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The Old Farmer's Almanac Farmers Calendar

Tim Clark

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The Old Farmer's Almanac Farmers Calendar

The Old Farmer's Almanac Farmers Calendar

Tim Clark

1
Followers
1
Plays
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The monthly Farmer’s Calendar from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, read by the author Tim Clark.

Latest Episodes

Farmer’s Calendar for August 2020

Most of what we grew, the summer I first worked as part of a crew of farming apprentices, was annuals: carrots, lettuce, peas, watermelons—plants whose entire life span transpires within a single season. We sowed and reaped the “one-time offer” as opposed to a “lifetime guarantee.” But eventually we began to harvest something that we had not planted—garlic, whose cloves are all clones of the mother bulb. The previous year’s apprentices had left us this gift; they’d pressed those individual cloves into the soil, cloves that endured through winter, sprouted in spring, and developed into whole new garlic heads. We grabbed onto each stalk and yanked up this crop, as if taking up a baton left by the previous crew, a baton that was now ours to carry into the barn to let cure throughout the waning summer days. Before we left the farm to begin our winter jobs, we tucked hundreds of garlic cloves in the ground—something for yet another set of hands to recover. It’s been 20 growing seasons since I pawed that farm’s soil. Yet each summer I draw on the one-time memory while harvesting my garlic. For days afterward, my hands remain un-scrubbably pungent.

--1 w ago
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Farmer’s Calendar for August 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for July 2020

A nearby farmer swears she hears field corn growing on muggy nights—says it sounds like a drawn-out squeak. In the decade I’ve lived beside 80 acres of it, I’ve never heard its rising stalks sing. Nor, during all those years, did I grow my own corn, for fear of windborne cross-pollination. Recently, the big field changed hands. Now it grows other plants. So we sowed our own kernels in hope of reaping a choir’s worth. While working on other farms, I’d harvested the ripe corn in the morning. Shuffling into its narrow forest, I towed a flimsy sack that fattened as I snapped off ears with the thickest girths. The dewy leaves scratched like a cat’s tongue, and by the time I emerged on the field’s far side dragging a bulging bag, I was scoured and damp and bearing enough corn for an orchestra. But this year I emerged from our stalks with hardly enough for our two-part harmony. I’d under-guessed its ripeness until I spotted one shucked cob dropped on the lawn. Every kernel was goug...

--JUL 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for July 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for June 2020

How pleasing to see the grass thicken and rise until we realize that—yikes!—it’s got to be cut, a task that asks for either loud machines or diligent livestock. I’m partial to a third option: the scythe. This Old World tool looks like a musical notation that leapt out of the score, expanded in size, and, when not in service, abides in our shed beside the retired weed-whacker. I loathed that contraption with its dervish-ing string driven by the sniveling engine. Not to mention the backache that it created, along with its habit of spattering grass across my jeans. Another mowing plan involves allowing the cows and sheep out to feed on our lawn. But as they meander and munch, their work is predictably uneven. Plus they leave behind untouched patches, along with excretions. That’s when I reach for my sharpened scythe to dispatch the tall grass. In the morning when everything’s still wet with dew, I wield my scythe like a kooky broom, swinging its curved blade from side to side, as...

--JUN 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for June 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for May 2020

Months since the crickets quit, followed by a hundred nights with no terrestrial ruckus, we lie awake at night listening for that very first peep. Finally, on an evening slightly more balmy than chilly, it begins. Like the dying battery on a smoke alarm, a single chirp. Did we really hear it? Yes! A soprano note peeps again, serious and ponderous. Then it repeats its query, possibly expressing, Am I alone? For one night: It’s alone. Then: a zany mayhem, as the evening hours fill with the high-pitch cheeping of peepers. Several years ago, when our land held only a damp gulch, nothing croaked or creaked or peeped. Then an excavator clawed us a small pond, and almost overnight a boisterous amphibian orchestra commenced as dozens of frogs—wood frogs, tree frogs, northern leopard frogs, and spring peepers—announced their new residence. Is there no middle ground with these creatures? All or nothing, silence or cacophony? Case in point: Yesterday’s pond was clear; today, it’s clouded ...

--MAY 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for May 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for April 2020

Growing a potato could make anyone feel like a magician—that is, after the ground thaws. Throughout the winter, a few bushels of our Corollas—the bald, soap-shape staples of our winter diet—lurk in the underground part of the house, the cellar. Each week, I descend and retrieve a shirt-hem’s worth for dinner. About the time I tire of ever tasting them again is when they’re starting to wrinkle anyway and launch spooky white shoots from their “eyes.” To ensure another cellar full of winter fare—pomme de terre, the soil’s fruit—we plant chunks of the sprouting spuds in early spring. From that buried nub a shoot will rear and spread its leaves. Then we’ll mound the soil around them. Even as they bloom, we’ll push more soil against their shoulders, as if trying to rebury them alive. By the time the Canada geese are angling in the sky, all these potato plants will have withered and died, until all that remains is a clutch of slumping stalks. “After you loosen the soil, plunge...

