Garden in August 2009
A couple of weeks ago I was reading the blogs of young farmers across Ohio, New York and Vermont lamenting the loss of their crops due to an unexpected frost. They had started all of their long growth veggie plants indoors, nurtured them, fussed over them, dreamed about their potential. The weather warmed a couple of weeks early and in the eagerness that befalls us all when we think spring is here they transplanted everything into their newly tilled beds. They were watered in, possibly staked up, fussed over some more. The following week we had 3 days of below freezing weather – all of their sprouts were lost. That’s a true hit for a small farmer. You try to do everything right, avoid starts coming in from some other state or parts unknown. You want to know how they were cared for, no one will love your little plants the way you do.
A similar thing is happening to me right now. We’ve had very rainy, cold weather for the past week and a half. Yes, right after I transplanted my starts and put my seeds in the ground. I waited, I always do. The official Memorial Day weekend this year fell on May 25 and 26 this year. Too early to plant I said to myself, I’ve been burned before and the soil temp wasn’t high enough to germinate seeds. I waited another week. The weather wasn’t great but between a couple of rainy afternoons I got everything into the ground. The following week was hot as blazes, it felt like late July. Things were looking good. The waiting is the most difficult for me.
It turned fairly cool a little over a week ago and it’s been raining a lot. The sump for the cellar was running non stop last night as it does when the water table is extremely high – not a good sign. I woke up this morning to a temperature of 48 degrees. The rain had stopped right before dawn and I walked the garden with the dogs. Beans and corn are up for the most part, rhutabagas as well. Radishes, onions and all of the tomatoes look okay for now. No potatoes yet which isn’t what I’d like to see and the Long Pie Pumpkins will probably have to be replanted. I take heart in the fact that it’s still early enough to get a harvest from those things I have to replant but I’m also just waiting for signs of blight on my tomatoes, they’d rather have it sunny and warm you understand.
If I had to survive on the things I grow myself I would be scared right now. There are so many crop issues that this weather has effected. Things are slow to grow. The fields are so wet that haying will have to wait (with a little prayer that it won’t rain like this for a while). Some times it’s difficult to put yourself into the shoes of your ancestors, so many of mine were farmers. How must they have felt has they stood in the middle of their corn field with the plants 2 to 3 inches tall and fully a third of said field under water? We take for granted that someone else is growing our food for us, they are the ones taking the risks. We complain if the price of things go up or if fresh veggies are more difficult to come by but think about if food production was your whole life.
I’m convinced the day will come when a very large percentage of what I eat I will have to grow myself or in cooperation with my neighbors. I garden because I love it but I also know that you can’t just decide one year that you are going to grow your own food. In New England (and probably everywhere else) each growing season is different. Every year I learn something new because I have to deal with some problem from the weather or pests. You learn, you grow, you change. The variety of food I grow is different from what I grew 10 years ago. Part of that is that my garden has expanded over the years, part of it is there are things that just don’t do well in my particular spot. Each year I try something new to see how it goes. There are winners and losers. I’m hoping that things warm up and dry out a little now or we will see what really survives in an adverse weather year. I’m also praying for a little more patience, things have a way of working out.