Berry good and tired.
Today I arrive at the computer sore and chilly, so we're all in for a treat as I aim for today's post to remain simple. And luckily, it'll also be sweet—or at the very least, it holds a promise of sweet.
For today, we talk strawberries.
Specifically, we talk planting of bare-root strawberries. We also talk potatoes. We talk...lots of squatting. And biceps put to work. Some arms were lashed to a hoe for so long that certain McFarmers had no choice but to take a nap. Egads.
(The cold, wet weather lent us a great excuse for retreating once all our lettuce and cauliflower had been covered and potatoes put to sleep. You could see the bedlust in Alex's eyes long before the rain came—he really had worked hard building 400 ft of potato trenches--and once the drops fell, it took unusually little convincing to get that hard-working farmer back home. )
Strawberries are a beautiful thing. If you've never had them out of your own garden, pot or neighbor's yard, I say stop whatever you're doing and run. Run into the forest and search out the taste of a wild, fresh berry.
They are soft, vibrant rubies that make you believe in everything juicy and romantic.
But do this running-to-the-forest thing in, like, May or June. Don't go now, or you'll be sad and lonely for a long-time, and you'll probably run into some trespassing charges if you do it around these parts.
All I truly know is that when a friend of ours who is an ag-extension agent asked back in October if we'd like to be part of a strawberry-growing study, we said sure without hesitation. We put in our order for 200 free and lovely and free plants, and sat back for a delivery in December.
December came. December went.
We had limited communication with our buddy, and we knew that the university where he works kept him busy, so we thought,
“Eh, no big deal. Maybe next time. But we're so excited about these berries now, why don't we just order some ourselves?”
So we did. 200 strawberries to be planted into two 100 foot beds.
And then our friend came to the farm. Our friend came to the farm with 600 strawberry plants.
Thus began a massive berry-planting bonanza, hastened massively with help from Alex's aunt and uncle, Susan and Gaddis. (They often thanklessly save the day around these parts—they're like mystery superheroes that just want to be paid in cabbage.)
And so it was that in barely over a day we all four planted 800 berry plants on plots designed for 200. Our agent pal said it wouldn't hurt 'em to be squeezed in, so squeeze we did.
We've never grown strawberries commercially before, so it should be an adventure, chock-full of trial and error. Probably lots of error.
But if we succeed, I wonder if there'll be anyone, anywhere, willing to help us harvest those sweet, soft rubies?
Just don't take my earlier advice too seriously and camp out like a wildling in our woods, twitching to get at those ripe berries. The chance at your first fresh strawberry might lose luster when partnered with bunking night after night with all those coyotes.
That would be a good place to end, I know. But I really have to return to something; my dear one, my muscle, my machine-like McFarmer.
It just wouldn't do our customers, friends and family justice if they didn't know--photographically, at least--of the manic, awe-inspiring work Alex did to make our potato trenches.
Around here, folks call our soil "gumbo clay." This isn't the catalog-quality, chocolate-cakey soil you see smirking back from tractor commercials or seed magazines. It is hard. It is sticky.
It is very difficult to dig a trench in.
But he did it, and we got our potatoes in on-time (well, nearly on time) for our Spring planting. They were also finished just in-time for us to only spend half an hour in freezing rain before high-tailing it home.
And boy, they were some good-looking trenches.
So when we bring bushels of creamy new potatoes to market in a few months, I want everyone to know now: a very sweaty and noodle-armed McFarmer is a part of every one of those spuds.
You're allowed to forget that when it's time to eat. :)