It is January. We're rested up from the field/growing season- the frustrations, disappointments, aches, pains, all fade into the background. They rest unseen under layers of snow. All the weeds and worries (well except for the cattle that can walk over their fences on snow drifts) are left behind.
This leads a girls mind to imagining and planning all the great things that a farm can be. The gardens, the bees, the wind turbine, the flour mill, the acres of organic wheat under the sun, the barley (who's growing barely for the local foods market- hey! there's a niche!), the fluffy yellow chicks and more.
Thanks to help from Darrin and Krecia in the local SWCD/NRCS office we're planting a three acre "food forest." Officially, it's known as a wind break- and believe me we have need for a wind break on these wide open prairies. Case in Point: the phone rang at 5:45 this morning (nearly always a harbinger of bad news) that school is delayed two hours because the back roads (read "you guys on the way out there farms") are not plowed out. So we are in need of and grateful to NRCS/SWCD for a refreshed and diverse windbreak that will be planted in this spring. The tree order went in yesterday.
Our new forest will be the stuff of permaculture dreams. We're putting in prairie plums, aronia (aka chokeberry- makes the most amazing wine), choke cherries, hazelnuts, walnuts, silver maple (think syrup), and some black hills spruce.
I decided to add in the spruce because I've observed that evergreens are the mark of civilization- only found on farmsteads or church yards. There are areas of "tree claims" out here- 10 acres parcels that were planted in trees to secure the land under the homestead act. Tree claims didn't include evergreens- as far as I can tell. The places that you see a nice row of pines or spruce are the homesteads and the churches-- or what is left of them. There may be no home or church there now, but the straight pines in a row tell you there was once someone or a group of someones who planted evergreens here. Not for utility or to stake a claim- but for the civilizing and beautiful nature of those trees.
Black Hills Spruce has a lifespan of 350 years.
That's the timeline I'm working on, I told Darrin.
So dream on! While the snow flies and the winds blow and the coffee is warm and the body is relaxed and the to-do list is easy, like "take down the Christmas tree" (well maybe this weekend). It's conference time for the sustainable agriculture community- MOSES, MN Organic Conference, Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society, Sustainable Farming Association. All are hosting their collective "Dream On!" conference for refreshed farmers and farmers to be. Think I'll swing by one of those conference on the way back to my farm on Friday. Hope to see you there.