I met Zenger Farm's new interns on a cloudy Wednesday morning, a day when the cool air felt refreshing and hopeful, buffered by a warm breeze and punctuated by noises around the property: tilling of the planting fields, chattering children on a school trip, and construction on Zenger’s soon-to-open Grange. The farmers had already worked part of a morning, a combination of animal chores and seeding. In between our conversations, they, along with farmers Bryan Allan and Sara Cogan, alternated between tilling and spreading fertilizer. Though they had just begun their second week at Zenger, the three interns already seemed fairly at ease with the property and the ever-changing rhythms of the workday. Here are excerpts from our opening conversations.
I can feel it in the ever-warming air: winter is over, and the food at Portland area farmers’ markets has finally started to match the warmer temperatures. Last weekend, some farmers sold their first strawberries of the season; others had tables scattered with tiny containers of peas, tucked beside baskets of fava greens and rhubarb. I sautéed peas into a stir fry last night and felt a palpable excitement about the flavors, colors, and shapes yet to come. I’m not alone: it’s always fascinating to watch market shoppers swell with the temperatures. An easy market trip in February – without tourist or stroller dodging – transforms into a longer ordeal in May. Suddenly there’s a line at your preferred vendor, and you must begrudgingly set an alarm to get to the market before the asparagus runs out. At home, your recipe planning begins to morph from tried-and-true pastas and yes, cabbage again, to scattering cookbooks across the dining room table, eager to capture the sweetness, tartness, and crispness that Spring provides.
The calendar says early April, but garden activity has felt three weeks ahead of the actual date for all of 2015. In December, I assumed that I’d transplant young flower starts outside in mid-April, not wanting to shock the small delphiniums, hollyhock, snapdragons, sunflowers, and calendula. Anticipating cold nights, I also ordered plastic row cover for most of the raised beds, wanting to protect edibles like beets, broccoli, and salad greens, from any freezing nighttime temperatures. And yet, I’ve already removed the plastic covers from all the raised beds and the small flowers were transplanted outside over a month ago. Though Portland’s weather appears to have normalized (with high 50s and some rain perpetually in the forecast), February and much of March were warm and relatively dry.