For the past three weeks, we've been having scary flashbacks to last summer's drought. At the farm, only a half inch of rain fell during all of May... until this week, when two inches pounded down. While the rain was a bit rougher on the baby crops than ideal, we are not going to complain! It's supposed to be tapering off today and tomorrow, and then we hope for some good drying weather so we can get back in the fields, where our crops, cover crops, and pastures are growing like crazy!
The rain brought us a real feeling of relief. We have the capacity to water all our fields, but it takes a long time--irrigation after a three week dry spell runs to 3 or 4 hours of extra work a day. This recent rain will basically give us the time equivalent of having an extra person in the field! Even with irrigation, the crops don't seem to grow quite as well as they do from real, actual rain. We can already see a jump in growth out of the peas, greens, and broccoli!
We've been laughing a bit because the weather for much of May has been poster child weather for days that you shouldn't transplant crops--dry, hot, and with battering winds. Yet when plants need to go into the ground, sometimes you have to put them in on these terrible days! We shifted our schedule to start transplanting around 3 or 4pm many days, and stayed out there to water crops in by flashlight as late as midnight. Starting late means the plants will get the cool evening to settle into their new homes (and it's often less windy here at night), and watering each newly planted crop heavily helps get the roots to make good contact with the soil (and gives each plant a supply of water for its first few days). It also leads to groggy farmers in the morning...
So far, all of the 2014 strawberry crop is planted, the potatoes are in, and all the spring crops are seeded. We did lose a couple beds to poor germination (and one to the row cover blowing off one windy afternoon and our nemesis the flea beetles invading the arugula... but more on them next week), but all the transplants that went in under May's non-ideal conditions seem to be doing great!
Well, it's not really early spring anymore, but since it was so cold late into April, it still feels pretty early! Last week was our last semi-quiet week on the farm, and now we are in full steam mode until the fourth of July. So far in the field, we have peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, chard, kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, radishes, turnips, and tons of greens in the ground. Waiting their turn in the greenhouse and garage are potatoes, onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, and tons more lettuce, broccoli, and all sorts of greens. Whew... you can get tired just thinking of it all! Fortunately, the weather, while a bit dry, is certainly pleasant enough to be working in!
The big challenge we faced this week is that the 4 acres of pasture and aisles we so carefully seeded completely failed to germinate, which is weird and quite frustrating. All the areas in the field that should be coming in nice and green are sad and brown-looking. This led us to a big rush to track down seed to replant these areas and means we are going to be extra busy during an already busy week. Let's keep our fingers crossed the seed we are replanting has better luck and we get some rain in the next few weeks so these grasses can get a good start!
This also means our chickens won't be grazing inside the electric fence, but will be out in the larger pastures, which gives them a shade less protection than we planned for, so we are working out how to do a bit more fortification. Fortunately, the hens have really settled into being good outside birds and are grazing and digging up a storm. We've kept them in the yard to acclimatize these first few weeks, but they are making the big trip out to the back field tomorrow!
Greenhouse seeding is coming along well--we have some pictures below of some of the process. As of this weekend, the greenhouse was over half empty, but we've repopulated it pretty quickly with more eggplant and peppers, tomatoes, and early fall plantings of leeks, chard, and kale!
Fall seems to have snuck up on us. We had our first frost (it was a light one, fortunately), we are starting on the winter squash harvest, and crops are switching places (the eggplant are giving up and the spinach is growing faster by the day). The weather seems to be getting more normal--it's actually TOO wet now to work up the fields (which is giving us some time to get the tractor repaired). Here's some October 1 photos to share what's going on around the fields!