Wasn’t that 70-degree weather lovely last week? I took advantage of it to clear out a few gardens from the detritus of last year in want of slipping some early seeds into the warming earth. The local garden center had lines as long as those waiting for tender salad greens at Young Harvests on a Sunday at Bethesda Central.
But Mother Nature is a tease, dancing away in full burlesque only revealing enough to get us excited before dropping her skirt back to a seasonal modesty.
As much as I want to sow a few rows of turnips, beets and carrots, my livestock is telling me that winter is not quite done. Animals never lie. Some of the cross-bred wool/hair sheep have begun rooing which is when their heavy winter fleece begins to peel away from the shorter undercoat as warm weather approaches. Long wisps have begun hanging from their necks, but the rugs on their backs are still firmly in place. Similarly, the Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dogs have yet to leave swaths of downy white fluff on everything they touch – including me. The rest of the animals are firmly holding on to their winter coats. And then it will happen all at once, a fur storm as everyone rubs, rolls, scratches and grooms away winter. But we’re not there yet.
Instead, we are firmly planted in Mud Season, that boot sucking time of the year trying even the most stalwart farmer’s patience. Remember, plants grow in dirt. Water + dirt = mud. When snow and ice melt, we get mud. When it rains, we get mud. No matter what recipe you use, Mud Pie is on the menu for the next several weeks until temperatures stay above freezing consistently. Early season practices such as floating row covers and mulch don’t help if the fields are too wet to work. Turning livestock on to soggy pastures is a sure way to ruin fields for future grazing so for now we’re resigned to stockpiled or purchased hay.
Though the sun may shine, and temperatures soar near 80, we know to jump the gun means tractors tearing ruts in our fields, expensive seeds lost erosion or to the next hard freeze as temperatures dip into the twenties which, according to weather forecasters should happen the second week of March. No, we’re not done with winter.
And for that matter, neither is Central Farm Markets. Our Winter Loyalty Program is still in full swing. If you haven’t been keeping up with it or even begun, there is still an opportunity to earn a $5 gift certificate if you sign up at the market information tent this week. Just visit our markets four times between now and March 25th, the last winter market before we go back to regular season hours of 9am to 1:30pm on April 1st.