Thursday, September 29, 2011


                Since August 29, events have continually befallen the farm in such a manner as to be considered quite concretely… frustrating. As of today, September 28, it has been a 30 day stretch in the middle of the farming year that has been completely out of whack with “normal” summertime weather. It is well known that the seemingly random dice roll of what the weather will be is almost never predictable. It is also known that such extreme weather, such as tropical storms and hurricanes, are not only not rare, but almost to be expected, to a degree, that is. Nonetheless, to have unfortunate event after unfortunate event occur with almost no break between them is EXTREMELY frustrating… especially when one is attempting to make a living with plant life underneath of all of that!
                Having written all that, if what is above was the actual topic of this entry, the title would be “Frustration”.  The title, however, is “FRUSTRATION”. While having a week long power outage be followed by 11 ½ inches of rain is EXTREMELY frustrating, it is, after all, the result of the unpredictable weather. What is to follow, the reason for the title, “FRUSTRATION”, is also the result of the weather, but it is a little different. Hopefully I will be able to explain that in the following paragraphs.
                However, before I engage on that activity, a few things do need to be clarified.
                After the extensive deluge as a result of Tropical Storm Lee, followed by the next 2 ½ inches that fell shortly thereafter, and the 2 ½ inches that fell shortly thereafter that, what has resulted in the ensuing weeks has been anything but “revival”. Instead, the many plantings in the fields linger in “limbo”, if you will, for they have not grown as they would in a “normal” season. As the ground remains saturated, there is PLENTY of moisture, and the sun actually made an appearance this week! And, the temperature rose above 70 degrees Fahrenheit!!! Nonetheless, those wearied plants have grown very little over the last couple of weeks. As unfortunate as that is, who can blame them? If you were forced to stand outside during that unending deluge of rain lasting over four days, would you want to grow? Perhaps I should adjust that question. If you were, say, somewhere between the ages of four and ten, and forced to stand outside during that unending deluge of rain lasting over four days, would you want to grow? Actually, “want” is a trivial word at this point. Avast, I have lost my line of logic. HOW CAN ANYTHING GROW AFTER SUCH A RELENTLESSLY BEATING DELUGE?
                But that is all EXTREMELY frustrating, as stated above. And that has also not been the last ordeal. After standing in muddy soil, and in some cases a swamp for over a week, some crops literally died. Poblano peppers and sugarsnap peas are two examples. The pepper plants were dead within a couple of days. The sugarsnap peas, that were just starting to produce those delectably sweet pods, with flowers all over the tops of the plants that were taller than me, died much more slowly. That took over a week to happen. Nonetheless, they died. Now all that is left are brown and dried up vines limply hanging from the pea trellis. And that, indeed, was EXTREMELY frustrating! But, again, that was the result of an incredible amount of rain not at all common for the region. Also, successive rows of sugarsnap peas have been planted over a month period, so there are more crops to come, hopefully…
                Alas, the damage did not stop there! Over the next couple of weeks the “bruises” started to appear; spots, blemishes, and well, rotting on lettuce leaves, spinach, chard, kale, beets… what else is still alive at this point?! The situation had gone from “bad to worse” as the cliché goes. But that is farming. “What can go wrong will. And what cannot go wrong will as well!” At least that is how I define farming. Oh! And then there are the diseases that have developed on the plants kept water-logged in temperatures below 70 for a week… without any sun! Ugh! How more EXTREMELY frustrating can it be? Or GET???
                I discovered the answer to that last query over the last couple of weeks, as I attempted to accomplish a necessary part of organic farming… weed eradication. As an organic farmer, there is no quick answer to that situation, such as spraying some form of nefarious carcinogenic herbicide on those weeds. Without such evil practices, the most efficient approach is cultivation. That approach uses tools to slice through the soil, thus severing the weed plants from their roots and killing the unwanted vegetation. When the normally loosely dry soil is saturated, that is, mud, such an attempt at cultivation is impossible. To begin, it is virtually impossible to walk through the pathways between the rows without sinking several inches into that mud. Second, cultivators are worthless in such a situation. They are useful in much drier soil. Try cultivating in mud sometime and you will quickly understand the situation.
