Only occasionally have I done a task which serves me in the long run. Last fall, Marie and I (with the help of cousin Mark) put hay on all our raised beds. We were determined to eliminate the need for rototilling this spring. On Sunday we fluffed the completely thawed soil and began planting. Luckily I also threw in some agricultural lime around midwinter. Hopefully, I’ll toss some North Country Organics Pro-Start fertilizer before too long.

We transplanted both Vates kale and white sweet Spanish onions from the cold frame. We covered the kale with a layer of rosemary to thwart the bunnies. We do have a substantial fence which has worked for deer protection but we think rabbits might actually live inside the area. Our resident red-tailed hawk better get busy.

Many of the cool weather crops seed packets say “plant as soon as soil can be worked.” I’m sure if you head out to the vegetable patch, you will find this is so.

My baby chicks arrived. My friends Marie and Sharlee are sharing 50 with me. We all want to beef up our laying flocks with new blood. We finished the order with some Cornish game hens for spring meals. We got a nice mix of heavy breeds for laying — Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas (lays colored eggs), Cochins and Brahmans (both have feathered feet), Dominiques (date back to colonial New England), and finally a few Lakenvelders (a black and white Dutch breed meaning Showdown on a Sheet).

I still care for them in a box inside but am anxious for warmer night temperatures so they can go outside. They still need a heat lamp until fully feathered. They are a big hit with Violet and her friends.

The witch hazel at various locations is stunning. There are beauties at Middletown Nursery, Brookside Farm and the Polly Hill Arboretum. Pat Silva called to mention Doris Billings’s witch hazel on Skiff avenue. It’s easy to mistake them for forsythia, but forsythia’s bloomtime is probably weeks away. My lack of patience reared its ugly head last week. I had several flats of snapdragons coming along nicely under growlights in Marie’s cellar. I was anxious to start transplanting them. I moved them to the unheated hoop house. They have tolerated freezes in the past but this time — not so. I managed to kill more than half of them the night it bottomed out at 15 degrees. Naturally, the ones I painstakingly had transplanted were the first to go. Honestly, it’s handy I’m a good sport.

The good news is that all my greenhouse plantings in the fish totes have germinated: radishes, beets, carrots, kale, spinach, collards, and lettuce. This is without the aid of the propagating mat, and believe me it’s cold in there at night.

If you haven’t already tended the perennial shrub beds it is time to deadhead the hydrangeas. They are looking sad right now. I like to cut the branches that will end up flopping over the lawn when blooming. I cut right down to soil level around the edges. Also, the types that bloom on new growth can be cut hard (Annabelles, Tardiva and Panicula Grandifloras). On Skiff avenue in Vineyard Haven, Florence Flanders has a fine border of P.G.s within an inch of their lives right now. They bloom beautifully every summer.

Speaking of blooming beautifully I have a rosemary that is more than three-feet-tall and wide. It is covered with blue flowers. I haul it in every winter to the unheated hoop house. Sometimes they will winter in a protected location but I hate to change it with such an old specimen.

The Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2012. This is one of the biggest jokes in our budget. Created in the Depression to help farmers suffering financial devastation, it is no longer valid. Ironically, land became concentrated in the hands of fewer farmers and hence we now have agribusiness. Thirty billion dollars goes to growers of corn, wheat, soy, cotton, rice and “processed” animals. Some agribusinesses even get paid not to grow crops in order to stabilize prices. The small farmer is barely surviving. How about sending some pork his way? Imagine being paid to grow real foods!

Some of the Tea Party’s supporters receive their share of government farm handouts: Vicky Harzier (R-Mo.), $775,000; Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), $2.5 million; and hugely hypocritical Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), $250,000.

Time to write and call our congress people. The food giants should be “tightening their belts” as they are asking the rest of us.