Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nature deficit disorder

I often lament the over-medicalization of things, but I recently learned about a concept that put into words a modern societal problem I've grappled with for the past few years.**

In 2005, Richard Louv coined the term "nature deficit disorder," referring to the increasing trend of children spending less time outdoors, resulting in a range of health and behavioral problems. He argues that 3 principle factors have contributed to this phenomenon: limited access to nature and the outdoors, increasing parental fears, and the "lure of the screen." So, with more children growing up in urban areas facing increased crime and traffic and decreased neighborliness, and a replacement of trees, streets and playgrounds with computers, video games and television, we are faced with generations of individuals who have not been socialized in the natural world.

A story on BBC this morning commented on this growing problem in the UK, citing an increase in the number of emergency department visits by children for falling out of bed, as opposed to falling out of trees. Children, they argue, are being coddled and protected inside the home and are not developing their natural risk-taking instincts in nature. What does this mean for our health and well-being? There have been no scientific studies linking NDD to health outcomes, but the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, autism spectrum disorders, ADD, anxiety and depression could plausibly be linked to this near-universal lack of exposure to the great outdoors and over-exposure to technology and indoor life.

So let's get our children back to the land... back to playing in the dirt, meeting neighbors, climbing trees, falling down, understanding insects and animals, caring about the environment, soaking in some sun and breathing in fresh air. Easier said than done, yes. And for many children, staying indoors might be the safer, healthier option. But they're always welcome here on Longhaul Farm.

** I really don't want to over-medicalize this, because I don't want people thinking all they have to do is go to the doctor and take a pill. Although I wouldn't mind if doctors started writing prescriptions for time in nature...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring asparagus

Last year we planted asparagus from seed. This is a long-term project - we won't be harvesting fresh springtime asparagus until 2014 and once we transplant these plants out, they'll be there for decades. But the plants survived this winter and are showing signs of life (see pic). We prepared another patch for these perennial plants, a la John Seymour, and will move them into their permanent homes in the next few days.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Emergency transplanting!

Digging the holes
This 70-degree record-breaking weather has been nice for many reasons... but it is disrupting the dormancy of our little fruit trees (not to mention big fruit trees, flowers, perennials, insects and everything else). We had been nursery-ing 9 fruit trees to be transplanted out this year to spots we prepped last fall. Following this warm weather, we noticed that our Madison peach and Niitaki Asian pear trees were budding, kicking Jason into emergency transplant mode. You can't safely transplant a tree once it breaks dormancy, and, as we heard from some tree experts in Maine, especially not after the buds open. So we put everything else on hold and are now digging 3-foot wide holes that are 2-feet deep, removing rocks, filling with compost, and transplanting in our now 2-year-old trees. When it rains, it pours (actually, I wish it would rain...).
Starting to bud in the nursery
Transplanted to its new home

Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipe with Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprout slaw w/ blue cheese + orange zest

Ingredients: Brussels sprouts, blue cheese, orange zest, white balsamic vinegar, sour cream, olive oil, s+p

Preparing: Julienne the Brussels sprouts into a slaw. Crumble blue cheese into the slaw. Mix the dressing: white balsamic and a dab of sour cream, s+p, and orange zest (I sliced it into small strips so you actually get bits of it in every bite). Whisk in the olive oil slowly. Add dressing to the slaw and mix well.

Eating: We served it with broiled duck breast and sauteed spinach and garlic.

Dish history: This is a good alternative to the standard B. sprout, parmesan and lemon juice slaw.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Our double dug beds are like butter! We are pulling back the mulch and using our locally handmade broadfork to aerate the soil without disrupting its structure. The beds are so impressive - rock-free, soft, the fork goes right in. Getting ready to plants some peas any day now...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chicks are here!

Our house is full of little things... a little baby, little seedlings, and now, 30 little chicks. They arrived at the Garrison post office on Thursday morning. Jason picked them up peeping and chirping away in a small box and got them right into their 95 degree brooder. He dipped each chicks' beak into the water so they could learn how to drink, and then they were off on their own... eating, walking, crawling all over each other, drinking, pooping. Getting the temperature right was a challenge, but they seem to be happy now. They'll be in the brooders for a few weeks before we set them out into the real world in their coop.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring farm update

At this time last year, the feet of snow had just melted, the fields were soaked, and we had a spring stream running through our farm. We had not gotten in the ground yet, days were still bitter cold, and we were desperately burning a gigantic burn pile right smack in the middle of our garden. We both had cases of poison ivy from clearing brush along our fence line, our soil sample was being analyzed in a lab, and we were just becoming familiar with seeding.

This is quite a different year. Seneca Ray is doing a good job distracting us, but the farm must go on.

Jason has been sowing flats of seeds, he's been preparing beds in our upper huerta, and Nick has been broadforking beds in our lower huerta. We checked on the mushroom logs in the pine fields and they are so dry from a lack of snow cover this year, no sign of mushroom life just yet. I wonder if it even got cold enough this winter. We'll see in April when we shock some logs to test our experiment. Our garlic is shooting up and I'm checking with experienced farmers to see if this is ok for the plants. The pastures are bone dry and crackling under our feet as we walk the land. We see the start to our rain catchment system, feeling badly for not getting the roof on in time, but laughing a little since there was never any snow or rain to catch. There's still more double-digging to do, 6 beds worth, but we've got two months to get them ready for our tomatoes which will be transplanted out end of May.

More updates to come, as the work slowly goes on.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring baby!

Someone wanted to put our farming on hold for a few weeks... baby girl Seneca Ray has been born! We're all settling into the farm together, happy and healthy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In lieu of a greenhouse

At this time of year, all we are thinking about is starting seeds.

Since we still haven't built ourselves a greenhouse, we've rigged one up in honor of our days on the farm in Patagonia. We have a bed that gets full sun all day that we've been putting our winter's compost on. The decomposition in the 12-inch-layer of composting organic matter gives off some heat. Then we put our "seed trays" (salvaged milk and soda crates) on top of the warm earth and cover them with two layers of greenhouse plastic. We'll check the temperature for the next few days to see how cold or hot it gets in there - wanting close to 70 degrees during the day and not dropping below 50 at night. Now, Monday's task: sow hundreds of seeds.