                And yet the weeds continue to grow at an astounding rate! You see, those weeds, whether they are lambsquarter, galinsoga, pigweed, or any of the multifarious varieties found on the farm, have reproduced for countless generations on that particular land. Through the evolutionary process… they are PRIMED to THRIVE on that land, regardless of the weather! And so, the weeds grow and grow…
                As an organic farmer, without the possibility of cultivation, the resort is “hand pulling” the weeds. If only that were possible!!! Mud simply does not allow for such an endeavor! However, this leads to the “FRUSTRATION” of this entry. WEEDING! What a task that is! And for that FRUSTRATION, I will revert to memories of childhood. I do not remember how old I was when the order was thrust upon me to “weed the beans”. Nonetheless, it was a grueling and ultimately fruitless task. Perhaps I was 10, but I cannot remember, but the daunting torture of traveling down a row of beans to pull out all of the weeds in the row was endless! My mind did not encapsulate the end result…, that is, those splendid beans… that we ate EVERY DAY! Why were beans so important? They even came in neatly labeled cans in the supermarket!
                In those days, weeding the garden was one of the worst chores required. Now that I am an organic farmer, weeding is no longer a “chore”. It has graduated to the level of a requirement that is absolutely necessary. Countless hours are required every year weeding the many, many, many, many rows on the farm. It is beyond laborious… and never done! But now, now that for close to a month the ground has been too saturated to weed, aka that chore that I had abhorred as a child, multiplied to a level that young mind could not possibly comprehend, with weeds growing inches every night, is BEYOND frustrating! It is the epitome of FRUSTRATION!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee

                At 4:03pm, Friday, September 9, 2011, the sun appeared from behind the clouds!!! And by 4:05pm, it was hidden, yet again… The last time the sun had made an appearance in our mid-Atlantic sky was five days earlier. During certain times of the year, that is, most often in the winter, that may not be so uncommon, but in early September, that is beyond “out of the ordinary”. Nonetheless, such was the situation as Tropical Storm Lee made its way from the Gulf Coast into the mid-Atlantic region… and refused to leave.
                But this story starts long before then. And I will pause here to state that this is merely one, that is, ONE farmer’s experience in a particular growing season that has been ravaged by completely out-of-the ordinary weather. Across the globe, similar plights happen to farmers every year. Personally, I am well aware of that. What is to follow, nonetheless, is the accounting of events that befell my own farm, and how such unpredictable weather can “crush” a farmer’s best intentions. So, put a smile on, we are about to embark on quite a ride… oh, and don a raincoat as well!
                I will start with the earthquake that occurred around 2pm on August 23. Now that was odd. But that quick tremor passed quickly and had no affect on the farm other than rattling some of our nerves that strange day. It was on August 27 that Hurricane Irene made its way up the East Coast, remaining a “hurricane”, instead of weakening into a “tropical storm” as usually happens that the first out-of-the-ordinary events truly took place. Whereas an earthquake is EXTREMELY out of the ordinary, it had no affect on the farm. Hurricane Irene, however, did.
                My father informed me that it was 2am on Sunday, August 28, when the power went out at the farm. I live a little over a mile from the farm, and as luck would have it, my power never went out. Anyway, three and a half inches of rain were dropped on the farm as Irene passed through the region. Normally, again as tropical storms pass, what is expected is a deluge of rain and some heavy winds, but for the most part, damage from that extreme weather is minimal. The amount of rain that fell was somewhat average for such a storm, but the wind damage was something else. As the heavy wind coming from the east for the most part whipped around the fields, it mangled ALL of the tomato trellises, leaving most of them on the ground, and twisted quite a few plants into a very unfamiliar… mess. Nonetheless, the damage was not too bad, and as the sun reappeared later that week, not much was thought about Hurricane Irene, other than that electric power had not been restored to the farm. And of course, the tomatoes were split into unrecognizable globes of goo.
