We’ve legalized winter egg production here at Stonegate Farm thanks to a 200-watt red warming light in the Cage aux Fowl, and my little feathered harlots are laying like Madame de Pompadour. Even our virile black frizzle rooster, Gerald, struggles to keep on top of his broody harpies – chasing them about the frozen yard like a manic feather duster. With eggs galore in mid-winter, the oldest profession has aroused theKavorka in all of us.
The Dutch think they’re progressive, but we have dozens of farm-fresh eggs in our district!
All this fowl balling has inspired the addition of free range eggs to our 2010 CSA shares and Market Garden: we’ve ordered two dozen more hens, full size Marans and Ameraucanas, that should been laying their deep chocolate and teal colored eggs by Summer. A new Gothic coop will be built in the orchard, where the birds will feed on insects and fallen fruit and in turn cheerfully fertilize from their feathered ends. Chickens, eggs, and quince, oh my!
In the greenhouse, beds and soil blockers are getting ready to start seedlings in early March. This year, we will be adding fingerling potatoes, deep purple carrots, gherkin cucumbers, and – heedful of last season’s scourge – blight-resistant tomatoes! We’ll still have the heirlooms and unusuals but have included an escrow of blight-resistance to our insurance policy. Is any local tomato better than no tomatoes? We’ll see.
Greens are slowly stirring inside the Winter greenhouse.
Out on the Winter farm, the stalwart Tuscan Kale has been adding frozen, vitamin rich greens to soups, and the cold has only ramped their sweetness; it seems many plants react to stress by converting their starches to sugars – a kind of vegetal survival instinct - so kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrots are a sweet wonder beneath the blanketing snow.
Varied greens will be a mainstay again this season. If I yearn for anything in the bleak mid-winter – and we all need a good yearn this time of year – it’s for all that wonderful, mixed cutting lettuce and mesclun greens. Call it chlorophyll deficit disorder. How many starchy root veg can one man eat, after all.
The snow-bound orchard, waiting for Spring to stir it to life.
Besides walking among the orchards snow-bound allées of apple and pear, pruner and notebook in hand, or starting greenhouse seedlings, winter is a long, cool breath, somewhere between quiet reflection and forward drive. So be it. Let the lusty chickens frolic. Apparently, Roxanne, you dohave to turn on the red light.