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Winter Reflections
By Justin Bartolini, Golden Rule Mini-Farm Assistant Field Coordinator

Cabbage overwintering to become a delicious meal!
Cabbage overwintering to become a delicious meal!
PHOTO CREDITS: Justin Bartolini

The Golden Rule Mini-Farm is an auxiliary GROW BIOINTENSIVE teaching and research garden located near The Jeavons Center in Willits, California. The site has been in production for over thirteen years and also provides housing and training for two to six of Ecology Action's interns as well as apprentices and staff.

Fall has given birth to winter, and the Golden Rule Mini-Farm has grown quiet. Winter compost crops are in suspended animation longing for early spring. We have moved into the time of reflection, organization and preparation; reflection gives rise to organization which facilitates preparation.

Our daily connection to the soil, paired with the previous growing season's observations, sinks in, and we grow as living libraries. This reflection stimulates the evolution of why we do what we do and how to approach organization for the next season. Now is the time to fine-tune curriculum, make crop choices, and all the miscellany that makes up a garden.

As seasons go by, seedling flats fall into decay; basic carpentry skills are one of the many talents a well-balanced gardener must cultivate. Flats are repaired many times and are recycled back into functionality. When the wood from a flat no longer serves a role in the support of seed germination, it becomes kindling for the cob oven or, if made from woods other than redwood or cedar, can be laid to rest in the compost pile.

The fall harvest has provided plenty of threshing and winnowing to prevent any down time during the winter. It is comforting to have more food in store than the grocery store; abundance and security come from participating as stewards and co-creators with the garden.

In this quiet season we also catch up on weighing dry biomass samples and completing worksheets that track yields of food, carbon and timing. These worksheets transform our data into a reflection of the soil we are growing and express patterns for us to discover as time passes and our relationship with the garden evolves.

"During the dreary hungry gap when all else fails–—which stretches from late winter through to the ides of spring—the stalwart leek is there to relieve you from a diet of salted this and frozen that," states John Seymour in The New Self-Sufficient Gardener. The leek is one of our super-stars here at the Golden Rule Mini-Farm and Ecology Action in general. The leek produces the most calories per unit of area! This year we have left a majority of our leeks in the ground to overwinter. This may not be the most optimal because they could also be dug up and heeled into soil in a basement or barn, if the barn doesn't become extremely cold! Winter compost crops may be a better use of the space, but it comes down to whether you can get compost crops planted before the seasons change.

In addition to leeks, we also have a healthy supply of kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts still growing in our garden. By keeping our garden as space-conscious as possible we are exercising compassion for all beings. As we learn to use less area for ourselves we open up the potential to set aside more land for wildlife and to work towards creating wildlife corridors connecting noncontiguous habitats.

We hope this Garden Report has been helpful and has given you an idea of the tasks winter brings to the Mini-Farm. For a deeper understanding of what we do here at Ecology Action, we would love to see you at our Mini-Farm Tour on June 10 our next 3-Day Workshop coming this November!

Related topics in this issue:
Biointensive Team Corner: Introducing Justin Bartolini
DIY Seedling Flats: step-by-step instructions on how to put together a seedling flat kit
How to Grow Seedlings Indoors: the basics on getting an early start to your garden!
Ecology Action's Garden Calendar: a rough guide on what to do, and when to do it!

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