The Daily: 3 April 2023

Just to thoroughly unbalance things, the weather gods saw fit to send squally snow overnight on Friday, icy drizzle by Saturday morning, sun and nearly 65°F later that afternoon, more overnight snow going into Sunday, and then a windy Palm Sunday with fits of blowing snow and hard blue skies, combined with a high of 30°F. I decided hold off another week on planting. This week it’s supposed to settle into a pattern of cool but not cold, damp but not stormy. Not that much of this past weekend’s chaos was accurately predicted, but one should be able to hope for spring weather now that we’re well into the Sap Moon.

We’re well into the Sap Moon, and there is sugaring happening — a co-worker was supposed to be boiling sugar this weekend — but I’ve talked to many people who derive their living from sugar trees, and they seem frantic, in a stoically quiet, New England-y manner. Many farms were already at a disadvantage this year after the Midwinter wind damages. This lingering cold may ruin their season. Saturday was the first notably warm day we’ve seen, and we’re still in a sunshine deficit. The old folks are talking about the weirdness of these unwaveringly grey skies, so I’m fairly sure this isn’t normal. (Though, what is…) In any case, the sap pumps are not working. One sugar farmer voiced his fear that the weather will go from too cold to generate flow straight into the summer heat that opens the buds and bitters the sap. Hopefully, this week of cool with some overnight freezing will fill up his sap collectors.

I missed out on Saturday’s sunshine. I began several indoor projects in the morning drizzle, and by the time those were completed the clouds were gathering around the setting sun. I decided that since I wasn’t going to plant, I could tackle some of the other spring tasks. I shuffled the freezer around, cleaning up the disorder that had taken over in there. Things are back in neat, accessible piles. In the process I discovered that I’m lower in chile than I thought, so I suppose I’ll be making do with dried for a while. Oh well…

I then took on the root storage. I sorted out everything that looked edible — mostly carrots — and set the rest aside for compost. This pile is actually good because I need to make another mound, and the desiccated veg will make a nice base layer that will rot slowly. I turned much of the still palatable veg and a bag of Co-op potatoes into a root and lentil stew. I roasted all the veg on moderately low heat for much of the afternoon, giving my house a warm, nutty scent.

I added to the aroma by clearing out the last few bags of frozen cranberries and a sad sack of clementines that were overlooked in the back of the fridge fruit drawer. This all went into a pot of spicy cranberry-orange chutney. The recipe cooked down to three quarts, two of which went back in the freezer. My chutneys are full of garlic and onion and light on sugar. What sugar is added at the beginning gets cooked down to a rich caramelized glue that holds everything together and doesn’t overwhelm the berries with sweetness. I use chutney like other people use jelly. I’ve slathered it on pancakes and morning toast. I mix it with soft cheese and hummus for wraps. It is the best condiment ever on veggie burgers and grilled mushrooms. And I’ve even been known to use it as a sauce base on flatbreads and pizza.

After I’d gotten this far with cleaning, I decided take on the fridge. I haven’t cleaned out the bins in a couple months, that being really low priority when I’m pressed for time. So there were limp fennel fronds and broken stems and mystery gunk in little puddles under the bins. I don’t know if keeping it clean makes it run any better, but I sure feel better about keeping food in there when it’s sparkling.

So that kept me inside while people were walking by in shorts and t-shirts. I was a bit irritated with the weather for tricking me like that, but the cooking is done for the week and the pantry is ready for the next harvest. And it’s not like it will take long to make up for another weekend. This first round of spring planting can be done in a matter of minutes. If you are not growing to sell your produce, you don’t want to harvest it all at once. You can’t process and eat a glut of spring veg, especially the greens and radishes. So it’s better to plant successively, planting a little at a time over many weeks. The last planting just needs to be a month or so before the heat gets strong. Here in Vermont, that means I can plant spinach and peas almost through May for a continual harvest stream up to Midsummer.

If you are growing to sell, then this method may still work best to have a steady flow of produce for your farm market table each week. Tossing unsold veg on the compost pile is deeply unsatisfying. Successive planting helps smooth the boom and bust cycle that follows planting everything on the same day.

Now, there are some things that are best planted all at once. Potatoes and winter squash and other things that need a long growing season tend to be grown mainly for storage. So that sort of thing can be planted in one big burst. My potato planting season is coming up shortly. I usually cut them in mid April, let them heal a bit, and plant them out by May Day. (Or, if not that early, as soon as it looks like we’re done with hard frost.) Squashes of all kinds get planted at the end of May, though I’ve been known to put off the pumpkins until the Strawberry Moon so that I can be harvesting them close to Halloween.

Most of the other nightshades get started indoors all at once and planted out after the frost-free date. This year, since my basement is just too cold for nightshade germination, I bought plants from a couple nurseries here in New England. (I like to buy locally sourced veg so I know it will ripen within our short growing season!) I tend to grow a range of tomatoes and chiles with different maturing rates, spacing out the harvest in that way rather than through planting. There are early varieties of just about every kind of pepper and tomato. These can be planted with the rest of the nightshades, but will spread your harvest out by several weeks. The early ones often don’t have the best flavor, but that first tomato tastes good whatever it is. And if you’re growing for market, then these early birds can put tomato money into your pocket for weeks before the main harvest.

I just need a couple hours to plant. I’d rather put it off until I know the seeds are going to germinate. So I held off this week. Hopefully by next week I’ll feel sufficiently confident in the weather. And then it’s off to the races! Garden season for the next six months!

©Elizabeth Anker 2023

2 thoughts on “The Daily: 3 April 2023”

  1. Here in the PNW, we had off-and-on blizzard-like snow storms over the weekend and 6 inches fell but melted in between storms so not much actually accumulated. It was a chilly 24F this morning due to clear night skies. A regional weather writer sent out his weekly predictions this week and it looks like at least two more weeks of unseasonably cold temps and more showers of rain and snow. We had a cold spring last year ending in what the PNWers call Juneary – fleece jackets, wool hats and gloves were worn while working in the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.