                Since this has all been related in another entry, I will skip to when the power was restored: approximately 6pm, Friday, September 2. At that point in the evening, I was personally quite drained of energy, due to the lack of power and the extra effort required to overcome that elongated power outage. However, the Saturday market’s harvest had been gathered, so, on to better things, that is, the Saturday market!
                That evening, I checked the weather forecast on the internet. There was a good chance of rain expected for the afternoon. The prediction was quite wrong, for it was maybe an hour into our farmer’s market that rain began to fall, as well as lightning striking quite nearby. As a veteran market farmer, I know CONCRETELY what that means… Almost no customers will venture out in such inclement weather. So, after having spent extra hours transporting water to the farm to wash produce, much of that produce remained unsold on my tables at the end of the market. Ugh.
                I returned to the farm that day rather deflated from the weather/power outage situation, but I had no idea what was to come. And what was to come began to make an appearance on Monday, September 5. No sunlight shone on the farm that day, for Tropical Storm Lee was arriving on our Mid-Atlantic doorstep…
                September 5: One inch of rain fell on the farm. All in all, in was a moderate day. The temperature reached the mid-Seventies, and the wind was not severe. I was able to harvest for the Tuesday CSA share with little difficulty, although the site of the ravaged tomato plants as a result of Hurricane Irene was quite disconcerting.
                September 6: Over night, the temperature dropped noticeably. As rain fell sporadically, and sometimes fiercely, throughout the day, that temperature did not raise much. The high was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, quite a low temperature for the beginning of September. It was at that point, as the temperature remained so low, that I first had that “inkling” that the farm situation was in for something quite drastic. From my experience, such constant low temperature, combined with constant moisture leads to one thing… disease. (On plants that is.) While only two more inches of rain fell upon the farm that day, I was quickly surmising that there was much damage, as yet unseen, that would be quite visible on the produce… should the sun ever shine again on that produce!
                September 7: Wednesday. It was the day to harvest for the Thursday CSA shares. And what a miserable day that was. Nonetheless, I must assert that I have lived through similar days countless times throughout my farming experience. It was a day of constant rain. My boots were saturated within minutes, but the fields were still able to be harvested. As a farmer, you “suck it up”. You “deal with it”. Rain saturates every inch of your skin, but you “gotta do what you gotta do”. Again, I am used to that. But this repetition was on day three! Trudging through mud in early September is definitely not a normal occurrence. But the CSA shares were harvested, the temperature remained cold for September, and after the day had passed, another 3 ¾ inches had fallen on the farm.
                September 8:  Thursday was an absolute deluge. Rain fell and fell and fell. The temperature remained in the 60s, and there was simply nothing that could be done. At that point over ten inches had fallen on the farm over the last couple of days. Every step taken upon grass was akin to stepping into a marsh. Admittedly, I did little stepping that day. The day was for naught, that is, for farming purposes. Oh when would the sun shine again? As that miserable day ended, another four inches of rain had fallen on the farm.
                September 9: Friday. Day 5 without sunlight. It was harvest day for the Saturday farmer’s market. And it was still early September. Oh, how to explain the dismay over not being able to achieve that goal! The rain, for the most part had passed, but the last deluge that fell overnight ravaged the fields in a manner I have never witnessed before. My experience relates how excessive rainfall will result in some erosion from certain rows. Since my fields are on low lying ground, this is expected. And also planned for! But Friday revealed something quite different than ANYTHING I have ever witnessed on the farm.
