infrastructure improvements that are constantly needed to keep things working smoothly. Hopefully this cold frame, about which I have cautious optimism, will portend success in these larger areas.
Photo Credit – Garth Brown