Beth of Wild Onion Farms, a Midtown Farmers’ Market vendor and one heck of an awesome lady, sends weekly newsletters to her customers and other interested folks. This week, she made reference to the ‘Year of the Water Dragon’ and I think her words provide an accurate picture of the trials and triumphs of farming.
Water Dragon Begone by Beth Haarer of Wild Onion Farms
2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon. If you’re into things like that. I don’t subscribe to Chinese astrology, but I’m just about convinced there really is a drippy mythical reptile dogging me this year.
This past winter was weirdly dry and warm. In early May the skies opened up, and it didn’t stop pouring until June. It put more than a few screws in my planting schedule for late summer (the things we’d be harvesting and eating now). Ground-work for planting and cultivation are impossible when the ground is constantly saturated, and I spent most of May into June crawling around ripping grass out of everything by hand, fretting that the planting schedule was dropping behind week by week.
By early June my dragon turned his tail, and for six long hot weeks not a drop fell from the sky. The pump at the main head of the irrigation system decided to die in early July, when things were at their driest, when it was topping 100 degrees every day. It got so dry I had to water the groundpost on the electric fence so it could carry a charge. It was so dry I had to water the fence. There’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself utter.
Mid-July, my dragon’s back from vacation. It’s rained nearly every other day for the past 6 weeks. It’s constantly overcast. It feels like the sun hardly shines anymore. It’s a soggy 70 degrees in August when it’s usually 95 and drier than the Sahara. I don’t know what to make of it. I look for a 3-4 day dry spell in the forecast to be able to plant. Then the skies pour, washing out seeds, beating seedlings back down into the mud. I crawl around in the muck, rip the weeds out, plant again, wash, rinse, repeat. Johnny’s Seeds probably thinks I’m the dumbest farmer in the country, as I’ve re-ordered the same seeds on next-day air about every 5 days for weeks now.
Saturday I woke up at 1am to the sound of torrential rain pounding the roof and sides of the house, with the storm door banging open and shut in the wind. I went out to feed the chickens in the dark before market, to find them all sleeping through the downpour perched on top of their coops, because there was a deep pool of standing water inside their shelters. I felt bad for them, while at the same time wishing I ever slept that soundly! Checked the rain gauge by flashlight: five inches of rain in three hours.
I had planned and planted to keep the tomatoes and melons going through your Labor Day weekend. The larger slicing tomatoes caved to the onslaught of water a few weeks ago. The remaining melons rotted away in the rain last week. I sold through the last of the white potatoes this past weekend, but the sweet potatoes are up and curing and should be ready in a few more weeks, so you will not be potato-less for long. In the meantime, the beans and cukes and eggplant are loving all the rain, and if I’d have known it was going to be this wet, I might’ve installed a few rice paddies to appease this soggy angry water dragon.
It’ll never be a banner year every year. But enough of the water woes: leave me alone now, dragon!
Read the full story and more about Wild Onion at www.wildonionfarms. com.