--APR 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for April 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for March 2020

Backyard sugaring—if you are factoring in time and energy—is not a rational endeavor. And yet, on a certain day each winter, the backyard sugar-er grabs her cordless drill and stomps into her snowy woods, ambling from maple to maple, standing within kissing distance as she bores a 3/8-inch hole. Then she inserts a metal spout, or spile. Last, she hangs a bucket. Sun warms her shoulder as she trudges between the trees and hears the season’s beginning: plunk, plunk, plunk—like a quickening heartbeat—the first drops of sap plummeting into her newly hung buckets. By late afternoon, the woods sport 100 taps and 100 buckets and she is “tapped out,” an expression that describes the first phase of making maple syrup but is also slang for how she’ll feel in 6 weeks when she’s running on the dregs of her energy, having gathered perhaps a thousand gallons and boiled it late into the night. It takes 40 gallons of sap to distill 1 gallon of sweet stuff. Why bother? While animals shed th...

--MAR 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for March 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for February 2020

One day while zigzagging around the garden, working alone, thinning carrots, hoeing onions, and sowing more beans, I noticed a collection of bees, hundreds of them, forming a beard-shape swarm along the fence line. For months I’d seen them zip around as individuals, making solo forays to the apple blossoms and the foxglove’s speckled bells and then to the blue bachelor’s buttons and the orange calendula. But now they acted as one organism as they clung to our barbed wire fence until the apiarist arrived in his white attire and snipped the fence so that they poured into his hive. Living in a sparsely populated area, I often wonder what it feels like to belong to a throng, to behave in simultaneity, like a swarm of bees. Then one colorless midwinter day I attended a farmers’ meeting. Twenty of us sat in a circle, until a late attendee stepped in from the ongoing snow bearing a huge sack whose contents he spilled at our feet: The floor filled with hundreds of seed packets, each fea...

--FEB 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for February 2020

Farmer's Calendar for January 2020

The woodstove purrs and spurts, burning through logs from a tree that may have sprouted from an acorn during Lincoln’s presidency. This oak that grew through two centuries of summers warms the house tonight. I knew moving to this 1850s farmhouse meant taking care of a leaky roof and a buckled retaining wall, as well as a pair of trees looming broad and tall beside the driveway. But recently I failed in that stewardship. Sometimes when it rains a lot, Matt Forrester, the aptly named tree surgeon, explained, a tree will absorb so much water that its weight becomes unsustainable and it drops a limb or collapses. And, regretfully, that’s what happened to one of the long-standing oaks: One spring, after torrential rains, the giant closest to the road shed its most gargantuan limb. It raked down power lines, crushed our truck, and blocked the road. Over the following days, a crew extricated the truck and brought down the remaining trunk. We rented a chipper and spent a weekend feeding i...

--JAN 2
Comments
Farmer's Calendar for January 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for December 2019

“Can you tell the difference between a balsam and a Fraser?” Steve Moffatt grills his tree hauler, Seth Johnson, a young farmer. “Yep,” replies Seth, who grows beans and wheat, raises beef and horses, and moonlights as a trucker when his growing season stalls. Together they load the culmination of Steve’s decade of labor—planting, fertilizing, weeding, grooming, harvesting, and baling. Now Seth climbs onto his trailer and begins driving in the bed stakes that will gird this precious cargo. Then Steve hands over the first of 500 eight-foot balsams and Fraser firs. Seth lays them in like shingles, butts and tips sheltering each other, protecting each tree’s topmost branch. In the cold, it can snap like glass, and a tree without a tip, as both driver and grower know, is useless. The cold air fills with a balsam perfume as the Christmas tree layers accrue. Finally, Seth stretches his cables and cinches the load. He climbs into his cab, equipped with his CB radio, Thermos, and San...

--2019 DEC 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for December 2019

Farmer’s Calendar for November 2019

The rungs had rattled my mind for months, as I wondered what I might see from the silo’s cusp. One night shy of the full Moon, I climbed up. During the growing season, a homesteader is devoted to the ground: trundling hoses, sinking fence posts, dumping manure, stooping to tend everything. And then, suddenly, there is nothing left to weed or harvest and her focus can drift upward. Twice I’d queried the neighbors for permission to scale their tower of corn silage and twice they’d declined. So, what happened next might just be a lie. At dusk, I crept to the silo with a friend who boosted me to the ladder’s bottom rung. From there, I scrambled up to where the view was generous, expansive. At height, the three nearby farmhouses appeared as diminutive as butter pats. The neighbors’ dairy barn seemed no bigger than a mailbox amid the shorn cornfield with its plaid of tractor ruts. As the neighbors’ lights snapped out, my friend waited gamely by the ladder’s start. Maybe I was the h...

