Last Monday we had a wind storm. It bent the stems of tomato plants and blueberry bushes, it slaughtered tiny lettuce transplants, and it was impossible for my mind to be anywhere but there, even though I had plenty of non-farm things to deal with. I get about twenty minutes between the end of work and the beginning of college classes three nights a week. I sneak in a quick dinner most nights, but there are other things to be done: dogs need to wee, eggs need to be collected, baby chicks need to be fed and watered. On Monday I stared out the front window at the ruined raised beds that used to be filled with produce-to-be, and I felt like crying. There was no time to rescue them, and the storm was still in full swing. Aimee propped them up with sturdier stakes that night, but I doubt they'll recover.
This is the first year we're really dedicating ourselves to growing as much of our own food as we're able, and it's been exciting up until now. That storm made it feel scary, and I found myself wishing we'd planted more. This is food security at its most revealing level. How does a farmer survive when disaster strikes? How do you make it through winter if your potato crop is stricken with blight? It's becoming obvious to me that farming is part science, part math, part faith (and part luck). Nature is going to take her share, whether you plan for it or not. Likewise, you don't gain without risking.
I've been debating whether to put the chicks outside, but something keeps nagging me to let them enjoy the brooder box a while longer. It seems a tough balance between safety and freedom, and I don't know where to draw that line. Am I over-protective? Probably. Are they in danger of getting hurt by being crowded now that they've grown so big? Absolutely. But if something happens in the wide world of outdoor living, I'll feel terrible. The compromise-in-action is this: we redesigned the brooder box with a mesh ceiling and a re-purposed set of cupboard doors (remnants of the same batch that supplied the main coop with its own doors). Potato Corner, one of the completely unused sections of the backyard, was already defined by two sections of fence and an outer wall of the garage. We created a fourth side out of more scrap materials, which now gives us a "playpen" for the little ones. (Why is it Potato Corner? A little batch of volunteer potatoes sprouted up there in our first summer in this house. They're gone now, but the name stuck.) After stringing poultry netting over the top of the area, our new nursery is complete. The babies have enjoyed their turf quite a bit already, and Nature hasn't been cruel.