Yesterday morning, we were so thrilled to be greeted by the sun. After such a long and rainy harvest day on Wednesday, we had high hopes for a dry and warm market. Unfortunately, by the time we were setting up for the day, a coolness and cloud cover had returned, and although we stayed dry for most of the day, we did get rain for the last few hours at market. The weather is on everyone’s minds, it seems. We are all tired of the colder than average temperatures and the rain that we all hope is done for the season by now. It is certainly on our minds, and has set before us new challenges, like it seems to every season in one way or another.
All spring we play a game with the rain, waiting for dry ground to work and plant in. We had felt pretty good about keeping up with planting this year in the spring rush, and pushed really hard in May until we were pretty much forced to put planting on hold around May 19th because of rainy weather that has only let up enough for us to plant on one or two days since then. Thankfully we had put in some of everything by then (except our eggplants, which with these low temperatures may just be better off in the greenhouse anyways). We had planned on putting the rest of the summer and successive plantings in our lower field. This field is low and very wet, with standing water from December through April. It was already taking longer than we had hoped to dry out. Some parts had, and we worked those up and have peppers and winter squash and a few other things planted there. Other parts were still too wet. Now, with all the rain, it is all wet again; we worry about it being too wet for the peppers and we did lose some winter squash plantings that just rotted.
Nevertheless, the sun is shining today and we have ideas for working around the weather as much as we can. We are looking at our main field, seeing that there is space opening up, things that are already coming out of the ground. Maybe we will just plant the eggplant up there, as well as in and around crops we will see coming out of the ground soon enough. Our main field has a gentle slope, which doesn’t work well in terms of keeping nutrients evenly distributed, but does work great for drying out more quickly than other spaces. With wind and sun and the increased amount of plant growth at this time of year, we are able to sometimes work in the soil after just one day without rain. We are not panicking. At this point, we have learned pretty well that the weather is far beyond our control. We plan the best we can and then adjust along the way as each year we have a different set of weather events that throw us curve balls. We are getting to be more experienced batters, we feel pretty confident about hitting most of these balls far enough to round the bases, even when we can’t always hit home runs.
So it goes in farming, as it always has. The children and I are reading the Little House on the Prairie books, and everything in them…the weather and the pests…seems magnified in a land that is just being tamed. We have it pretty good these days. We have learned to work mostly to our advantage with the natural world. We can’t get too upset when such a magnificent force is our main contender and we still manage so well. Besides, we are vegetable lovers over here, and we aim to make you all such folks alongside us. We love spring food, and fall and winter food, just as much as summer food (or more, to be honest). We choose not to invest in hoophouses and too much row cover, because right now the materials needed for all these season extenders are plastic, and we can hardly bear to throw the plastic we do use, recycled from our friend’s nursery greenhouses whenever they replace their hoophouses with new plastic, into the trash. We are content, although it is a business challenge, to work with growing what we can when we can, weather permitting. All of the foods that we grow are so delicious, it really doesn’t matter when and where and how much each year. It is always an adventure that we are happy with by the end of the season; always too much of one thing we can’t imagine eating it again, always a craving for more of something that didn’t work well and thus a drive to make that crop work the following year. For our farm members and market customers, we always work hard with the controls we have to make things better, and then work extra hard around what nature hands us for the year to make it the best we can. It is always deliciously satisfying and nourishing for all of us, while keeping us all connected to the cycles and whimsies of nature.