Makenna Goodman  @  ChelseaGreen

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Springtime in Rural Vermont: My New Life on the Land

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 at 2:30 pm by Makenna Goodman

It's been three months and six days since I moved from New York City to the middle of rural Vermont. I'm starting to feel like I actually live here, as opposed to visiting some kind of dual "myself" from another psychic realm. I still pinch my arm sometimes however, fearing I'm going to wake up and have to go back to work on the millionth floor in the middle of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, and have to eat one of those fake salads from the deli, where the boiled egg tastes like ham, the lettuce looks like wet newspaper strips and the parmesan is made of taxi hubcap shavings. I exaggerate, but still. Actually, I'm trying hard not to create a rural vs. urban binary. I don't want to be one of those people who believe that forcing everyone on earth to eat and grow organic food will solve the energy crisis and end world hunger. Honestly? I think the HBO show The Wire is about as close as you get to what the world really looks like–at least if you're talking about the class war, the drug war, the race war (but what else is there to talk about?)–and I eat boxed mac and cheese while watching it, and sometimes I drink Coke. I'm no purist. In fact, I visited New York this weekend with my boyfriend, and we stopped at McDonalds on the way back. We had just spent a weekend being inundated with both of our parents' vast knowledge of urban gardening and food politics (his father has a truly amazing urban garden, with every square inch planted, and my mother is writing a book about young farmers in each US state) and we thought a double cheeseburger meal would be good as a balancing mechanism for the localvore karma wheel or whatever. We pulled off the highway and went to the drive-thru. There was a sign saying "Sale on Bacon Cheeseburgers: $1.79." We ordered. We ate.

The burgers were kind of gross, honestly, with floppy pickles. Certainly not what we had remembered from our youth–the fries and soda after soccer game pit-stops. No indeed. We got mild stomachaches and prayed for forgiveness to the hippy god. We returned home to trays of little green plants, that had almost doubled over the weekend, and will become good wholesome veggies come summer. But not everyone can operate her own organic farm, grow Greek oregano, and drink sap from a tube protruding from a horse-drawn sugaring sled. Not that you have to have money to do those kinds of things (I don't have much, although money does help, for tools and machinery, and health care, and gas etc.)  But most people can only afford to eat at Micky D's or the equivalent, and while I love waking up and digging in the earth, I don't want to become someone who expects everyone to abide by the rules of Michael Pollanism. But I love gardening. I love farming. I pull eggs out from under a chicken, and sell them to my friends for less than they're sold in the supermarket. I eat organic, when possible. That doesn't mean I'm a good person. That doesn't mean I'm saving the world. But it does make me feel hopeful in my own daily life, which gives me energy to ask questions about the systemic failures of the US and its history of white supremacy and the warehousing of the poor and corporate food and the lack of health care.

Some new arrivals on the farm….laying hens! Ten of them, to be exact, all named Brown Betty, and one rooster named Johnny Cash. They are so productive already! For ten hens we get about 10 or 12 eggs a day. I think we got good hens, because when we were "picking them out" at the farm in Orange–which means chasing them around and grabbing the first feet you can–the farmer showed us a little trick. You can tell a good layer by how wide apart her pelvic bones are; three fingers wide is pretty good, because it means a big egg can come out. We got all three-fingered mommas, and by golly if the eggs aren't so big we can't close the carton lid. I'm serious. I need to invent bigger cartons.

About three weeks ago, Sam built some shelves that line up against the kitchen window. We started seeds in trays, and waiting to see if anything would grow. Now, the little plants are flourishing, and we woke up early this morning to transplant them into their own personal pots and compartments, to facilitate growth.

We measured the main garden bed outside, which is 34 feet wide and 50 feet long. I'm now wishing I paid more attention in geometry class, because I'm planning the garden out, row by row, using Eliot Coleman's seed spacing advice he lines out really clearly in Four Season Harvest.

The pumpkin plants are huge! Apparently they don't do all that well in transplanting-maybe because their roots are so long? But they look pretty good so far.

Frida ate a little plant and then threw up. Turns out, tomato plants are poisonous to dogs. Yikes.


The flowers are coming up! They survived a short snowfall we had last night. Daffodils, and then these little purple guys. Anyone know what kind they are?

Also, what can I use marjoram for?

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