Saturday, August 01, 2009

Off to the North Country

I’m off in a couple of hours to the airport, for a flight or two towards the north country, to meet my family for a week of vacation. I call it a dock vacation, as everything we do generally revolves around a dock, boating, fishing, swimming, sitting and reading, chatting, sunbathing, guitar strumming. If it’s not done on the dock itself it’s done within sight of it.

I am looking forward to this very much, and I think we all (my family) need to see each other. I could also use a break from the farmwork, to be honest, mostly from the physical side of things, give my limbs and hands and back time to rest and recuperate. Apart from that, I’m going to miss watching the farm grow this week, after these four months of watching and working so closely with the farm and all the plants we grow, the comings and goings of the birds, the constant change in the wild greenery around us. Though it’s a long growing season, a lot happens in just one week. By the time I get back to work in a week and two days, we will most likely be into our peppers, our eggplant and maybe cucumbers. The big question on the farm, regarding the health of our tomatoes, will probably be resolved one way or another (we are not optimistic right now – we have late blight in several of our beds; these are most likely going to die before their fruit can ripen and the blight may well spread to our other plants soon, if not already).

I am halfway, more or less, through the season, and now would be a good time for reflection on how things are going. As I still need to finish packing, I’m not going to go into any great detail right now, though I have a lot of things on my mind. We have had a great season so far. In particular, the weather of our first two months was spectacular and allowed us to get the farm into great shape for the first part of our distribution. Unfortunately, that period was followed by an unusually long stretch of wet and cold weather throughout June and early July, which has delayed the productivity of many of our summer crops. But hopefully this will just be a delay for the most part – instead of getting them in right now it will be another week or so for the meat of the harvest to really start coming in. We do have concerns about this delay for our winter squash, which have a very long growing season and potentially will back up into dicey weather.

Worst of all, this wet weather seems to have brought the late blight out in great force and much earlier than usual, and the tomato crop may well be a complete or near-complete bust for us and for almost every other organic farm in the northeast. We are contemplating building a hoop house for tomatoes over the winter, which would be a huge asset in the fight against blight. Fungicides would be even more helpful, but are restricted for organic growers. I would like to read more about the fungicides. I don’t think I will ever be interested in going down that road, but it is worthwhile noting that the main dividing line between products that are okay for organic and not okay is whether the product is synthesized or not synthesized. That in and of itself really says nothing about the harmful effects of a product. Residual contamination and harm to soil biota is also considered, but mostly as a way to restrict natural products; if a product is synthetic it is prohibited (note: I may be wrong on some of this; I need to research further) without much consideration for whether it is very harmful or not. In any case, I am interested in moving beyond even organic pesticides if possible, but running a business I would want to balance that with the need to be practical regarding the state of the land I have and, frankly, my own knowledge and capabilities. It is hard to see all of our beautiful tomato plants and not want to use every tool you can think of to save them, but such is the difference between long-term thinking and short term. But in some cases (not this one, thank goodness), what’s the use in long-term thinking when you lose the farm?

It’s a big world, with a lot of big questions and things to consider, and that’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in farming. All worries aside, I love this job and am already looking forward to getting back to it in several days time, but in the meantime, I’m overjoyed to be able to spend some time with my family, who I just don’t see enough of.

Peace to all.

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