Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hardly hibernating

I don't know where folks get the idea that gardeners and farmers aren't working in the winter. The same goes for food educators. My goodness, there are gardens to plan, pieces of equipment to fix, seed catalogs to browse, bee hives to build...

And there are plenty of fun indoor lessons to teach! Seriously, it's freezing out -- what better time could there be to look closely at soil in the classroom? Here are some kindergarteners examining soil samples brought in by Zach, the farmer-in-residence at one of my schools:

The coldest months also tend to be when many garden/farming-related events happen, like the annual Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture conference up in College Park earlier this month. Or  the awesome and free annual Rooting DC forum, coming up at the end of February.

Among my favorite activities are wintertime seed swaps, like the one put on by Washington Gardener Magazine earlier today. My friend Mike kindly gave me a lift to and from Brookside Gardens (which I hear is quite beautiful when it's not under three feet of snow). There, we met other area gardeners, learned about winter sowing, and oohed and aahed at some of the unusual varieties people had brought along to trade. I even worked up the nerve to make a little pitch for folks to check out Slow Food Ark of Taste seeds, a few of which I had to offer at the swap. (Have I mentioned how I generally avoid public speaking because it is scary? Though it was a large group, it was a friendly crowd, and exactly the type of folks who would buy into growing and eating heirloom foods in order to preserve them. So I spoke up. Now where's my gold star?) It was so fun to see folks really stoked about the new varieties of tomatoes, flowers, and odd cucumbers they would be growing in warmer months, and a handful of them asked me about my white velvet okra seeds. "Yep, they can grow to be eight feet tall." Holy plantzilla, Batman!

This year, I'm going to try growing quinoa for the first time, from the heirloom seeds I got at the swap today. (Lord knows I eat enough quinoa to justify growing it.) And I'm going to attempt growing a bed of asparagus for the second time. (I think I got bad rootstock last year. Hmm.) Now, where will they fit in my limited garden space...? Wish me luck!

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