It’s been a wild winter. A mild December lulled us into believing we would get a break this year. Silly, silly us. By the end of February–when we often have a thaw, but not this year–our daughter had missed a record sixteen days of school because of cancelled busses. We even saw the weather website post ‘Blizzard Warning,’ which was a new meteorologic category for many of us. In the midst of this, our physical access to the outside world was throttled.
I’m stealing from Peter’s letter/essay that he shared with several family members in February about the experience.
My Personal Groundhog Day
I sometimes tell students the proverb: “There’s no such thing as bad weather—just poorly prepared people.” That perspective has been intercepted and tasered the past two weeks. Even slightly decent weather has been an exception.
When one lives in a town with modern conveniences: public snow removal, the hydroelectric grid, and functioning fuel and food systems, winter is very manageable. But in a rural area like ours—especially off-grid and far from the road—a stormy fortnight can do more than make you glum. It can make you glum, exhausted, anxious–even desperate.
To be forced to worry about all four needs—heat AND food AND hydro AND road access—would be devastating. Even being faced with two of those four factors moderately at-risk is quite concerning. And if on life-support, only one need to grapple with is worse than two or three of moderate concern.
Along the front line of needs, we thankfully don’t have to worry about heat because our heat “only” depends upon processing firewood before the winter ogre emerges. Also ahead of time, we stash food in the freezer and pantry. Throughout much of the year, power production tends to be good as long as the sun shines, the wind blows, and our generator starts–all of which usually occur. But for years, our bugaboo has been our ability to access the road in winter.
No tractor means no snow-clearing and sometimes no access. No access means gradual desperation. Fear of desperation leads to planning and payments. Living rurally on anything other than an acre requires significant money. Tractors are especially expensive if your livelihood does not pay for them. Years ago, a farming neighbour recommended,”Get something with 60 horsepower and four-wheel drive.” Not being farmers, we ended up with an old 40-something horsepower unit with only two-wheel drive. We hoped and prayed it could handle our Goliath of a driveway. For years, it did.
To wrestle the driveway brute if the Massey got sick, we bought an admittedly expensive walk-behind, two-wheeled tractor–like a rototiller on steroids. We reasoned that it could help with Erin’s market gardening, it could help manage our property, and it could step in as an emergency back-up to our four-wheeled tractor. It has started to pay us back numerous times by fighting back snowdrift monsters.
I used our last homegrown carrots last weekend. They were purple carrots–a variety called Starburst–that I dug out of the garden in January. I put them into a curry that got slammed into the oven so I could get back to transplanting Swiss chard. Hours later, those carrots were still pretty tasty, as was the curry.
Seasonal eating has been on trend for a while now. It’s something we are encouraged to explore to benefit our health, and the health of the planet. Growing most of our own vegetables here means we’ve really embraced seasonal eating. Maybe we are embracing it just a little too much, according to certain family members.
Market gardening i.e. The Waiting Game. And the Second-Guessing Game. Market gardening requires this weird mix of almost hyper-anal planning and uber flexibility. It’s a constant mulling over of options and decision making with every decision starting a domino chain of other decisions. A lot of those decisions have to do with the weather. Here’s the latest discussion going on in my head:
What are the predicted highs and lows for the next few days and is that sun going to shine or not? If I put these seedlings in the hoop house, will it be too cold overnight? Will I have to carry them inside again through the rain and wind? Wouldn’t they be better off without that stress? Wouldn’t I be better off without that stress? Or could I cover them with frost blanket enough to keep them warm? But how many days is it staying cold and cloudy? And how long will my family put up with all of these baby plants inside the house?
Believe me, there’s a lot more discussion going on – mostly regarding transplants, starting more greens and how to deal with finding flea beetle damage already. Plus now it’s day two of a heavy rainfall warning. Sigh. Continue reading “April Showers Bring…”
So the market garden season is wrapping up. It is hard to believe on a warm, sunny day like today that there is one final market left. It feels much more like late August than October. Especially in the hoop house.
But here we are on the eve of another Thanksgiving. The days are shorter and the nights are cooler. The trees are turning. Chores and veggie tending have slowed enough to allow for time to review the last few months.
What a summer. Heat. Drought. Well running dry. Flea beetle plagues. And now hordes of slugs. Quite the year to start a market garden. But every year has it’s challenges. Next year we will be stretched in new directions. They tell me, that’s what farming is all about. Better learn to be flexible.
But we made it through, thanks to some timely help from friends and family. And also thanks to our customers. Lovely people who understood the difficultly of growing vegetables without rain. And didn’t get mad when the kale and lettuce we had on our table since early June suddenly were no longer available in August.