Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weather, weather, everywhere

One of the pleasures of farming is being tied into the natural cycles and movements of the planet in a meaningful way. I’m talking, of course, primarily about weather. For the first time in my life I’ve made it a habit to check the weather in the evening before I go to sleep and in the morning before I dress for work. The forecast gives me a sense of what I should wear, or bring, to the farm, and not just how many layers or what kind of jacket. Should I bring gloves? Sunglasses? A hat? With a shoulder brim? An extra pair of socks for later? Rain pants? No more just moving from home to car to work, with only seconds between comfortable, climate-controlled shelter.

And of course the weather means something far beyond my comfort. Rain, sun, temperature and wind all have enormous effect on growing things. Last week we had three hot days in a row, reaching the upper 80’s or even 90 all three days. As we were watching the forecasts while the hot weather approached, Jamie and Melissa started to get worried about the lettuce and the spinach. These are both leafy plants that like cool weather, and both have a tendency to bolt when the weather gets too hot, which means that they will send up flower stalks, at which point their leaves generally get very bitter and are no longer good to harvest.

We did a few things to compensate. We irrigated, not so much for the sake of providing water as much as for the cooling effect (especially in the breeze we have most afternoons), we tried a piece of shade fabric (a sturdy piece of cloth that lets some light through but not all of it) on a small patch, and we harvested some of the spinach to sell to local restaurants and markets just to make sure we got something out of this planting in case some of it bolted later on.

The three days were hot, but not terribly uncomfortable for me. There was always a breeze and as long as I drink lots of water I seem to be okay. In any case, the lettuce and spinach has not bolted yet, though the spinach has grown quite large in the oldest planting, far far beyond the ‘baby’ spinach stage. This is now some good, sturdy spinach perfectly ready for the table. We are eating it, and enjoying it.

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of planting and sowing. Yesterday we spent the morning putting sweet potato plants in the ground, and in the afternoon we planted eggplant. This afternoon Teresa and I did a whirlwind of direct sowing with the G tractor – green beans, four different kinds of sunflowers, two different radishes, hakurai turnips, arugula, tat soi, red mustard, purple mizuna, red Russian kale, cilantro and dill. And I accidentally popped a wheelie on this ancient tractor driving it back up into the barn. It was quite exciting.

Tomorrow we have rain, according to this morning’s forecast, and cool weather. We shall see what happens but I no doubt will make sure to bring my rainjacket and a warm layer of clothing.


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