Farmer John Writes: To Rain or Not to Rain?
Harvest Week 15, October 10th – 15th, 2022
I was pressed into service last Saturday morning. Our crew was stretched thin this past week, with frost forecasts plus occasional threats of rain. We had to get the remaining tomatoes, peppers and eggplants out of harm’s frosty way. We had to harvest root crops in case the rain really did descend upon us, turning dry soil into mud, which then probably would not dry sufficiently to properly harvest the crops. These large tasks dominated the week, in addition to all the other necessary harvest activities to keep filling your boxes with ample variety throughout the week.
You Call that Driving the Tractor?
It dawned on me that morning, when I was trying to figure out who could drive the tractor for planting next year’s garlic crop, that I could maybe write this issue of Farm News while operating the tractor.
The tractor is self-guiding down the field, and then needs the operator’s input on the turns at the ends of the field. I would have about 35 minutes per bed of just sitting in the tractor seat, with nothing to do but write this newsletter, plus occasionally adjusting the tractor speed and less frequently, the planter hitch.
So, here I am, multi-tasking, mindful that the tractor is driving me for the most part. I am mostly just a passenger.
The Art of Not Knowing
Back to weather—I often write about this great mystery that confounds, perplexes, obstructs, blesses, destroys. We had a lot of carrots and potatoes in the ground this fall, nuzzled and snug in their earthen home, better than uprooting them and storing them in coolers. Of course, if it rains much, the outcome is completely different. They might rot in the cold damp soil, even to the point of dissolving, and our machines will have a terrible, perhaps impossible time, extracting them from the mud. (See Farm News, Week 19, 2019).
To rain or not to rain? That is quite the farming question. If it doesn’t rain, the carrots and potatoes are better off in the ground. If it does rain, especially if it rains a lot and for many days, we should have harvested the carrots. I have fought a lot of mud on this farm, and my strategy is preemptive: get the root crops out before the rain, even if it doesn’t rain.
Of course, there are armchair farmers who will say, only harvest the potatoes and carrots if it is really going to rain, and who this fall so far will say that we should have left the carrots and potatoes in the ground because it didn’t rain. There really are people who think and talk like that.
Harvesting Carrots Before the Rain that Didn’t Come
Harvesting Potatoes Before the Rain that Didn’t Come
The weather deserves at times to be regarded like the practicing alcoholic–capricious, unpredictable, and monstrous.
Or perhaps weather is more like the narcissist, doing everything its own way, indifferent to humanity, demanding the limelight. It figures out how to be constantly in the news and constantly discussed in temperature-controlled environments, where the biggest weather impact might be getting from the office to the car in the outdoor parking lot.
Weather is more of a celebrity than Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga.
Weather, like cryptocurrencies, is linear, until it’s not. Sun begets sun. Rain begets rain. Rising cryptocurrency values beget rising cryptocurrency values. And then comes what is known as a reversal. Clouds cover the sky. The rain stops. Crypto crashes.
I like weather. It grows the crops.
Tomatoes: from Windfall to Shortfall
For those of you who customized your box with tomatoes this week—sorry, we ended up short of tomatoes. We will substitute, probably with sweet peppers.
Overheard by a Concerned Citizen
“Eight chicken legs with thighs for $4.99! This is a crime. Think of those poor chickens, the producers of the chickens, the people who butchered the chickens. Think of everything that goes into those eight pieces of chicken for only $4.99. Think of those people who do so much work for so little. Think of their lives.”
It was great to meet you and see the farm, greatly overdue, during Field Day! What glorious weather we had that day. I thank the hands we see, in the videos you posted, for the hard work of getting dirty, making the vegetables that grace all our tables. I thank the minds that conceived and planned it, the hands that planted, tended, and harvested those fields, and the folks that packed it up so nicely for us.
Keith, And I am thankful for all the notes and praises you have written us over the years. You seem like a good friend.