--2019 NOV 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for November 2019

Latest Episodes

Farmer’s Calendar for August 2020

Most of what we grew, the summer I first worked as part of a crew of farming apprentices, was annuals: carrots, lettuce, peas, watermelons—plants whose entire life span transpires within a single season. We sowed and reaped the “one-time offer” as opposed to a “lifetime guarantee.” But eventually we began to harvest something that we had not planted—garlic, whose cloves are all clones of the mother bulb. The previous year’s apprentices had left us this gift; they’d pressed those individual cloves into the soil, cloves that endured through winter, sprouted in spring, and developed into whole new garlic heads. We grabbed onto each stalk and yanked up this crop, as if taking up a baton left by the previous crew, a baton that was now ours to carry into the barn to let cure throughout the waning summer days. Before we left the farm to begin our winter jobs, we tucked hundreds of garlic cloves in the ground—something for yet another set of hands to recover. It’s been 20 growing seasons since I pawed that farm’s soil. Yet each summer I draw on the one-time memory while harvesting my garlic. For days afterward, my hands remain un-scrubbably pungent.

--1 w ago
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for August 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for July 2020

A nearby farmer swears she hears field corn growing on muggy nights—says it sounds like a drawn-out squeak. In the decade I’ve lived beside 80 acres of it, I’ve never heard its rising stalks sing. Nor, during all those years, did I grow my own corn, for fear of windborne cross-pollination. Recently, the big field changed hands. Now it grows other plants. So we sowed our own kernels in hope of reaping a choir’s worth. While working on other farms, I’d harvested the ripe corn in the morning. Shuffling into its narrow forest, I towed a flimsy sack that fattened as I snapped off ears with the thickest girths. The dewy leaves scratched like a cat’s tongue, and by the time I emerged on the field’s far side dragging a bulging bag, I was scoured and damp and bearing enough corn for an orchestra. But this year I emerged from our stalks with hardly enough for our two-part harmony. I’d under-guessed its ripeness until I spotted one shucked cob dropped on the lawn. Every kernel was goug...

--JUL 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for July 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for June 2020

How pleasing to see the grass thicken and rise until we realize that—yikes!—it’s got to be cut, a task that asks for either loud machines or diligent livestock. I’m partial to a third option: the scythe. This Old World tool looks like a musical notation that leapt out of the score, expanded in size, and, when not in service, abides in our shed beside the retired weed-whacker. I loathed that contraption with its dervish-ing string driven by the sniveling engine. Not to mention the backache that it created, along with its habit of spattering grass across my jeans. Another mowing plan involves allowing the cows and sheep out to feed on our lawn. But as they meander and munch, their work is predictably uneven. Plus they leave behind untouched patches, along with excretions. That’s when I reach for my sharpened scythe to dispatch the tall grass. In the morning when everything’s still wet with dew, I wield my scythe like a kooky broom, swinging its curved blade from side to side, as...

--JUN 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for June 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for May 2020

Months since the crickets quit, followed by a hundred nights with no terrestrial ruckus, we lie awake at night listening for that very first peep. Finally, on an evening slightly more balmy than chilly, it begins. Like the dying battery on a smoke alarm, a single chirp. Did we really hear it? Yes! A soprano note peeps again, serious and ponderous. Then it repeats its query, possibly expressing, Am I alone? For one night: It’s alone. Then: a zany mayhem, as the evening hours fill with the high-pitch cheeping of peepers. Several years ago, when our land held only a damp gulch, nothing croaked or creaked or peeped. Then an excavator clawed us a small pond, and almost overnight a boisterous amphibian orchestra commenced as dozens of frogs—wood frogs, tree frogs, northern leopard frogs, and spring peepers—announced their new residence. Is there no middle ground with these creatures? All or nothing, silence or cacophony? Case in point: Yesterday’s pond was clear; today, it’s clouded ...

--MAY 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for May 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for April 2020

Growing a potato could make anyone feel like a magician—that is, after the ground thaws. Throughout the winter, a few bushels of our Corollas—the bald, soap-shape staples of our winter diet—lurk in the underground part of the house, the cellar. Each week, I descend and retrieve a shirt-hem’s worth for dinner. About the time I tire of ever tasting them again is when they’re starting to wrinkle anyway and launch spooky white shoots from their “eyes.” To ensure another cellar full of winter fare—pomme de terre, the soil’s fruit—we plant chunks of the sprouting spuds in early spring. From that buried nub a shoot will rear and spread its leaves. Then we’ll mound the soil around them. Even as they bloom, we’ll push more soil against their shoulders, as if trying to rebury them alive. By the time the Canada geese are angling in the sky, all these potato plants will have withered and died, until all that remains is a clutch of slumping stalks. “After you loosen the soil, plunge...