                The first thing that struck me, as I attempted to walk down a particular hillside to a field in the valley, was that there was standing water… on those hills! Every footstep landed with a splash! How was that possible? By the time I got to the valley… Okay, I need to pause here, because it was not a valley, but a swamp! To put it simply, in my forty plus years on that property, that was an unprecedented situation. And then came the harvest, or at least, the thought of harvest. In the front field, what normally would lie as dry dirt had been transformed into quicksand. Literally! I learned that quite quickly when I thought I was stepping on solid, that is, compacted soil, and my boot quickly sunk ten inches into the mud in an instant! I remember oh so clearly looking at red beets, eggplant, beans, etc., and realizing that there was no possible way to harvest that produce in that quicksand/mud.
                Amazing! It was so incredibly humbling to witness what Tropical Storm Lee delivered to the farm. Over 11 ½ inches of rain had fallen on the farm by the time Tropical Storm Lee finally left the region. That was truly unprecedented in my lifetime. And by the time the rain had stopped, I felt like a boxer after being pummeled relentlessly for rounds, backed up against the ropes… just waiting for the bell to sound the ending of the round.
                At 4:03pm last Friday, that bell sounded. The sun broke through the clouds! The round had ended! But alas, that was not the end of the fight! There are many, many more rounds left to endure! So, battered, bruised and extremely tired, the bell is sounding for the next round…

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Barter System/Why R&R Farm's Pork Tastes so Good

                After power was restored on the farm this past weekend, I decided to indulge in a couple of feasts, which there is normally no time in the season in which to indulge. So, on Saturday, I pulled a pack of bacon as well as a ham steak from my freezer so that it could thaw out, and I could cook, then devour. My justification on such feasts was that after the earthquake that was followed by Hurricane Irene, constant rain was on its way from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. It has been a very rough year so far, and after the cold, cold spring, etc., weariness inevitably overwhelms me, realizing all of the effort put forth… which failed to a great degree to produce the intended crops, mostly as a result of those unpredictable extreme fluctuations in the weather. If the reader is not a farmer, this is difficult to comprehend, but nonetheless, in lieu of say, a weekend, or a weekend couple of hours off, I decided to take an hour vacation, TWICE!, in one day. The menu of that vacation consisted of bacon and ham!
                On Sunday morning, I cooked up the bacon for a breakfast feast. Now to explain a little, this is not your ordinary bacon. That bacon originated from pigs raised on my neighbor’s farm. R&R Farm is the name, and Kirk and Jen Robertson are the farmers. But again, this is not your ordinary bacon. After frying up the bacon and making a couple of egg and bacon sandwiches, my palate was overwhelmed with sensual delight! It is absolutely amazing the taste difference between the big agriculture confinement pig source of bacon, and that which is naturally raised in friendly confines, that is, outdoors, in fresh air and… well, I’ll get back to the rest later. Oh what a feast started that day! All of the other chores of cleaning up the mess behind a storm that passed a week ago, and only having power restored hours ago, were assuaged by the feast of that unbelievably delicious bacon!
                But that was the start. As dusk fell, I cooked the ham steak, along with some veggies left after the market. While the chard and beans, etc., were delicious, that ham steak was a culinary masterpiece! The flesh was so tender, and juicy, but beyond that, the flavor was… perfect! How to explain this? I am personally well versed in the consumption of confinement-origin pig/ham, and that is why the taste difference struck me so startlingly. That ham steak from R&R Farm was the first one I had sampled from them, and I was simply dumbfounded by the intensity of the flavor. As weird as it may sound, the flavor was absolutely… natural! Again, I do not have the words to describe how delicious that feast was, but there was a sense of satiety, a fullness that my stomach and internal organs related that is not the same after consuming confinement ham. It may seem like I am overdoing my assessment of that pork, but I assure you that that is not the case. At every bite, you tend to pause, then think, “Damn, that is really, really good!” Then, you take another bite and the process is repeated!
                So what is it that causes the pork raised on R&R Farm to taste so delicious? I have questioned that extensively. After witnessing a restaurant chef/owner experience the same delight over that pork, I have realized that there is something VERY special in how those pigs are raised. The ability to "move" must surely have a great deal to do with the texture of the meat, and the fresh air surely assists in the pig's health. But I suspect a lot of that pork flavor initiates from the food the pigs devour. How does the wise saying go? "You are what you eat." And what do they eat? To a great degree, the answer to that question can be found 1/2 mile away from R&R Farm, down the dirt portion of Hughes Shop Road to… Nev-R-Dun Farm! But allow me to elucidate… with pictures!

