The start of year 23 at Hilltop has had its bumps, but been auspicious in some ways too.
The bumps include the first week of April which managed, with its Siberian cold, to kill our bees after an otherwise successful ride through the Wisconsin winter. In March, the workers thronged the entrance to the hive, enjoying the warm sun and searching for the first apricot blossoms and dandelions to appear. The following week, their exoskeletons poured from the frames of comb in piles as I lifted each from the box that had been their home.
Nor was the furnace in any mood to work. A wood pellet burner, the machine is so mercifully simple that even a farmer can keep up with its maintenance. In the 12 years since it was installed I've managed to make the thing supply at least the BTUs necessary to keep the house habitable in Spring and Fall when we need it; now it needs coaxing every time we turn it on just to strike a flame. But I'm sure it will have no trouble burning up a few large-denomination bills once the repair man arrives for a visit.
On the up side, no large trees blocked the driveway upon our return from winter hibernation in Madison, as happened last year.
Our septic system has not collapsed. I'm not sure how the 40-year old cess-pit keeps on working -- the old metal tank was rated at 30 years when it was installed in the early 1970s. But, minus a little un-nerving sagging, the tank keeps doing its thing. I know I can never express my full appreciation for a functioning toilet these days.
Two weeks of mild, dry planting-weather during mid-April have got us ahead of schedule in the gardens, if momentarily. Subsequent rains – which were grudging at first, but slightly more ample in recent days – promise reasonable returns in early-season produce. Our peas have poked-through (always a good sign) and the cotyledons on the radishes have recently become visible.
The warm weather in the middle two weeks of April has also resulted in the 2nd earliest start to deliveries for us – May 1st is surpassed only by April 21st of 2012, the notorious year in which a string of 80 degree days around the Vernal Equinox sent the entire phenological cycle into motion weeks ahead of its normal schedule. 2014, by contrast, didn't see a delivery until the 18th of May – a surprise even at that late date given that buds didn't appear on deciduous trees until a week later, the latest green-up ever in southerrn Wisconsin. So, it goes without saying that some crazy meteorological event will bollocks-up the year eventually; but for the moment: so far, so good.
We expect to deliver on May 1st and 8th, then take a break for a couple of weeks until our annual crops start to produce. If the month turns unusually balmy, that hiatus may shorten to a single week. Given how early the season has started, I would expect at least one other week-long pause in deliveries some time in late May or June before the regular weekly routine sets up.
Just a reminder: Saturday, May 21 we're throwing open the farm gates for a bit of member-appreciation starting at 4PM. Feel free to come wander the fields, nibble from the gardens and otherwise see what we're up to; a bit of potlucking and probably music will carry us into the evening. Bring a tent if you want to stay overnight.
And, not to worry -- we'll block off the septic tank so no one falls through. - RM -