It’s not quite miserable out yet as I write this, but the month of February out here on the plains of Dakota is typically cold and brown as far as the eye can see. The wind is up and the pines and cedars here in the yard are carrying a big load of frost — beautiful to look at but not nice to be out in. I ventured down to the chicken house to check on the biddies and they are nice and cozy scratching through the straw looking for something good to eat. They love the banana peelings, and when I toss them out, the chase is on!

Time for this old hen to stay inside close to the stove curled up in a quilt and dream of spring.  I’ve got a big old stack of seed catalogs beside me (some of them arrived in October!), and a lot of dreaming to do. Most of the stuff they show, I can’t raise out here anyway, but it’s nice to think I can!

I have my box of left over seeds from last year beside me in the chair, along with my last year’s garden layout, and the pitiful canning journal.

I’ll go through the seeds I already have on hand, and then start figuring out which ones I need to buy. I’ve gotten to where I usually buy the Heirloom Seeds because if I choose to I can save the seed for another year.

I keep a notebook every year with information on what varieties I’ve planted, and if the bugs really liked the plants. I don’t like bug spray, so the damage is recorded and how much the plants produce.

I also practice companion planting and crop rotation to control bugs and diseases. I don’t like record keeping but this one really pays off over time.

Of course, this past year we got hailed out twice and had hordes of grasshoppers so the garden was pretty much a wash — except for the wonderful old strawberry plants, they never fail to produce.

I am so lucky to live in a community that shares with each other — if someone loses their garden, the excess produce seems to find its way to that lean kitchen — wonderful!

I am so lucky to finally have a greenhouse to work with. We had a hotbed for many years and it worked wonderfully, in spite of howling winds, kids walking on it, cats and dogs, hail storms, etc. It was done in by a 1300 pound cow that got in the yard  — she really trashed that sucker — no repair to that one!

I start all of my own garden plants as well as the flowers that I set out around the yard, and some in the garden too. Marigolds really help to keep some kinds of bugs away, and I’m convinced that the row of cosmos I plant brings in bees to pollinate the tomatoes, peppers and other things I plant.

I’ve sorted through the canning jars and they are at the ready. Most of them were given to me by older ladies in the neighborhood who no longer use them. They last for years and you can usually find them at yard sale, or just put out the word that you need jars, someone usually has some to just give you. Gardening isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love getting outside early in the morning and digging in the dirt, eating carrots and radishes right from the soil (I sorta dust ’em off first.} It’s good exercise and you know exactly what was used on that food you feed your family….

Think Spring! Can calving be far behind?

Till next month, Paula

 Note from Pennywise:
As always, if you have tips or ideas to share, send them to me at Pennywise, Box 518, Kadoka, SD 57543 or better yet, email me at [email protected]
P.S.: Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond!