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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Bird

Wolf Moon

Over the past few years, I've been working on my relationship with the moon. I realize this is a potentially absurd sentence, but I am filled to the brim with potentially absurd sentences so why not let some out where they can breathe?

Our ancestors both distant and near marked time with the moon, which is loveably predictable in her habits. If you are under the impression that the moon is just a satellite that America owns, consider that the pull of the moon is great enough to affect vast oceans. Are you a vast ocean? Neither am I, so let's show the moon the respect she deserves! If you are moon curious, I recommend this book which my daughter bought me several years ago. It is easy to use and has prompts for each moon and month; all you do is set aside a few moments for reflection and writing.

The perennial favorite of gardeners everywhere (see what I did there?) is The Old Farmer's Almanac, which has been providing handy planting guides based on the moon since 1792. It lives up to it's tagline: "Useful, with a pleasant degree of humor." I might have that engraved on my tombstone. I can think of no higher compliment I would like to receive. I do plant by the guidelines in the The Old Farmer's Almanac. I am not the person to explain the science or not science behind it. I am content to follow it and concern myself with other matters. This is a page I have taped to the wall in my grow room. Yellow highlighter shows good days to plant, purple is harvest/collect, and I've used green to highlight the best days to make repairs to fences and beds.

The full moon is a time for celebration, reflection, and gratitude. So this year, I'll be posting the month in review every full moon. January's moon is called the Wolf Moon because it falls around the time of the start of the wolf mating season. Some traditions call it the Cold, Hard, Ice, or Center moon. In my part of the world, real winter is here and life turns inward as the weather and darkness drive us inside our cozy houses for a time of rest and reflection.

Outside the garlic and shallots have put up brave greenery from their straw beds. It made me think that they weren't totally asleep or dormant, but instead, dreaming.

I sowed poppies in the beds by the chicken run. I am not holding out much hope as these are the flower beds that the pets enjoy stomping through the most. I do not know why but even chicken wire will not deter them.

The bunnies are enjoying life inside and construction on the "Bun-galow" is temporarily halted until I can feel my fingers enough to safely work with power tools. I just can't bear to think of them being uncomfortable in the cold and rain, even with shelter. The Duke of Edinburgh has settled in and even consents to head pats when bribed with a bite of banana. He has the cutest black tipped ears!

Lavender, Rosemary, and a few other seeds that benefit from cold stratification are in the fridge having a fake winter. If you have ever tried to grow these woody perennials from seed, just know that germination is very spotty. If you don't have two years to devote to making Rosemary from scratch, try rooting a cutting instead.

All seeds for the year have been ordered and received (or saved from last year). I am VERY excited about the lineup for this year. I'm steering my ship towards more medicinal plants and the much-loved produce I haven't been able to find in stores since I moved to Mississippi. I'm cooking up a challenge in July to only eat only 100% locally grown foods for the entire month and while I might be bummed to give up my coffee, I am excited to grow more of my own food this year.

My big January task was to upgrade my seed starting setup. Last year I used planks and cinder blocks, which absolutely got the job done, but I knew I could come up with something more efficient. With 6 woodshop classes under my belt, I felt brave enough to build two propagation tables which I call Wee Beastie 1 and Wee Beastie 2. I can adjust the height of the lights or plants easily with this set up. I put the lights on timers, set up the heat mats on Wee Beastie 1, and attached temperature and humidity gauges.

Based off my drawings and measurements I figured it would take me about 90 minutes to knock them both out. It took about 16 hours. Seriously. And I made an enormous sawdust mess inside. The good news is, they are awesome. Watering is easier, the lighting and temperature are more regulated and it's easier to work at table height. Each table can accommodate about 1,000 plant starts, so it's a big improvement on last year and I only spent about 30 bucks on lumber/hardware. Everything else I had on hand and the cinder blocks from last year (the heavy, heavy cinder blocks), I repurposed to a raised bed I'm calling the Salad Bar.

One of the reasons that the tables can start so many more plants than last year's design is that I switched to soil blocking. I wanted to further reduce the amount of plastic I was using and frankly most of the seed starting trays out there are rubbish and don't hold up for more than a few seasons. The starting trays were also murder to keep labeled and I mixed up SOOOOO many seedlings last year just from moving them around. So far the soil blocking is going great! It's easier to water correctly, the plants are getting lots of good air circulation, and germination has been a success.

I ran ads in my local paper and the Mississippi Market Bulletin for my big spring plant sale. When I told my Grandmere I was in the paper, she thought I meant the police bulletin. I told her not this week, but maybe next week.


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