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As a gardener becomes acquainted with a new piece of land, much of the first season is consumed with discovery. And an important part of that effort is learning where the sun casts the intensity of its light — where the shadows fall, during what parts of the day and for how long. These will determine the placement of crops and other plantings.

For all of my complaints about the state of my farmhouse and the weeds in my garden, I can’t help but balance that with rhapsodic praise for the enormous sky and the openness of the landscape. There is a special kind of pleasure that comes from the sensation that the heavens are so close at hand, almost within reach.

Sunrise on the farm.  That's our apple tree on the right, the branches already heavy with fruit.

Sunrise on the farm. That’s our apple tree on the right, the branches already heavy with fruit.

I’ve situated my garden fairly close to the west side of the house, and that placement keeps much (but not all) of the tilled soil in the shade until about 9 in the morning. But then the sun shines bright for the remainder of the day. There are ancient maple trees on the north, and for a fair part of the day, their shadows fall from outstretched branches over one end of my garden. This is where my salad greens will grow, and I’m planning on sowing a fall crop before the month’s end. My experience with my last garden taught me that greens do really well in high shade. And they don’t need a lot of soil depth either, so I won’t have to fight the trees’ root system either.

I’m also planning on adding more maples farther southwest from the garden, with about 20 feet of prairie grass to separate them from the garden’s outside corner. The muscular winds of this past winter made it clear that this property needs a sturdy windbreak to protect the house and lawn from gusts blowing across the acres and acres of farmland lying beyond. Hopefully, the trees will start to add that buffer after a decade or so of growth.

Sunset at the farm, from my garden.

Sunset at the farm, from my garden.

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