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Wiggle Room

February 23, 2012


We can all use a little wiggle room.  Joel Salatin has preached about the need for resiliency in our lives and operations for many years.  Resiliency, wiggle room, same stuff.  Society’s move from a biological world to a more industrial world has made us as a whole, pretty agriculturally and nature illiterate.  It can come as a shock to many new to gardening and farming that we are just wee part of the big picture.  There is a whole lot of life going on around us, and due to our convenient world we don’t really have to see too much of the ugly.  No wormy apples, no gnaw marks on the winter squash or carrots, perfect fence lines, no weeds, no bad weather.

We are a pretty self-absorbed lot, us humans.  Pretty much I feel like an interloper in the big scheme.  If you look at the larger picture of our farm as an organism, I am the one who exerts my strength over the landscape by planting a garden, building fencing and buildings, harvesting water, and taking from the forest.  Maybe the vole could write this post from a different perspective. “Wow, these carrots are sure good, they give me more strength to run for cover when the hawk spies me and tries to get me in one fell swoop.”


Wiggle room can mean many things, instead of having the neat and tidy park like setting, leaving a dead tree for a vantage point may pay innumerable dividends.  If I leave the dead tree, the hawk has a vantage point for hunting the vole that eats the carrot.  I also get to see the hawk everyday… . If I plan for abundance and plant enough carrots, there are enough for me, and the vole.  That’s wiggle room.  Counting my eggs before they are hatched as far as the carrots go would be foolish.  We plant our main crop carrots thick, and then we thin.  Pelleted Napoli carrots are the bane of my existence sometimes.  Expensive seed, so I painstakingly plant each seed, and then await the first hair like leaves and then worry and fret over each one until they finally attain enough size to fend for themselves.  Poor old Chantenay gets no such treatment from me, the chosen sturdy workhorse of a carrot, Red Core is shown no quarter.   Survive all that is thrown at you over the long season and then we will eat you.  I’m sure the carrot doesn’t care who is dining, the voles, dogs, Jane or us.  Carrot wiggle room in my garden is plant a few specialties, and lots of mainstays, and hopefully there will be enough to weather all the storms and feed us through the winter.

January King cabbage

It’s the same with other food in the garden too,  our cabbage from the garden is just about finished.  We are still eating lots of Rotkohl (braised red cabbage) since the Ruby Ball cabbage is holding very well, but the end is near.  We are entering the hungry months where a variety of methods of growing, preserving and eating come in real handy.  Sauerkraut is a staple in the winter months along with the fresh cabbage or kales we can glean from the garden.  Wiggle room comes in the form of eating what we can from the plants in the garden and saving foodstuffs from the preserving season for the hungry months.


We laid in quite a bit kale and chard in the freezer during the summer and then harvested fresh from late plantings until we were left with the palm tree like stalks of kale.  Now with the days getting a little longer the kale is commencing to grow at the leaf axils, providing a second crop from the same plants.  It always pays to plant extra, harvest extra and hope to have some leftover.  Wiggle room.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2012 8:00 am

    I didn’t know Kale would re-sprout. We only use it raw, as the greens in our salads, so we use every last leaf. I then allow the chickens into the garden to clean up for me and they usually peck at the stalks and hollow them out as best they can. Once they are done, I pull the stalks. Next year I might try leaving them in and see if I get useable Kale earlier than starting fresh from seed each year.

    • February 23, 2012 8:03 am

      HHOFW, yes if it survives the cold, it will send out new shoots in the spring for seed production. They are very tender and delicious, like spring broccoli only much easier to grow and harvest. :)

      • Valri permalink
        February 23, 2012 4:04 pm

        Love this post! So true…
        Also wondering if it’s all varieties of kale, or just some? Here in Colorado, my (red russian) kale stalks that are still standing in the ground have a dried-out dead-corn-stalk color, not green like your photo? Maybe it gets too cold here.

