February 2016 Wishetwurra Garden Report

February has come.

Winter hasn’t.

At least, not much it hasn’t. Especially compared to last year.

Except for a few short cold snaps and a couple of moderate snowstorms, this winter has so far been as mild as last winter was harsh. Temperatures in the forties (F) have been commonplace, the fifties have not been uncommon, and we have from time to time had visits from the sixties. Chickweed and cold-weather weeds are thriving. Once the weather warms, the garden is going to need some major early weeding sessions.

Some of our daffodils are up, and have buds. This is the earliest we’ve ever seen daffodil buds.


Daffodil buds, February 4, 2016.

There was no snow on the ground, so it was easy to go up the ladder for photos…

Here’s the north, as seen from the roof of the Goat Barn.


Outside the fence, the lawn’s awfully green for February. Inside the garden, not much looks like it’s happening. Rest, torpor, sleep, senescence, death, and a bit of growth underground are what’s happening.

In the middle, more not much is happening.



To the south, you can see patches of green…these are slow-to-die plants and advancing areas of winter-hardy weeds. Still pretty boring. At least it is from up high.


See that line of black? More on that further along in this post. 

It was in the forties this morning. Now we’re nearing freezing. As I write this, snow is trying to mix in with the rain.

Let’s go to ground for a closer inspection. Let’s take a look in the greenhouse.

P1010172 (1)

Greenhouse greens are mostly thriving. Mache, or corn salad. 


Spinach, with sad lettuce to the left and sad bok choi to the right, and chickweed insinuating itself around at ground level. 

In addition to greens in the greenhouse, there are still things available to eat out in the garden. Over in Kalesville, old leaves relax in a ring while newer leaves reach up, ready to grow again when the days are longer and the weather is warmer.

Unless we eat them first.


Kale from above.


Garden skyline. Kale from ground level.

It’s almost time for a batch of potato-leek soup. Our leeks are available almost anytime. We just poke around in the mulch, loosen with a shovel, and pull up a few nice roots.


Leeks. Ensconsed in eelgrass. 

We’re not the only ones poking around in the garden. During our last snow, the Vole People were scurrying about under the drifts, making visits to their “greengrocers”. They left tunnel tracks showing where they’d been.


Vole tunnels in the parsnip patch. 

Vole tunnel close-up. They made a stop at a radish root. Time for a snack?


The Vole People have a famous poem, which begins: “Whose patch is this I do not know. His house is far from this radish row. He will not see us stopping here, to eat his daikons under snow…”

Soil-building projects continue. Open-burning season started on January 15th. We got some nice calm days, and finally got around to burning a two-years accumulation of brush and garden trash. It took a couple of all-day sessions to get rid of all that material. We try to burn in a way that maximises yield of charcoal, which some now call “bio-char”, and tout as an elixir for garden soil. We got twelve nice big wheelbarrowloads full, which we hauled to a bed that’s being “rebuilt”. For more on our use of this stuff, see: https://thetompostpile.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/low-tech-biochar-at-wishetwurra-farm-an-experiment-in-progress/


Bed under construction: So far there’s a layer of manure, a layer of leaves, and now there’s a dumping of charcoal, which will be spread out and covered with more manure and any other organic material we can get our shovels and forks on. We might till this area to hurry up the mixing. 

As some of you know, we like cover crops to help build our soil. We’re especially fond of cover crops that die over the winter. We like oats. Some people use winter rye for a cover crop. Winter rye doesn’t die. It grows like anything when the weather warms up. Mid-spring rassling with two-feet high stands of winter rye is a job for young people or for folks who enjoy using machinery. We’re too old and lazy for that.

In the photo below you see a stand of oats we planted late last summer on about a foot of manure.  They’re almost completely dead now, exactly what they should be at this time of year. When the weather warms, all that will remain of October’s foot-tall stand of green will be a thin layer of dried oat-straw, which at planting time can be raked off or just left to act as a mulch. I like leaving it in place. There’s less work involved.


The dead oats. 

Some of you will also remember that we planted radishes as a cover crop experiment. It takes night temperatures below 20°F to kill. Thankfully, we’ve had a few nights that cold. The radishes are dying now. The composite photo below shows the current stages of decay.

That’s all for now.

Our next Wishetwurra Farm garden report will be sometime in the second half of March.

Who knows what the rest of the winter and spring will bring?

More snow is a certainty.

In the time it has taken to write these nine hundred and thirteen words, weather has been happening.


“If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait five minutes…”




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