Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The spring of 2010 was a real doozy!
Going into March we were anticipating a very dry summer, with almost no snowpack in the mountains. Then the rains came. And they didn't let up until late June. While a blessing for summer irrigation use, it made for a very challenging year on a number of counts:
* Wet soils made springtime soil preparation work difficult, necessitating thoughtful timing
* Pollination of fruit trees was very poor. There was snow and horizontal rain in both April and May. We had no fruit set on our peaches, Asian pears, cherries and Asian plums. Our Apple crop was 30-40% of last years.
* Much of what fruit that did manage to set was beset by scab and other fungal diseases as a result of high humidity.
* Due to wet soils many vegetables were planted 2-4 weeks later than normal. This resulted in some seed crops flowering later than normal, when warmer temperatures fostered poor fertilization. For instance Broccoli pollen dessicates (dries out) over 85 degrees farenheit. So even though we had nice plants, good flower and pollen production, the pollen dried out and we had nearly no seed set. Hence my 2 broccoli seed crops wound up as crop failures. Urrghh...so much beautiful broccoli let go to seed only to feed sheep!
* Once again, with the late planting, many fruiting crops (such as tomatoes, peppers and melons) are maturing so late that we are pushing up against the threat of frost to have enough heat to mature their seed adequately.
As I have come to anticipate these types of experiences as normal in the rough and tumble world of farming. Fortunately, my devotion to diversified permaculture farming ensures that something will grow successfully and keep food on the table and yield seeds to share. It is interesting to contemplate these moments as a farmer who awaits at the virtual "tap" of mother nature waiting fill my cup from her over-running abundance, in anticipation of excess akin to previous years' experience and have the cup only filled part way, climate change, a freak year, or what have you and be able to recognize deeply the intricate relationship that we have woven ourselves and our sustenance into. As climate change weirds our seasonal patterns we can no longer anticipate the norms of yesterday. Rather we must diversify further and become more creative with season extension techniques and permaculture food system approaches. When we grow our Riverspirit Rainbow flour corn we try and grow a 2 year supply every year to cover the off years when summer is short or the corn worms, raccoons or crows indulge themselves on an inordinate amount of our harvest. I am beginning to get the feeling that we are going to have to do this with more crops as we drift into this increasingly brave new world. In the meantime let's save the seeds that the incredible green goddess gifts us with!