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When it rains, it pours

We finally got some rain last week, now if another 13” could manage to find its way here. However, I wouldn’t want it all at once, but some nice slow steady showers would sure do the trick. It was lovely to actually have mud on Friday, by Saturday though it was gone. It is a bit greener now, things don’t look as sad. The trees have started to wilt and turn, they’ve been doing that slowly since the middle/end of July. It’s so early for the leaves to already be falling, funny how everything goes into survival mode when needed. This will be a good week to get the last of the fall planting done, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get a little rain on right after.

I tell ya, this year has been hard. Last year was such a bountiful year, the garden produced so well last year. This year…it turned so hot so fast. I’m thankful that I started gardening permaculture style 3 years ago, it’s saved what little I’ve been able to produce this year. The last drought in 2012 our well went dry, we had to stop watering the garden and ration water in the house, by doing so we were able to let the well recharge enough each day to fill the livestock tanks so the animals all had water, and by the end of the week everyone could have one shower. This would be one of those less than wonderful aspects of self-reliance that you might not think about at first. But when you’re lucky enough to be on a well and not have to rely on outside water, you also don’t have water when it gets to dry.

The rain we got last week came as a surprise. We saw the clouds, and Dan even said we should roll all the windows up and put things away, and I laughed. Seriously, I laughed at him and said that it would break up and go around us, just like all the other rains I’ve watched come so close I could smell it, and then break up within a few miles of us. But it came; it came up hard and fast. The wind and rain came down, well sideways actually. It flattened my tomato plants that I had in cages up around the house, and knocked down and blew over the ones I have on a weave. There is always something, good with the bad. The tomatoes I have out in the big garden didn’t have near as much damage… I owe that to the sunflowers and a “few” bigger weeds I’ve left as wind blocks and shade out there.

The garden usually gets away from me by this time every year; it’s just me tending to it. The kids help as long as their attention span allows, but really I don’t have hired help. This year with the heat so early quite a few crops failed, and I don’t think it would have mattered how much I watered on several of them, it was just to hot they never could germinate. But, that’s farming, you find yourself planting again, because...of the hope that the next crop will do better or next year will be better. It doesn’t make it any easier when your standing in the fields starring at burnt failed crops, or tomato plants that are healthy and vibrant but have no fruit because when they were blooming it was so hot the blooms fell off before they were pollinated and now there’s no fruit on them. Years like this make you wonder what the heck you are doing, make you question every decision and choice, and that includes the big question, “why am I farming?” But then you get rain, big rain, measurable rain, even rain that comes so hard it reeks havoc on what little is growing and it settles the dust, it greens things up. It hatches new bugs, blooms new flowers, things that were waiting. They were patient, because, “this to shall pass”. It’s not enough rain to fix the losses of the summer. After I plant today, I’ll start to water again tomorrow, if I don’t get any rain tonight. But, it was enough to keep things going, and give a little hope. Years like this are here to remind you that you are in no way in control…of ANYTHING.

Years like this are suppose to remind us that we are all in this together. Ideally we are a community and if truly we rely on each other and trade with each other locally, we all feel the pain of a drought year. I know families who are selling livestock because they are out of grass, which means that not only this year they will have less to harvest, but also every year after which is less local food and less income for that family and maybe one less farm in the future. I get asked why I don’t partner with other farms to provide for my farm share/csa (I believe all the other CSA’s in the area partner to some extent). There are so many benefits to doing so for both farmers and consumers, the biggest being consistent quality produce (when one farm has a failed crop or bug infestation more than likely another won’t) this means that farm group can retain more customers because they had good experience, their weekly pick up always had lush beautiful produce. So, why on earth would I NOT want to get into some of that action?

I have thought about this a lot, a WHOLE LOT this summer as I stand in the garden trying to figure out how to save the bounty, every time I’ve written a check for more fencing supplies so we can provide a few more weeks of forage for the livestock. And I’ve thought a whole lot about it as I stand on my porch watching the sun set on the valley and I can see the big picture. The thing is, as much as I want to provide clean consistent high quality local food to my community, what I’m really trying to do is enlighten.

Maybe I am the fool, but even on years like this I have found moments of enlightenment, with each child that I show how to hold and cuddle a kitten, bake bread with and spread fresh butter on to eat for the very first time. With each adult that I hold conversations about varieties of plants and the differences of hybrids and heirlooms, cooking and bug tips and how this drought will impact all of us not just this summer, but for years after.

The sun is up, and I need to go do chores.


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