Calm After The Storm

Calm After The Storm

By the beginning of this week, we were working with a very dry farm. Kickin' up dust as we drove around. Three weeks of no rain, and it was time to call it - the parsnips had officially not germinated. They can be tricky, as they need consistent moisture over an extended period of time to coax them to sprout. We thought about how good the dry weather was for strawberries, and thanked the dust and sunshine for the boom crop last week. Then, we set about our irrigation schedule - back in the saddle after a year off. In 2016 we irrigated the farm through the biggest drought in many yaers. Last year was wet enough that we didn't turn on overhead irrigation sprinklers once. And as the generally unpredictable New England summer combines with weather's increasing propensity toward extremities in the current climate crisis, we wonder often - where's the next drink for these crops coming from? Sprinklers or a storm?

So by Monday we'd gotten pipes out in various fields and started the rotation, each crop took it's place in line. We have a few techniques. Drip irrigation runs under our beds covered with plastic mulch, and runs for several hours, slowly slowly leeching water right into the root zone. Our overhead sprinklers spin on a line of metal pipes carrying water up the field. And then we take our turn carrying, and move them to the next spot. And now, we have a new technique: the water reel. Really, it's a reel like a fishing rod, but for a 1000' tube with one big sprinkler on the end. It that holds water at high pressure, and uses that pressure to roll itself back up, moving the sprinkler along the field over many hours. We invested in it after the 2016 drought, and it sat in storage last year. Now it's tried and tested: a totally tubular new technique that can save us lots of time in the right applications. And we had many applications - all those crops on the list: tender lettuces, scallions and squash and carrots and all their friends and relations were thirsty. And we were working our way through it, in 95 degrees! Despite prediction for a possible shower, we got the next line set up, ready to water the onions on Tuesday morning. Always safer to bet on the sprinkler.

After work on Monday, we sat in the shade when we got the same warning you all did: tornado warning, South Amherst. And we buttoned down the hatches, taking it especially seriously after the tornado touchdown that ripped through Conway last summer.

The rain came on suddenly,  in sheets, more like a dam broke than someone turned on a shower. I've seen estimates that we got 1.8 inches in that one storm. There was nothing to do but hope we remembered to close all the truck windows, take a deep breath, and listen to the storm's power as it moved through, overhead but also all around us. Was this just what the doctor ordered, or a careful-what-you-wish-for story?

In the morning, we took stock. We've heard there was some rough weather in nearby areas, but for us - this one passed with no plot-twists. The crops looked a bit battered around, but soon  enough they looked perkier for not having to wait in that long line for water anymore. Farmers too: after the storm this week has carried a new ease. Cool dirt offered up beautiful vegetables to the harvest crew. Every crop doubled in size. Dan headed out to re-seed those parsnips. Another chance! Every day we kind of expected it to dry out and were surprised again by the amount of moisture still in the soil. More explosive growth. More to harvest every time. That's the word for this end of June. More is the moral. More weeders at work now that school's out for summer. And perfect timing, because there's more to weed too! More rain than we thought possible in such a short storm. More clarity about what we can and can't control. More gratitude.

Your Farmer,
(for Dan, Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Jake and Alexandra)