--APR 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for April 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for March 2020

Backyard sugaring—if you are factoring in time and energy—is not a rational endeavor. And yet, on a certain day each winter, the backyard sugar-er grabs her cordless drill and stomps into her snowy woods, ambling from maple to maple, standing within kissing distance as she bores a 3/8-inch hole. Then she inserts a metal spout, or spile. Last, she hangs a bucket. Sun warms her shoulder as she trudges between the trees and hears the season’s beginning: plunk, plunk, plunk—like a quickening heartbeat—the first drops of sap plummeting into her newly hung buckets. By late afternoon, the woods sport 100 taps and 100 buckets and she is “tapped out,” an expression that describes the first phase of making maple syrup but is also slang for how she’ll feel in 6 weeks when she’s running on the dregs of her energy, having gathered perhaps a thousand gallons and boiled it late into the night. It takes 40 gallons of sap to distill 1 gallon of sweet stuff. Why bother? While animals shed th...

--MAR 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for March 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for February 2020

One day while zigzagging around the garden, working alone, thinning carrots, hoeing onions, and sowing more beans, I noticed a collection of bees, hundreds of them, forming a beard-shape swarm along the fence line. For months I’d seen them zip around as individuals, making solo forays to the apple blossoms and the foxglove’s speckled bells and then to the blue bachelor’s buttons and the orange calendula. But now they acted as one organism as they clung to our barbed wire fence until the apiarist arrived in his white attire and snipped the fence so that they poured into his hive. Living in a sparsely populated area, I often wonder what it feels like to belong to a throng, to behave in simultaneity, like a swarm of bees. Then one colorless midwinter day I attended a farmers’ meeting. Twenty of us sat in a circle, until a late attendee stepped in from the ongoing snow bearing a huge sack whose contents he spilled at our feet: The floor filled with hundreds of seed packets, each fea...

--FEB 2
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for February 2020

Farmer's Calendar for January 2020

The woodstove purrs and spurts, burning through logs from a tree that may have sprouted from an acorn during Lincoln’s presidency. This oak that grew through two centuries of summers warms the house tonight. I knew moving to this 1850s farmhouse meant taking care of a leaky roof and a buckled retaining wall, as well as a pair of trees looming broad and tall beside the driveway. But recently I failed in that stewardship. Sometimes when it rains a lot, Matt Forrester, the aptly named tree surgeon, explained, a tree will absorb so much water that its weight becomes unsustainable and it drops a limb or collapses. And, regretfully, that’s what happened to one of the long-standing oaks: One spring, after torrential rains, the giant closest to the road shed its most gargantuan limb. It raked down power lines, crushed our truck, and blocked the road. Over the following days, a crew extricated the truck and brought down the remaining trunk. We rented a chipper and spent a weekend feeding i...

--JAN 2
Comments
Farmer's Calendar for January 2020

Farmer’s Calendar for December 2019

“Can you tell the difference between a balsam and a Fraser?” Steve Moffatt grills his tree hauler, Seth Johnson, a young farmer. “Yep,” replies Seth, who grows beans and wheat, raises beef and horses, and moonlights as a trucker when his growing season stalls. Together they load the culmination of Steve’s decade of labor—planting, fertilizing, weeding, grooming, harvesting, and baling. Now Seth climbs onto his trailer and begins driving in the bed stakes that will gird this precious cargo. Then Steve hands over the first of 500 eight-foot balsams and Fraser firs. Seth lays them in like shingles, butts and tips sheltering each other, protecting each tree’s topmost branch. In the cold, it can snap like glass, and a tree without a tip, as both driver and grower know, is useless. The cold air fills with a balsam perfume as the Christmas tree layers accrue. Finally, Seth stretches his cables and cinches the load. He climbs into his cab, equipped with his CB radio, Thermos, and San...

--2019 DEC 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for December 2019

Farmer’s Calendar for November 2019

The rungs had rattled my mind for months, as I wondered what I might see from the silo’s cusp. One night shy of the full Moon, I climbed up. During the growing season, a homesteader is devoted to the ground: trundling hoses, sinking fence posts, dumping manure, stooping to tend everything. And then, suddenly, there is nothing left to weed or harvest and her focus can drift upward. Twice I’d queried the neighbors for permission to scale their tower of corn silage and twice they’d declined. So, what happened next might just be a lie. At dusk, I crept to the silo with a friend who boosted me to the ladder’s bottom rung. From there, I scrambled up to where the view was generous, expansive. At height, the three nearby farmhouses appeared as diminutive as butter pats. The neighbors’ dairy barn seemed no bigger than a mailbox amid the shorn cornfield with its plaid of tractor ruts. As the neighbors’ lights snapped out, my friend waited gamely by the ladder’s start. Maybe I was the h...

--2019 NOV 1
Comments
Farmer’s Calendar for November 2019
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