By Grace Or Good Fortune

It was during our lunch break last Thursday when the rain started to fall. At first slow and intermittent, then stronger and more insistent. By mid-afternoon it was clear we were in for a steady downpour for the balance of the day. I couldn’t have been happier.

Then it kept on raining through the weekend. By the time the skies cleared on Sunday, we had been given over six inches of rain. (I can’t say how much for sure because my rain gauges kept overflowing.) In the big picture, that’s all to the good. I’ll wager all this rain pulled us out of our regional drought—great news for the trees and shrubs and perennials and such, which were all becoming more than a little drought stressed.

On the smaller scale of our field, I was slightly more concerned. Will the fields flood? Will the soil become waterlogged and the crops suffocate? Will the seeds I just sowed wash out of the soil? And how long will the mud keep us out of the fields, and how far behind might we fall? But I needn’t have worried. Any standing water drained away by Sunday evening. All the crops are growing strong. And the soil isn’t overly muddy, so we ought to be able to get at least a little field work done this week.

I’d like to take credit for all that, of course, citing the organic farming practices that elevate the soil’s water handling capacity by increasing organic matter and microbial life, etcetera, etcetera. And that’s probably at least partly true. But it’s also true that the season gives us what it gives us, by grace or good fortune, and our job is to receive it all with gratitude.

Big Complicated Machine

Everything in the field is coming along nicely, I’m happy to report. Last week we were given over an inch of rain, for which we are deeply grateful, and the plants are responding positively to all that needed moisture—weeds included, alas. So this week the crew and I will be focusing on cultivating and weeding, to make sure that conditions don’t get too far out of hand.

We should have ample time for that work. Things in the greenhouse are winding down, with most of the fall crops seeded and waiting to be transplanted in a few weeks. We’ve also finished with the big spring transplanting push, and all of the summer’s crops are in the field and (mostly) growing well.

So now our attention turns to caring for all those plants. The weeding I’ve mentioned. And we’ve already been irrigating during the dry times. I do need to keep an eye out for pests and diseases. A couple of weeks ago I noticed Colorado potato beetle larvae in the potato patch and made sure to spray them with a certified organic pesticide. And I’ve seen the white butterflies that signal the presence of the imported cabbage worm, so I’ll need to pay attention to those as well. There’s no sign of the tomato hornworm yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

It’s a big complicated machine, this diversified vegetable farm of ours, and it takes keen eyes and steady hands to keep it running smoothly. Fortunately we have an outstanding crew this year, as well as all of our members, who make this bounty possible—thank you!

Farewell, Chickens

We’ve decided to get out of the chicken business for a spell. Our last batch of hens had proven to be so troublesome, I decided it was best to pass them along to a friend and take a break from chickens this season.

The main problem was that these hens refused to stay put. My practice had been to keep the chickens on pasture, where they can scratch and peck and eat bugs and worms, while adding fertility to the soil. To do this, I housed them in a mobile pasture pen fenced in with electrified netting. This typically had been enough to keep the chickens in the pasture and (mostly) out of trouble.

Not so with this latest flock. Almost immediately after letting them out of the pen in the morning, each and every one of them would fly over the fence and roam all about the farm causing trouble. One of their favorite things was to scratch all through the wood chip mulch in my perennial beds, making a huge mess and driving me batty. Then they started going into the greenhouse and hopping on the tables to snack on the seedlings. The last straw was the day they got into the summer squash patch in the field and pecked away at the zucchini.

After spending the better part of last season chasing the hens all around the farm, I hoped after the winter they would calm down and start cooperating. No such luck—this spring they went right back to their wayward habits. Enough was enough. I packed up the flock and took them to a farmer friend with more room for them to roam.

We’ll miss the eggs for sure, but one dividend from downsizing the flock is that it made room for something I’ve wanted to try for I while now: ducks. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up half a dozen little ducklings from Family Farm and Home, and they’re just the cutest. Hopefully they will be more well behaved than the chickens. (So far, they are!)