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!!!

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