Despite my own weather –– green grass and (more or less) balmy Florida sunshine –– I'm indulging in a favorite wintery pastime of farmers since the dawn of civilization: mooning over seed catalogs.
Jeff and I hope to raise some unconventional crops on the 100 or so acres of what was once a dairy farm. (No, for cripes' sake, not weed. Weed is actually kind of conventional these days.). The land has been left fallow for decades, so I am thinking about "forest crops" like hickory nuts, filberts, mushrooms, chokeberries. And hay.
Plus apples, which is how this whole thing started -- a quest for apples (close to 100 apple-trees appeared as we explored the land last autumn, the groves emerging as the foliage dropped from the woods around them) and -- of course -- bramble berries. Blackberries grow like weeds up there. Are weeds, most of the time.
But the seed catalogues are a delicious distraction. While looking at prices of red clover (to overseed the meadows, since clover captures nitrogen and improves the quality of the ground and the hay) I think, ooh, lupines. And if lupines, then big red poppies. And that patch of torn-up clay dirt, where the neighborly guys down the road took out a few encroaching juniper trees as they mowed the meadow and cleared the path? It would be a great spot to naturalize lupines and poppies and maybe bachelor buttons and these bright young things here, which I've never grown but look really pretty in the catalogue --
With an effort, I snap out of the wishful dreams of flowerbeds yet-to-be. Flowers are not the unconventional crops I mean to cultivate. Not this year anyhow. Okay, maybe a few lupines and poppies.
Another catalogue advertises ten blueberry bushes for a mere $35. Blueberries are great. But then as I try to imagine where I could tuck a row of plants –– spaced at least four feet apart, with a different cultivar for cross-pollinization –– into well-drained acidic soil, I am reminded of the magnitude of the challenge. Blueberries require light soil with plenty of organic material and they need a watering system. They cherish a downy comforter of mulch to keep their roots cool and shaded. A raised bed would help them get what they need, most likely, if deer don't immediately mow them down. I add "watering system" and "raised bed area" to the long long list of improvements (deer fencing is already there) to ponder.
And turn contentedly back to my short stack of seed catalogues.