  2. February 23, 2012 8:18 am

    I’ve been thinking about resiliency a lot lately and your perspective is a more positive take than what I’ve been allowing myself to contemplate, Thank You!

  3. February 23, 2012 9:23 am

    Great post; Spectacular cabbage!

  4. February 23, 2012 9:39 am

    That cabbage is gorgeous!

  5. February 23, 2012 9:52 am

    Napoli Carrots and January king Cabbage are not normally seen in this part of the world.
    The reflections on the garden was a new topic. Generally, people write only about the plants.

    Thought provoking page.

    Thanks .

  6. February 23, 2012 10:23 am

    That is something I am trying to learn. As a city person and one of the… ‘sheltered’ ones, I am trying to reteach myself – through reading blogs like yours, and trying to grow my own food – that perfect comes at a price, and wiggle room is a good thing. :)

    Thanks for this post!

  7. February 23, 2012 10:45 am

    Resiliency is yet one more piece of what make us “human”. Great post, and now I don’t feel so bad about my less-than-perfect fence lines!

  8. A.A. permalink
    February 23, 2012 11:17 am

    I like your perspective a lot. I thought of suggesting industrial humans for the invasive species in my area, but at the time decided against it. To me that’s a really obvious thing to notice though. As a culture we don’t see the ugliness of all the convenience (read: waste) that we create, but a whole lot of perfectly normal and pretty things freak us out. And if you tell anyone you’re talking to voles and learning from them, be sure to mention you mean it metaphorically or you’re suddenly just way, way too far out there. (When in reality you’ve simply found yourself among all the rest of the species, duh.) Even though I practice what I would call restorative agriculture and really enjoy what the animals, plants and myself can do together, not to mention the wonderful food I get by it, I still think getting into agriculture is the biggest and saddest mistake humans have ever made. By it we suddenly removed ourselves from the world and so much systematic hurt and grief for us and for the world has been the outcome.

    Spring’s coming on so strong here the chickens have been laying enough extra to go all broody over it :) I’d call that a fair bit wiggly :)

    Does Kale regularly survive the winter in your area and do you ever cover it somehow? I had just a little hope for ours the winter before this one, because the thick snow cover fell so early and stayed, much like I had hope for the leeks. Some leeks did survive, but came through too weak to set seed.

  9. February 23, 2012 11:31 am

    You really have a way with words. Your posts inspire me!

  10. February 23, 2012 2:11 pm

    Do you make kraut with red cabbage, as well as green?

  11. February 24, 2012 10:34 am

    Your blog is so inspiring and nourishing– love this post (and love my sauerkraut!).

  12. Janet permalink
    February 24, 2012 11:21 am

    thought provoking post! I agree with Michelle, you have a way with words and your posts inspire! I have learned so much from reading your blog. What a great service you provide to so many out here wanting to learn. As someone called you earlier “esteemed” teacher. :) sorry that title didn’t go over with your family. Ha!

    How helpful to look at our garden and our lives as you have pointed out here. Interesting! We’d be happier I think if we did leave ourselves some wiggle room.

  13. Trish permalink
    February 24, 2012 11:37 am

    I really enjoy your blog and have gotten a lot of useful information from you. Thank you for helping to change my paradigm of how to farm. I was wondering have you ever written an article for the Small Farm Journal? They just had one in there on milking the family cow and using the milk, and it reminded me of your writing (not the style, but the topic).

  14. linda permalink
    February 25, 2012 6:10 am

    Interesting post and one I agree with, we all need wriggle room. I don’t understand why AA would say Agriculture is a huge mistake. How else would the world’s population eat??? Every person ever born required some form of agriculture. All life is substained by farming, lumber industry and mining as the basis.

  15. February 25, 2012 7:15 pm

    At one of our favorite restaurants, they cut red cabbage in quarters (as big as yours look, eighths might be better), then grill them alongside the steaks. Yummy! Now if I could only get cabbage to grow, I’d do it, too!

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