We got an interesting email yesterday. After meeting our daughter at the Fulton street market, a visiting professor contacted us. Apparently in 1901 a lady by the name of Emma Cole published: Grand Rapids Flora: A Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Ferns Growing Without Cultivation in the Vicinity of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It just so happens that one of her places of research was our very own Mud Lake in southern Ottawa County. We thought we knew all the history of the area, but this was new.
Emma Cole was quite a remarkable woman. After teaching for several years, she left at the age of 31 to study botany at Cornell University, and then came back to teach again, but she also traveled the world researching plants. She worked with Charles Sprague Sargent from Harvard (and was credited with helping find 20 new species) and became vice president of the Kent Scientific Institute- the forerunner of our Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Her specialty was the genus Crataegus (better known as the Hawthorn tree to us mere mortals). Her work was so extensive she even has one species named after her: Crataegus coleae and guess what… we still have lots of hawthorns in the wilds of the valley, perhaps even a Cole’s Hawthorn?
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Hawthorns, they can destroy expensive tractor tires and will skewer even the thickest Coat with their long pointed thorns leaving trail of bloody pin holes on the bearer, but perhaps I’ve been a little hasty and maybe, just maybe they do have some redeeming value… at least with a historical view point.
So come this summer the visiting professor and his troupe of students will venture out to the wilds of the farm to see how much is left of Emma Cole’s West Michigan. It will be a day we may do a little venturing ourselves… ready with band aids just in case.
The time has come that some of you have been dearly waiting for; it is time for us to go back to summer lettuce quantities. This means that even though there is still snow on the ground and there is still ice on the ponds in the mornings, we have more lettuce harvestable than we are picking.
This week we had to not only open the vents but also turn on the fans in order to keep the greens from overheating. Of course, we are still limited in several other items -- with a layer of snow still blanketing the fields, kale is still a ways off -- but we should have more herbs in a week or two as they are starting to wake up from their winter’s nap.
There is something special this time of year: the sap is flowing, daffodils are reaching for the sky and a honey bee even made an appearance in the afternoon sunshine, and for me… forking up beds in the cold frame reminded me of muscles that have long been dormant.
Yes, spring is in the air. It is a time of rebirth, new plants… and for hard work to burn off my winter waist.
It has been a long winter; the super cold has been over the top as of late. It used to be a cold spell would get down to the single digits and maybe once a year it would dip into the negatives for a day or so but this year has been incredible.
To balance it out though, at least it’s been happening in late winter, and with the sun getting stronger every day we have a different type of problem; a greenhouse on a clear day is really a giant solar heater. In the late afternoon, we load up fuel in the furnaces and run them hot, hoping to stay on the plus side of freezing in the darkness of night and then, as soon as the sun touches the plastic, we turn off the furnaces and open the doors letting clouds of hot steam billow from the doorways into the frozen air.
For us it’s the closing, loading, starting, ending, opening and closing again each and every day. The poor plants meanwhile have their own daily grind going from having their tops freeze at night to wilting due to the heat hours later. This drastic change is hard on the plants and causes more than a few to give up their ghost, transforming them in to translucent vegetative puddles.
So it is with great satisfaction and pert’ near delight that we view the upcoming forecasts of mild temps. It will of course bring about more work once the ground is free of ice and snow, it promises long days of sweat and toil working the earth, but right now… sweating sounds pretty good.
It’s a depressing time of year. No, not the cold or the snow, although we are ready for a change there too, no this something far worse… It’s tax time. And while most are worried about having to pay the reaper his gotten gains (ill and otherwise), we have a different problem and we seem to have it every year.
Filling out the forms we find out just how poor we really are. Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t need food stamps or charity or anything like that. In fact, we really don’t consider ourselves poor at all, but living on a farm (and having a good tax man) means pretty much everything we do is tax deductible. This should leave us happy, but when the numbers come back and inform us that we live “below the poverty line”, well it kind of hurts.
After all, if you just scan the headlines online (once you get past dresses that change color and people name Kardashian) you’ll find out how important it is to make a lot of money. In fact, it should determine not only your job but your course of study in school and even your zip code if all the stories are to be believed.
Our society values people by how much they make, by their toys and by their looks. By such accounting I am bankrupt. So why do I to take such joy in my pauper’s life? I work with my best friend and play with the land growing food. Every day is new and every day is different and I…I am a happy man, in spite of the words of the tax man.
It's a new month, and the weather-people keep saying this is the beginning of "meteorological" spring. Though the weather outside isn't quite sure, the lettuce agrees. So, we will resume Monday CSA deliveries and pick-ups again.
Also, we'll be at the Grand Rapids Home & Garden Show this weekend along with several other small farms and food non-profits in a booth called "Cultivating Change". If you get a chance, stop by, introduce yourself, and say hi! Especially if we haven't formally met face to face.