                 Weeds! Pig feed!!! Natural green vegetation certified organic by the Maryland Department of Agriculture! This is a picture of Field 9 at Nev-R-Dun Farm, just one of the fields in which I grow the incredibly nutritious organic feed for the pigs to thrive on at R&R Farm just up the road. There are so many plants those pigs love found in that green mess that it would be impossible to detail completely. However, there is lambsquarter, pig weed, poke weed, low-lying...something or other whose name I do not know, ...other plants whose name I do not know... OH! And purslane! They LOVE the purslane!
                 Here is a picture after the pig feed has been liberated from the field, thus revealing a row a lettuce. Beans are under the white row cover to the right. While pigs love beans and lettuce too, those crops only seem to reach them after us humans have gotten our share first. I mean, after all, who harvests all those delectable greens for those pigs?
                  After the pig feed has been harvested, with great amount of laborious effort, I might add, the pig feed is loaded onto the pig feed delivery vehicle, otherwise known as my truck. (Don't let the big white water tank in the bed of the truck throw you off. It has nothing to do with the pig feed process.)
                 Usually, the pig feed, that is, lambsquarter, purslane, pig weed, etc., are transported in five gallon buckets. However sometimes those plants thrive excessively well in the farm's heavily composted soil and grow to over six feet in height. Those do not fit in five gallon buckets, but are hauled "as is" and normally dangle over the sides of the truck bed, but I digress...
                 Upon arrival at the farm, the pigs recognize the sound of the pig feed delivery vehicle. This duroc pig eagerly approaches the feeding area.We are rapidly approaching the proof of how good that organic pig feed is for them...
                 "Ain't nothin' better than this Nev-R-Dun Farm greenery", they would say, if they were not so busy stuffing themselves with it! It is the manner in which they "tear into" those greens which is so incredible to witness. Pigs do not "love" to eat everything. If it does not smell right to them, they will leave it along. An example of that are bell peppers, even ripe orange or red ones. They won't touch them. But when they are given tomatoes, melons or squash... Look out! And the same goes for those delicious Nev-R-Dun Farm greens.
                 This is the older sow. No younguns at the moment, but she knows what's up. Pig feed is a-comin', and as usual she can't wait! Actually, the one that REALLY can't wait is the boar to the left of her. He was so impatient for that pig feed that I could not get a clear picture of him. No big loss. He's just a really big glutton anyway. I'm pretty sure his thoughts are "Eat, eat, eat..." almost exclusively.
                 Feedin' time! There is no hesitation between the feeding and the eating. The situation is a little unfortunate in that paddock, that is, the one with the older sow and the boar. The boar wants to eat EVERYTHING and constantly pushes the sow away from the pig feed. To alleviate that boar's greed, pig feed is dispersed in different locations of the paddock. Here, the sow gets to peacefully dine alone. Unbeknownst to the boar, the sow usually gets the really "good" stuff.
                 Now here are the adolescents, otherwise known as "feeder" pigs. Their paddock is a little removed from the driveway. They can hear the delivery truck long before their share of organic produce is delivered. As the five gallon buckets are carried to this fence, they run up the spot in the picture to the left, and press against each other, as though they were in a scrum. It is like they are prepared to wrestle for it. Fortunately, there is plenty to go around for all of them.
                 "There's nothin' better in the world than this Nev-R-Dun Farm produce!" that light colored pig is thinking. At least, I'm pretty sure that is what she is thinking. (Check out the different dialect spoken here by a Yorkshire mix from the Duroc above.)

