Sunday, June 2, 2013


After 42 years, I still surprise myself.

Farming has brought out my acquisitive side.  I find myself wanting, lusting really, after things I've never thought about before.

First, was dirt.  I had dirt lust bad this time last year.  Tim and I would drive past fields of plowed black dirt, oohing and aahing.  In our U of M Extension Living on the Land Class, we had a speaker who presented a 45 minute power point lecture on soil.  The dirt on dirt.  Sound dull?  Hardly.  We left class agreeing that we'd had no idea how special our dirt is in MN.  Like a century to make 1 inch of topsoil.  How geologic forces of glaciers and wind combined with microscopic life forms over thousands of years to produce black gold.  We were hooked and started daily searches of the Geological Soil Survey, talking about tilth.  We touched soil on various places we visited and could feel for ourselves that nice crumbly texture that means fertility.

I don't know if this cracks you up as much as it cracks us up.  We'd never before given dirt a thought.  And suddenly, we had to have it.  At one point we put an offer on 40 acres in WI before we came to our senses and withdrew it.  We pondered a 20 acre place east with fine dirt, a really beautiful 12 in southern MN with deep black dirt, and several mediocre dirt places north. 

We had looked at this place, the dome house, online and ruled it out- too far, too wooded, too much slope.  But dang, it's got good dirt.  Then months later I woke up imagining myself waking up in a dome and we were strongly leaning towards permaculture style agriculture and the great Sepp Holzer himself lives in the Alps so maybe slope could work.  We came out and peeked in the windows.  Tim skipped under the maples, we walked in the violets, breathed the spirit of the place, and fell in love.  I told Tim we'd better get the permaculture farm consultant out to give us her opinion regarding whether this place would be suited to permaculture because I wanted to get my heart broken right away if it wasn't going to work out.  And this time, there was a happy ending.

Before freeze last fall, Tim took soil samples.  We got the results back and we have glorious soil- 2-4% organic matter.  When you walk on the soil, an observer can see the soil give several inches and then spring back.  In some places we could push the fence posts several feet into the ground by hand.  Aah, tilth.  This is something organic gardeners brag about achieving after 10 years effort.  We are so pleased and thankful because we did absolutely no work to achieve it.  We simply received it as a gift in trust from all the others before us for those after us.

When I feel jealous of farmers with more land and labor-saving devices who actually know what they're doing, I say to myself, "Yes, but what you lack in quantity, you make up for in quality."  I am, however, keeping my eye on several adjacent vacant properties just in case they should go up for sale. 

Then, came truck lust.  It happened on the umpty-umpth snow day and we had just made it to the street after getting stuck in our driveway, stuck at the bottom of the hill, stuck at the stop sign on the top of the hill- all in the first 500 yards.  I slowly slipped and slided toward the plowed blacktop ahead when around the bend came this huge, gas guzzling, shiny, 4-wheel drive pick up.  A wave of lust washed over me and I really, really wanted a fancy pick-up.  I got to plowed blacktop and the feeling passed.  But one never knows.  I'll write about the pick-up we do have soon.

Now, I've got chicken lust.  I had 27, 25 of which were supposed to be layers.  Now I only have 20 and only 12 are hens I'm keeping.  This is not enough.  I can give you the rational- too many roosters (8), too many deaths (7), accidental mystery chickens who can't forage well and need a new home (2)- but really, I just want more than a dozen eggs a day.  A dozen seems skimpy somehow after the promise of a dozen and a half or even two dozen early on.  Pink eggs, blue eggs, light green eggs, white eggs.  Dang, I gotta get myself some more chickens.

After being me for more than 4 decades, I had no idea that dirt, pick-ups, and chickens could inflame my passions or make me happy.  It's good to be alive and on this adventure!

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