[From 25 Apr 2016] In the last week, warm, sunny days, a field dry enough to start working, and the first round of seed is in the ground. Today’s sudden little blizzard, as full-on winter wonderland as it looked coming down, hardly got in the way—quick as it arrived, only six hours later, and all trace had vanished (helped along by a little rain). The weather: never anything less than exciting!
Ice storm. Some strange, quick mix of rain and freezing cold that puts a thick coating of ice on everything, and creates thick little icicles wherever water drips (like, above, from the 3-point hitch that’s attaching the rototiller to the tiny tractor. Quite amazing, and a little alarming as well when you pass under big trees drooping and sagging under the extra weight. Massive branches falling and whole trees toppling are taking out power lines all over, it’s already been out for 12 hours in places around here, and the radio’s saying it might not be restored for another 24 hours. Back to the Stone Age. The Ice Age. At least, the pre-Electric Era. No Internet at night? Light a candle, or use your long-lasting LED headlamp, and read a book!
It’s steel in the field… Big machine work was the tiny farm highlight today, not the machinery itself but the intense and much-needed sod-busting action. Peter, a (certified organic) beef and grain farmer on the next two (much bigger) farms down the road, dropped by just ahead of a bit of a rainstorm, to disc the fields he’d moldboarded in the fall. There was time for two passes on the south field, then the weather hit, bringing plowing to a sudden stop as the ground almost instantly got too slippery and soft.
My experience with big tractor work is limited. Maybe someday I’ll get more involved with heavy machinery—to watch, at least, big machines are fascinating and…cool. Or perhaps I’ll go the other way, d/evolving all the way to Fukuoka-like farming with little more than an intricate method and a stick… Probably stay somewhere in between… :)
In any case, this is all one-time stuff. The double row of discs do some serious pizza-cutter work on the dense, moldboarded strips, so we’ll be able to rototill more easily and effectively, without tearing the little tiller apart. And then, the soil food web can rebuild.
Elsewhere, earlier, I direct seeded the first spinach, beets and radish. Following their progress in the new garden ground will be interesting…
What at first seemed like a mild three-minute hail storm this afternoon did an impressive amount of crop damage right across the market garden. One of those sudden, short storms that’ve been popping up more or less several times a day built up, rain started to come down quite heavily, this time with a sharp wind, and after a couple of minutes, HAIL joined the action. I went out to check on the trays of seedlings sitting outside the Milkhouse: you could hardly feel the ice pellets on bare arms and the seedlings didn’t seem bothered by the brief pounding. The pellets were pea-sized, in two configurations: smooth, and jagged (the sample in the pic is from a few minutes after the storm ended, with the sharper edges on the rougher pieces already melted off). The hail soon stopped, a few minutes later the rain ended and…sunshine. Great! Not particularly concerned, I went out to inspect (we’ve had small hail a couple of times with absolutely no plant effect that I could notice). Well, SURPRISE!
Crops with fairly large leaves, the squash here and more mature beets, had leaf edges sliced and holes punched right through.
Snapped stems was the most surprising effect. Here, beets were pummeled…
…beans were also quite heavily hit, with severed tops of plants lying in the paths…
…and tomatoes took a good hit as well. I didn’t closely examine the developing fruit, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. It looks like there’s some bruising, but I’ll wait a couple of days when any damage will be easier to spot. Overall, not the end of the world, but a definite setback…not welcome.
This was one of the strangest single days for weather that I can remember. Transplanting more squash in the morning—Michelle is checking out working on the farm one day a week—it was beautifully sunny, with a nice breeze. Around mid-morning, suddenly, it shifted to humid and sticky. I headed in to change into shorts, but before I’d even walked out of the field, the humidity started fading again, so I didn’t bother. A bit later, covering the squash with row cover, a nice breeze from the north, enough to easily float the cover, casually shifted 180°, coming from the south, in the 20 minutes it took to lay down the cover and unfurl the next. Early afternoon, the wind picked up, and within half an hour what had been a largely clear sky had totally clouded over, then, pounding rain and HAIL (not too big, only some leaves got battered, no smashed plants, you can used the bottlecap below for scale). Then back to calm and clear for a couple of hours. Then heavy clouds again, and a massive wind storm that tore some branches off of trees. Then back to…sunny. As extreme as this day’s been, two or three quite drastic changes in a single day have been happening quite a lot recently. This is our new weather…?
Another snowstorm, come and gone. It snowed steadily all of yesterday, with pretty high winds, but most of the accumulation seemed to be overnight. Today, azure skies, brilliant sun, tons of snow in drifts piled high. Looks like we’re one more heavy fall away from all-time records. I heard there’ve been over a dozen school snow days, compared to three or four a season in recent years. Here on the farm, no extreme hardship so far (knock on wood!). In the barnyard, we’re running out of room around the edges to pile up more snow, and in the field, it’s a couple of feet deep, but snow has kept off the Milkhouse roof, and the main worry, a flattened hoophouse, hasn’t come close to happening. The wind built up the drift on the south side (both photos), and just to be safe (and for the first time ever), I scooped off the new stuff, down to the harder-packed, more permanent base. Luckily, the side walls are inflated (a fan on a looong extension cord continually blows air between two layers of plastic), so the surface is quite taut and doesn’t sag or hold snow easily. And that’s it. Back to waiting for the snow to go…