                 Lastly, and definitely, not leastly, is the latest mother of the group.While the greens are behind her, she always seems to expect them delivered in front of her. (That does sound odd, does it not?) Anyway, the greens are tossed over her head to the clear area behind her, only when they pass over her head, she does not grasp that they will land behind her. And so she mourns a bit about not being fed, then eventually turns around to see a mountain of pig feed just waiting for her! And her piglets, as well...
                 The piglets are a little more amusing to watch. They have only just started to wander around the paddocks a week or so ago, and that is all a "new world" to them. They are curious, but very skittish. At sudden movements, they will quickly dart off in the opposite direction. When the greens are tossed into the paddock, they will scamper a couple of feet away, only to immediately scamper back to dig into the feast. I am always struck on how young they are when they learn to eat their veggies!
                 And so now you have been provided visual proof as to why R&R Farm's pork tastes so good. Once again, it is the manner in which those pigs "tear into" those greens that lets you know how good it is for them. Sometimes, after the last paddock has been fed, the first may already be finished eating all their greens! Nonetheless, I am going to assert that the statement, "You are what you eat", is extremely sagacious, and that it truly reflects why R&R Farm's pork tastes so good. Sometimes, when I take a bite of R&R ham, I can swear I taste...purslane!

                 But this entry is not quite done. The other part of the title is "Barter System". You see, all of that pig feed, I mean the tons and tons, the innumerable truck loads of that pig feed, is harvested and distributed to those pigs free of charge. (I will reflect on an alternative situation at another time...) What our two farms have developed is a form of barter system, where we trade things, or labor, etc., instead of exchanging money. For the feeding above, after coming home from the farmer's market on Saturday morning, I was greeted with this wonderful pile of firewood scraps from their farm! What a fair trade! The scraps from my farm end up as delicious feed for their pigs, and the scraps from their farm will keep my house warm  during the winter months! (More things to come from this front. Stay tuned...)

Hurricane Irene (continued)

Dear Santa,
All I want for Christmas is electricity to be restored at the farm.
Kindest regards,
Tommy Reinhardt

Day 6 without power: Upon returning to the farm on Friday, there was still no electricity. The electric company expected to have the power back on some time in the evening. Unfortunately, Friday is a major harvest day, which means that water is required to clean the produce. As a result, the first hours of the day were spent trucking water to the farm. Harvest started late. And harvest was not completed as darkness fell upon the farm.
However, the bright point of the day, no pun intended, occurred sometime before 6pm. After harvesting the Ruby Red chard, I climbed the hill from behind the house toward the front porch with a crate of that wonderful produce in tow. As the hill was crested and the lilacs were passed on the left, the strangest of sights befell my eyes. The front porch light was on! That was my beacon to alert that power had been restored. And indeed, power had been restored!!!
Ah, but alas, my energy, my vigor had long dissipated. The day was growing old, and all that that electricity seemed to reveal was a very disheveled situation. All of the extra effort put forth to overcome that elongated power outage really seemed to sink in at that point. There were more crops to harvest… but no time to accomplish that feat. And so, as darkness descended once again, at least this time assisted by artificial light, the produce was cleaned and loaded into the van for the next morning’s farmer’s market.
The story of Hurricane Irene is finished, but Mother Nature was not finished with her unexpected intensity. The forecast for Saturday was for rain storms to develop in the afternoon. It was not long after the market started that Saturday morning, when the first storms arrived, in fact the only storms for the day. It has been probably two years since the market has experienced such a rain storm, which has been quite a blessing, but the timing of that downpour could not have been worse. What inevitably occurs when it rains on market day is that very few customers brave the weather to purchase the fresh produce from our stands. And that is exactly what happened that Saturday. After all of the extra effort to harvest produce sans electricity, etc., that produce stood quite idle on my own farm’s tables as rain fell throughout those few hours of our farmer’s market.
