I woke up this morning to thunder rumbling in the west and air that was thick. Visibility was low. It rained, hard.
There were breaks of sunshine allowing me to get a little gardening in but the day pretty much looked like this. Small breaks of blue sky with the ever present clouds building all around, thunder constantly in the background. The kind of day best spent doing chores indoors. Digging in the dirt was more like digging in the mud.
There’s nothing worse than being forced to stay in the house when all you want to do is be outdoors. Somehow doing laundry and vacuuming lose all appeal when there is sod to dig and plants to move. Maybe sitting around thinking about it will make setting the garden in easier. I might actually have a plan.
This photo says it all. I wear these crocs when I work in the garden in the summer. They are easy to slip on, hose off. After working yesterday I hosed them off as usual and left them on the patio to dry. They may have dried but it started raining in the late afternoon and continued off and on through the night. The forecast for today – rain.
I managed to get half of the garden weeded but really need to get out there again and finish before the weeds take over.
All this rain has wreaked havoc for farmers of every variety over the whole of New England this year. It’s been one of those years where you think you have the right combo of things to plant because they have grown so well in the past only to find no matter how many times you plant the seeds the conditions won’t allow them to germinate. I’ve planted beets twice so far this year and have had one sprout. It’s not a matter of bad seed either. I’ve planted two varieties, new seed. I will plant them one more time, if they grow great, if not I wait until next year. My carrots are sparse, but the rhutabagas are fine. The potatoes are finally going after a very slow start. They are also sprouting all over the garden – apparently I didn’t dig up everything last year. They’ve survived tillage 3 times so I guess I will just hill them where they are.
The beans are a bit disappointing as well, they have had a tough time starting. There will be a few more seeds planted there as well. Although my tomatoes had a rough start they are looking pretty good at the moment. I need to tie them up for the second time this week. Onions and garlic are very happy. There are blossoms on my cucumber starts but I’ve come to realize that I don’t plant enough to really put up so they will probably be eaten fresh and I will have to visit the local farmstands to make pickles. My long pie pumpkins look great, they are one of my favorite varieties and they are great keepers.
The potted flowers have never been happier. Every summer for the past few years I’ve had to have someone water them on the days when I’m not here. No problem this year.
One of the biggest problems that has occurred this year is with haying. It’s has rained every day for weeks, for hay you need at least a couple of dry days (dry, not exorbitantly humid like it has been). With the weather pattern that we’ve been in the hay has been in the field too long so the quality of the feed suffers. I’m not sure what the answer is here. There may be more steers going to the auction in the fall because there won’t be the hay to feed them through the winter. We’ll have to wait and see.
Farming is such a difficult way of life. You are dealing with the unknown on a daily basis. Each week the weather is bad you adjust your expectations for the off season. This is something that hasn’t changed since the dawn of agriculture but each year when it happens to me it is deeply personal.
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.