In mid-July, I dream of January.
For most people it's the other way around. Cold temperatures have never really bothered me and, after a very busy summer, a time of respite is very welcome. But I am still farming ... in a way.
I pore over seed catalogues to select the varieties we want for the coming season, taking into consideration what produced well, what sold well and what we want to plant more or less of.
Then I will add some new or unique varieties I want to try out, or something that will be grown just for us.
Once the seed orders have been sent off, I start plotting where each variety will be planted.
Having kept the garden maps from previous years helps me avoid planting a certain type of vegetable in the same spot too often - remembering that diseases affect families. Cabbage, broccoli and turnips, for instance, should not be planted in the same area in sequence.
Planting on a rotational basis helps prevent diseases in the soil. It also helps improve the soil's nutrient content, building it up with plants such as beans or peas, and not over-taxing it with heavy feeders such as squash and cucumbers.
This year we will be putting in a new garden. I am not sure how well it will do, so I am not planting anything there that is crucial to us.
Al started tilling the area last summer, working it periodically to kill the grass roots. This spring we intend to add composted manure, along with some sand to loosen up the silt. If it does well, great. If not, we will keep building it up gradually until it does.
Once the planning of the garden is taken care of, we look at what we want to raise over the summer: how many meat birds we will need, and whether or not we need to replace the laying hens.
Do we want to raise the same amount as last year or change the numbers?
Do we want to get them from the same hatchery, or should we try someplace new?
One year when we tried a different hatchery, the chickens weren't the breed we ordered and didn't do very well. But the turkeys were better than the turkey poults we had bought from anywhere else.
Now that we are raising pigs from birth to finish we need to look at how we acquire our breeding stock.
The availability of breeding stock in the Yukon is basically non-existent. That means we have to look to elsewhere for a source. The when, where and how of this can be quite complex.
At this time of year, I am also taking care of the office end of farming - finishing up the books and clearing things away so we can start fresh in the spring.
But isn't that what a New Year is for? Out with the old and in with the new.
It certainly is when you operate a farm.
Joan Norberg and her husband, Allan, run Grizzly Valley Farms on the Mayo Road. They have successfully endured the Yukon's short seasons and less-than-ideal soil conditions. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan Norberg and her husband, Allan, run Grizzly Valley Farms on the Mayo Road. They have successfully endured the Yukon’s short seasons and less-than-ideal soil conditions. Send her your questions at email@example.com.