All of this described about Hurricane Irene and its aftermath, I personally log under Murphy’s Law-Extended. Whereas Murphy’s Law is: “That which can go wrong will”, the extended version is: “That which cannot go wrong will as well”!!! What else could that be? Well to start, there was a very moisture laden Tropical Storm soaking the Gulf Coast at that point, and its future path would be northeast…

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene

                Last Saturday/Sunday, Hurricane Irene rampaged its way up the east coast of the United States causing quite extensive damage. It was quite an out-of-the-ordinary hurricane, in fact it has been the only “hurricane” to ravage this far up the east coast while I have been farming. The following is how it affected my farm, that is, Nev-R-Dun Farm.
                To start, most of the time that a hurricane develops very far to the south and out to sea, by the time it gets to mid-Maryland, if it ever does, it is inevitably a tropical storm at that point. I have experienced a few of those, and they almost always seem to appear precisely when the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s market is open on Saturday mornings. Since I have a stand at the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s market, I have clear memories of how nasty such a situation can be. In fact, if my memory is accurate, it was during a tropical storm/downgraded hurricane, I think in 2004, that the last remaining members of our market at that somewhat remote time linked our small grouping of canopies together and discussed/enacted our coup d’état of the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s market, since customers were almost non-existent in the torrential downpour. To not get into great detail about that, we decided at that point, some seven years ago, that we would be a “producer only” market. While that approach was by no means a new one, it was quite foreign to Carroll County at the time. Anyway, tropical storms are definitely something we have experienced at the market over the years.
                This past Saturday, many years removed from our coup d’état, there were quite a few customers that stopped by the market. The big difference this year was that the big storm coming up the coast from the south had not yet arrived. Clouds encapsulated the sky, and occasionally a stiff breeze pushed through the market, but all in all, it was a somewhat pleasant morning and quite a relaxing break from the heat so ordinary this time of year. However, throughout that morning, a common question was presented to us farmers. “What are you going to do about the hurricane?” Yes, indeed, it was not a “tropical storm” heading our way, but an actual “hurricane”! Run! Panic!
                But that is not how we, at least, those of us seasoned veterans of the farming war responded. For the most part, the answer was, “Nothing.” Then, after witnessing the incredulous expression on the inquirer’s face, “There’s nothing we can do. Whatever will happen will happen.” It is a rather realistic approach to nature’s ultimate force. There is no way to protect crops from such storms. Whatever will happen will happen. We have been through countless situations where nature works against our best intentions, and even those not quite inspired by the “best”, if you will, but nonetheless, we are merely stewards to a land which nature will treat however it wishes. Perhaps this is difficult for those who reside in well-protected air-conditioned houses to comprehend, but it is what it is. So Hurricane Irene is coming? Hopefully there will be some produce remaining after she passes.
                After the market ended, as usual, I went back to the farm to get some work done before the impending deluge. To pause, from my experience, at least in our somewhat elevated area, and also somewhat removed from the coast, tropical storms normally just dump loads of precipitation upon us. There is definitely an increase in wind intensity, but from my experience, it is nothing to be all that concerned about. My intention last Saturday was to till up some of the rows to plant some more fall crops. After emptying the market van, I entered into the house, that is, my parent’s house, for they live on the farm that I use while I reside 1.2 miles away, to tell my father something. I remember closing the statement to him with, “I hope to get some rows tilled before the rain.” I then walked outside and everything was drenched. So much for tilling. Hurricane Irene was arriving.
                At that point, I was relegated to some greenhouse work. By the time I cut off work, it was getting dark, and the same stiff breezes and light sprinkles continued to fall from the sky like they had for the last few hours. I checked my rain bucket before leaving the farm and it measured one inch of rain at that point. That was all for outside farm work for the day.
                The next morning, the breezes were much more intense, but the deluge had passed over night. From my house, which resides in an oak tree forest, what passed by overnight did not appear to be overly intense. So, I made coffee, drank it, checked the internet, then drove off to the farm.
