Putting the Strawberries to Bed
The farm goes through a yearly cycle of activity and going to sleep. Each spring we rip off the blankets and say to the fields, “Get up! It’s time to go! Let’s make something of the sunshine!” And then after the growing is done, we tuck the fields back in.
In the spring as the ground thaws and wakes, we till in the cover crop. We fertilize. We plant seeds and transplants. And then the frenzy of growing begins.
Then slowly, slowly, field by field, crop by crop we begin to put things to sleep again. We till or plow the fields in and then plant in the cover crop. And as these little crops sprout up I imagine them as the making of a blanket. A living blanket that will grow and protect the soil all winter long.
There’s one crop on our farm that we actually provide a physical blanket for; our perennials strawberries.
The strawberry plants stay in the fields all year round. And so this time of year, we lay a physical protective layer of straw/mulch down on the plants to protect them through the cold times.
Some years it will be sunny and 50 degrees when we do this task. Other years, like this one, it’s cold windy work. No matter the weather, there’s something lovely about giving the plants a blanket. We break apart big square bales of straw and cover, or mulch, the plants. And I often feel a sense of completeness and nurturing when this task is complete. Like knowing that everybody’s all bundled up and ready to go play in the snow.
The strawberry plants themselves are quite pretty this time of year, little reminders of the Christmas decorations to come… their leaves are green and the stems are bright, bright red. We get to admire them briefly before we cover them over.
The straw has a way of working its way into every bit of clothing, every finger of the glove, every pocket of the pants. It’s dusty and sometimes a little moldy, but overall it smells quite good. And generally the small number of us still working at the farm this time of year enjoy the task, as it’s the last bit of field work we get to do before the spring.
We’re about 3/4 of the way done now and by the end of the week we’ll be all finished. From the office I can see field L1a where the berries lay, and they are looking pretty warm and cozy.