Spring Preparations

Soil is warming up which means seeds are going in! My veggie start manager is filling the small cloche with wonderful starts. My kitchen garden from last year is being revamped with new beds and lots of experimental plantings, including saved seed from last year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

The warm weather and sunny days through February and March are lulling us into a false sense of Spring way before last frost dates and even the native plants are out earlier then I’ve ever seen! I tried mulching a few things close to the house, but holding back the turn of a season is impossible. All I can do is hope that mother nature knows what she’s doing. It will be a hot, dry summer.

The swale cover crops are sprouting nicely and plans for the mass planting of perennials later this spring. Our irrigation is not in yet so we’ll be watering this first year by hand and that’s great because checking the growth of young plants is done best close up and walking a hose around invites the level of intimacy needed to nurture new plantings.

Irrigation is still a hot topic and our design incorporates cisterns for the storage of rain water which can then be sent in pipes to flood each swale. This flood irrigation technique will give all the shrubs and fruit trees a deep watering through the dry summer months that do happen here in The Pacific Northwest.

The harvesting of stinging nettle is in high gear and Leafhopper Farm has a few very nice nettle patches to provide abundant young growth. Nettles should be harvested before they reach knee height for the best nutritional use. I pick the tops of the young plant, placing the tender leaves and buds in a dehydrator and then jar them for storage.  The fresh harvest can also be frozen directly for later use in cooking.

The leaves and stems are very hairy with non-stinging hairs and in most subspecies also bear many stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid. (previous sentence taken from wikipedia) These stinging chemicals are actually very medicinal. My naturopath suggested i ingest the plant to help with my allergies. To get the “stinging” chemicals without being stung I dry the plant. Letting some of the patch grow out for reseeding and fiber is also important. A well tended nettle patch will last a lifetime.

Along with nettle and seedlings, all the other plants on the land are also awakening into full life and the blackberry is no exception. I am on a mission this year to really hack back this tenacious vine from all public areas of use. This includes driveways, buildings, and established paths around the farm. Thankfully, the goats are a great natural defense which aid in the management of this invasive foe.

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