                The first thing I noticed at the farm was what I somewhat expected. All of the trellises that support the numerous tomato plants were severely bent over and very near to the ground if not completely on the ground resembling some form of dead soldier. I did expect something like that to happen, but it was much more severe than anticipated. Anyway, I looked at the greenhouses and they seemed okay. I checked the rain bucket and another two and a half inches had fallen. The deer fences were still upright, although some were no longer at a ninety degree angle. The row covers over the beans were ripped off, but still lingered near to the intended row, unlike past tropical storms where they were found hundreds of feet away from their starting point. All in all, the damage did not appear to be too intense. In fact, with more close up inspection, the bell peppers were lying on the ground which always happens after such rains. Chard leaves were twisted around in a vortex. Sugarsnap peas were affected in a similar fashion. But again, all in all the damage did not appear to be too intense.
                Then, I went into the farm house, my parent’s house, and flicked on a light switch. Nothing. Oh, I thought, the farm must have a power outage. That would surely be no big deal. The power would surely pulse anew shortly… That was Sunday around noon. When my father returned to the farm from an excursion later that day, he informed me that the power went out at two o’clock in the morning that Sunday. That was a rather long period to be without power, or so I thought at the time. And so, I went about some normal farm activity and eventually left for the evening.
                Day 2 without power:  Monday was a bit odd, simply because the use of water was restricted since the well pump was not working. But my neighbor, Kirk, bailed me out (kind of a weird term, no doubt) for I had the Tuesday CSA shares to harvest… and clean. He helped with the harvest and we cleaned the produce over at his farm, which still had power and is on the same road on which my own house resides. Those of us who reside on Murkle Road still had power. In fact, we never lost it!

                Day 3 without power: Now Tuesday was a bit rougher to work through. It was on that day that I realized how much water I actually consume. Containers of water had been filled from my house and brought to the farm, but only a pitcher for drinking purposes. Tuesday is a WORK day for me, which means that I tend to sweat a lot in the heat of the day. That pitcher of water was consumed quite quickly. That was when the ordeal of not having power at the farm was first truly felt. Instead of turning on a faucet for instant relief, travel time became a quotient. All of a sudden, daily activity on the farm became quite a hassle. More specifically, the transplants on my grow racks needed to be watered as well as the greenhouses. Thankfully, the fields were saturated, but the normal ease of turning on a faucet was not an option to satisfy those other areas.
                Day 4 without power: Wednesday was another hassle day. I have neglected to mention up to this point that we borrowed a generator from a friend to power my parent’s freezers and refrigerators. That was arranged on Monday. That in itself took quite a bit of time to navigate, but you have to do what you have to do at times like this. On Wednesday, the generator ceased to work. Yet more time was spent on activity outside of farm work. Nonetheless, I was able to harvest for the Thursday CSA and clean the produce, once again, over at Kirk’s place. As for the produce, I need to use an aside here on the tomatoes. They are probably done for the year. Every single one of those tomatoes were split to a degree that was unsalvageable by the deluge of rain that fell. That is the fate of heirloom tomatoes after heavy rain storms. And with those plants ravaged by the winds on those now veritably prone trellises, I fear those crops are done for the year. Hurricane Irene was their coup de grace. Perhaps, just perhaps, Hurricane Irene was more damaging than initially suspected!
                Day 5 without power: By Thursday, I kind of had the routine down. I filled the tank of water on my truck the night before and used that water to irrigate the new broccoli transplanting, as well as the new rows seeded of spinach and salad mix. The generator was brought back functional, and once again the loud roar of the machine echoed throughout the day. The weirdest part of the day was when I wished to eat something and my hands were covered with mud/dirt. Luckily, there was a bucket with water in it on the back porch where I could at least wash off most of the dirt. Its “organic” dirt anyway, how can it be harmful?
                The newspaper has stated that the electric company expects to get to our area to fix the power outage some time on Friday. That is tomorrow. We’ll see. I have left the farm for the evening as I write this. My prediction for tomorrow, that is, most likely, Day 6 without power, a MAJOR hassle day. With the harvest for Saturday’s market looming, and no running water at the farm to wash the produce… well,… to be continued…