it’s been fake spring around here for the last couple of days, the temperature climbing to almost 60. i’m not getting used to it, already the weather has shifted, the winds outside are really howling, and temperature has dropped back down to 38. that’s warm by comparison to the teens and twenties we have in store for in the next few weeks. it was great to get out and enjoy the weather, to be tired and sore at the end of the day from physical labor and not from stress, and siting in front of a computer. i started pruning grapes. i think this is the fifth season of grape pruning, and it just doesn’t matter i still scratch my head over how to prune them. i know the theory, but the practice that’s another story. so each year i sort of fumble my way though it, hoping that i’ll finally get it right, at least they keep producing, though i’m sure better if i’d prune them right. pruning the grapes still delightful even if i have no idea of what i’m doing. it’s still immensely enjoyable to be outdoors pruning grapes in the sunshine when it’s the middle of february. yesterday was a full day of outdoor labor. it was rainy and even with my full rain gear on, i still got soaked. first task was moving bags of soil mix and perlite out the door, 4 pallets worth by hand. volunteers at work thought i was crazy, but i think i’d be even crazier if i hadn’t asked them for the help. then plastic pots stacked outside, and then finally the greenhouse cleanup. at that point i just took a coffee break and let my co-worker lead the task. she seemed more particular about how things were done. my only concern was that the plastic not get torn in the process, which it did, but not too bad. then work in the high tunnel, we removed the leaves that covered the pathways, pulled up all the dead and dying plants, and brought in a bunch of compost. i’ve been neglecting the high tunnels compost load, so i gave it a generous helping. compost looks pretty good too. it’s pretty amazing, this is a batch that i started in the fall of 2007 and it contained huge amounts of textured vegetable protein that some one had dumped on the pile. all that nitrogen was almost impossible to balance with carbon, and in the end i had among the smelliest things i’ve ever encountered. after a year, it still had not broken down, as we dug into the pile it got more and more putrid, anything that touched it would smell for months. i couldn’t get any volunteers to touch it, so it was up to me and honey i shrunk the kids to sift it though a screen, taking all the little particles that fell though the screen and calling it finished and the bigger stuff and putting it in a new pile, hopefully a better balanced pile where it would break down. the pile of little particles then started heating up, to about 150 for 2 weeks, and then all of the sudden it turned into perfect wonderful smelling compost. they say alchemy doesn’t exsist, but surely this counts as such. the pile where i put the bigger parts seems to be doing ok as well, no terrible smell. after years of just thinking compost was something you need to do if you want good yields i’ve become pretty obsessed with process itself, and making as much as i can.
compost laid down in the high tunnel and soilseed and i went about the task of pulling up old cabbage plants and adding them to the compost pile. in the past i never added this sort of thing to the pile since the tough stems never seem to break down, but my new attatude is just add them to the pile, and if they don’t break down, i’ll catch them in the screen and they can just be added to a new pile, eventually they have to break down.
after lunch and some odds and ends i finished up the day with replacing the plastic on the roll up sides of the high tunnel. working with giant sheets of plastic is not easy in the rain, but i was glad to get it up. anyone who works in the high tunnel will be glad as well