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Refinement, a process

They say farmers pretty much only talk about or complain about the weather, I always thought that was silly. I’m afraid it’s true though. I remember letters from my Granma that would start out with your normal topics for writing a letter and news from them and then there was always the farm and weather update usually toward the end. I never really thought much about it as a kid, and honestly neither as I went out on my own and started growing as an adult. The weather touches us all, and it will make or break you.

I was riding the interweb waves the other day, and had rain on my mind. We had had rain in the forecast most everyday over the weekend and yet… here in the valley, it missed us. I planted 1 very last round of veggies and I was hoping to get those seeds of hope watered in. Here we are at the very beginning of September, folks are looking forward to cool crisp nights and fancy fall flavored coffee and I am on the countdown to my first frost. Here in the valley I usually frost by the 2nd week of October, only once in the last 7 years have we made it to the end of October beginning of November. Most of my fellow farmers don’t have to think of the end of their crops until then, but the valley writes it’s own story. So, I planted 1 last round, one last try at getting crops to grow that have failed all summer long because it was to hot and to dry.

Back to my interweb adventure. Kansas on average gets yearly moisture that adds up to 30 plus inches, in 2012 we got about 12 inches…total. This year Jefferson County has had and average of about 15inches so far, and I didn’t keep track but I’ve seen a lot of rain slide right by our place, but we are talking about averages. The national drought maps, still my county in EXTREME DROUGHT. Extreme drought, it explains a lot. Extreme, that word pulls at me when I think of what it means. It means that even though for the last 3 weeks we have finally started to see raindrops and actually have mud and the grass came back and the garden actually looks like it might pull out a fall bounty we are still at EXTREMELY low levels of rainfall. It means our ground water is still tapping out, it means our well is still not fully charged, the ponds and creeks are somehow amazing low or still standing empty.

Change, some people get a chill at the thought of it, some live for it and some of us like change, but on our terms or if it’s our idea. We’ve all experienced change big and little, I never thought twice when I married Dan, it felt right and I welcomed that change in my life. I remember the day, the moment I realized due to circumstances outside of our control that we would no longer have beef cows, that change was hard and it was not welcome or easy. But we took the cards dealt to us and looked for another way and moved on. We wouldn’t be the people we are today had that change not happened. Bittersweetness, I suppose.

Not all change is gut wrenching, I remember watching the garden flood and wash away in the rains 4 years ago and that opened my eyes to look for better ways to farm the land we had. That led me to permaculture, a better way to observe and work with the land rather than forcing it to conform to us. It’s my 3rd year to implement these practices and honestly the first year to incorporate into all that we do. I’m thankful I had already installed permanent bed rows to which amendments could be applied and ditches to harvest the rainwater we did get. It allowed for what little was able to grow here in the valley to thrive this summer. When we moved here (8 years ago this November) I started keeping notes, notes about everything, the land, what worked what didn’t what grew, the bugs, the seasons and details of what I found to be a micro-climate in the flat land of our valley.

What I’ve come to terms with this summer is that more change is needed. This land chose Dan and I, I’m not kidding, for real, but that’s for another time. The land is able to provide abundance but only when you listen to it and work with it. I really thought I wanted to be able to produce everything from meats and eggs and dairy to honey and veggies. The truth is, this land stays cold longer in the spring, acts like it’s under a magnifying glass in the hottest of summer and freezes earlier in the fall. I can, just not the way I originally thought. I started working on this change last fall, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally put all the puzzle pieces together. I’m changing what my Farm Share looks like and how it works. My hope is that I’ll be able to listen the land better so it can provide more, and I’m hoping to focus more on what I do best, so that I’m happier and therefore can serve my customers better and my family.

Farmers do talk a lot about the weather, but we also talk a lot about the future.


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