“I’d much rather work outside in the rain than inside during nice weather!”
I found myself exclaiming/reminding myself of this several times over the past couple of weeks. It has been downright SOGGY up here in the northlands. One of my friends recorded more than six inches of rain on her small farm between Sunday and Wednesday of last week, and we had plenty of rain on both sides of that window, as well.
The good news is–we don’t have to worry about irrigation, the boring news is–we wouldn’t really have to worry about irrigation much now, anyway, because the crops are well established and we aren’t planting out seedlings or sowing anymore seeds, the bad news is–crops are going to start to get damaged and rot if the rain doesn’t stop! Plus, the slugs are rejoicing. Their slow and slimy rain dances have yielded great results.
Our usual blight of mystery fungus (we should sleuth out what it actually is…it doesn’t seem to be powdery mildew) has started to infect some of the lovely greenhouse plants and outdoor pea plants, largely due to the high humidity. The hardest hit crops are the peppers, cucumbers, peas and eggplant. Last year we lost about half of our pepper plants! Hopefully we’ve caught it early enough this year to prevent large scale loss. I spend my Tuesdays with the backpack sprayer filled with a potassium bicarbonate solution that is a broad spectrum, USDA organic approved fungicide. I snack on peas as I save the plants! Ava asked me why I was wearing such a weird contraption and I declared, “I’m a superhero farmer out to save the veggies!” We also use the backpack to foliar feed hungry crops with granulated kelp and fish emulsion–YUM!
With the rain comes a certain costume change. We all morph from individuals with little quirks of style here and there–a particular hat, special sandals, a preferred cut of overalls, double braids, etc. to indistinguishable people in dark rain gear, hoods up, heads lowered, heavy footed. The only identifying marks we can see are pants; the farm owner has orange and the other senior most farm worker and I have yellow. Rain gear also has an isolating way about it. A hood makes it hard to hear what is going on around you, a hood with rain pelting it makes it nearly impossible to hear others, and a person wearing headphones under a hood with rain pelting it makes one downright oblivious to the world around her. We become little islands toiling away with shriveled fingers and water creeping in wherever it can find a crack or hole. I’m particularly adept at having water get into my arm cuff and then drip down my arm into my armpit and down my side body. Or maybe the seams under my arms are shot? I don’t know for sure, but it is…unpleasant…to say the least. When it really pours we find indoor tasks–pruning tomatoes and cucumbers, weeding the greenhouse, removing sick plants; but we still can’t hear one another over the cacophony of raindrops on the greenhouse and high tunnel roofs.
Farming is for thinkers, and this hooded isolation affords an even more thinking-friendly environment than usual. When one can’t hear much and the sides of a hood act like blinders, the brain has a more space to wander and dwell. I’ve been returning to the perennial struggle–Do I have to accept things as they are, or can I change them to be more favorable? Of course, the answer to this inquiry is never one or the other. It depends on what is beckoning to be addressed. On a surface level–do I have to accept that the majority of my life is spent doing laundry (I kid, I kid!), or can my family and i manage our clean and dirty textiles in a more efficient manner? Do I have to accept my wet armpits or can I get myself to the outdoor supply shop to invest in a new rain coat? On a deeper level–Do I have to accept the exhausting lifestyle that seems to come with raising young children while also trying to work and remain an engaged citizen, or is there a slower and more intentional path that we can realistically forge? I have yet to come to many conclusions to these ponderings, but the thoughts pair well with the work and rain of this time of year–harvest, weed, clean up and think! Just as the maturing tomato vines must be pruned to ensure optimal fruiting….there’s a metaphor in there somewhere!
I know September is sure to come in with some amazingly beautiful days–some crisp and clear, others warm and breezy. We will get our first frost and then we will move on into the deep freezes of mid October and beyond. Until then–Rain! We will embrace the mud with wet armpits and hooded heads; we will slip and slide and splash until all the carrots are harvested and the only things left in the field are the hardiest of the hardy, just like us!
Well, I should get off to bed so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed for my yellow rain bibs tomorrow. I hope your mud is squishy, your rain is clean and your gardens are happy!
Until next time, sending peace and love from soggy Alaska,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl