Fear not, the days are getting longer.
In this toxic political climate that we seem to be inundated with these days, I’m going to make a radical departure from my usual, not so thinly veiled writing about politics or worse under the guise of writing about farming and this month write about farming for farming’s sake.
Because, to be honest, I can’t really add anything to the deluge of the nonsensical, eerily fascistic nastiness that has become the daily norm of what our election cycle and its endless coverage feels like. Another column chiming in with a little more this or that might just be the one straw too many on that camel’s back for some of you. I don’t want that for you, and really I don’t want that for me.
Plus, when you find yourself in that negative feedback loop, and the 24-hour cycle that goes with it, it’s real easy to lose sight of the things that are right in front of you. Lately I prefer the much more real 24-hour cycle at work in the outside world, away from the phones and screens.
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It’s suddenly spring in my big yard, and I don’t mean to be cliché, but it really was sudden seeming: all the trees bursting new colorful buds, and the grass taking on that Irish look, greener than green, which seems to make the cows and chickens happier than dry hay and corn ever could.
The pond sounds like a Tuvan throat-singing convention with all the deep call and responses of the hundreds of frogs hitting on each other. Everything is happy to wake up from the hibernation. It’s awesome to see it happen. It’s awesome to be in a place where I get to observe things happening in cycles.
After the long drab winter, which I do really love, all this new color and life moving and changing around me seems to get me in the work mood. Couple that with the extra afternoon light, and you have a recipe for veggie growing weather.
Those lettuces and other greens we have been nursing along under frost clothes for the last few weeks have finally hit a growth spurt. Creep then leap, as they say. Things respond so quickly to the early heat and extra light of spring. We are gaining the most light we gain in a day this time of year, and it sure is nice to be the recipient of some of that action.
At the time I’m writing this, we are gaining nearly three minutes a day. What are you doing with your three more minutes of light each day? It’s the point of the year when we get back to 12 hours of day and 12 of night, which is what puts the equal in the vernal equinox or the first day of spring, the moment when earth’s equator passes through the middle of the sun. Or if we are right on the money, one of two days a year when the sun is directly overhead at noon.
The other one is the autumnal equinox, aka the first day of fall. From here we keep bringing on the light. As a matter of fact, it’s all gain from here till late June, when we will be up to 14 and a half hours a day of light, at which point we start to shorten those days again.
I’m attempting to make the most of this light, I’m filling up trays of seedlings in the greenhouse, driving the tractor back and forth getting land ready for them. It doesn’t always happen on the same day each year as weather dictates everything on a farm. I guess the groundhog didn’t lie. It’s a bit warmer this year, and the plants are really responding to it by getting a jump on the season.
At the end of the day I get to walk in the woods with the dogs to look at the trout lilies blooming near the river and try not to step on those big millipedes that smell like RC Cola that seem to have woken up by the hundreds.
I’m trying to soak it in, and hopefully slow time down a little bit so I can enjoy it longer. The time between woodstove and air conditioner is way too precious and brief. The nights with all the windows open, before the mosquito clouds show up is one of the perks of living away from a city. The other is peeing outside, but I best not mention that here, this being a family paper and all.
George O’Neal runs Lil Farm in Timberlake and is a member of the Carrboro and Durham farmers markets. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.