Ups and Downs

The past few weeks have been a series of ups and downs. In late April, Steve and I were facing a backlog of planting, thanks to spring’s late arrival, so we rejoiced at the early arrival of Alison Reilly, our seasonal apprentice. Alison’s first day on the job was a trial by fire—five hours of nonstop onion transplanting. By the end of it, as we loaded the empty trays into the truck, I prepared her for the possibility that we might return in a week to find all our work wiped away. She blinked, thinking I must be joking. But I explained how root maggot had decimated last year’s crop, and how despite all of this year’s added efforts—a later planting date, the spraying of beneficial nematodes, the use of row cover, etc.—there was still the possibility that we could lose it all. So, I should have been prepared when, exactly one week later, we removed the row cover and saw the telltale signs of maggot damage. It still came as a shock. Nevertheless, for better or worse, we had last year’s playbook to go by. Steve and I agreed we could save half the field with some diligent TLC, but we would cut our loses on the other half and plow it under. Then we planted replacement beds with our leftover seedlings (which we’d held on to, just in case), and with purchased sets, mini bulbs that mature into full-sized onions. Just like last year, we’re still anticipating a respectable onion crop, but it will be hard won.