Last week we removed many of the tarps covering the fields. This week we removed most of the row cover. It was like watching the farm undergo an instant metamorphosis—from a drab patchwork of black and white into a brilliant, colorful tapestry. A welcome visual for winter-weary eyes.
Moving the tarps and row cover is never easy, but it’s been especially challenging this spring because of the wind. On a calm day, the job can be as easy as folding up a beach blanket. On a windy day, it’s like wrestling a rabid alligator. There was one hilarious moment when the row cover billowed into a 14’ foot sail and sent Judy, who would not let go, literally flying. An onion or two may have been trampled in her landing, but ultimately the crew gained control and secured the row cover into place. The secret to our success is 10’ pieces of rebar, spaced 1’ apart along the edges of the row cover. We used to use rocks and piles of dirt, but an upstate farmer shared the rebar tip while visiting our farm several years ago. Rebar isn’t heavy, so you can carry several pieces at once, but it creates a firm seal against the wind. It used to be a given that we’d lose row cover to very high winds, but since switching over to rebar, we haven’t lost a single piece…once it’s firmly in place, that is.
With the summer solstice less than a month away, the fieldwork intensity is mounting. The second planting of kale, which supplements the first planting partially devoured by maggots, is in the ground. So is a second seeding of carrots (the first one had poor germination, so we tilled it under). Plants that seemed stalled for lack of warmth have finally taken off, just in time for the steady rains to stop. This wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t transitioning to a new irrigation system, but we are, and it’s not fully operational yet, so we’ve been scrambling to move hoses to where they’re needed most. The old system, with its permanent, below-ground lines running through the fields, required hours of weed-wacking, a job that fell exclusively to Dan. The new system of above-ground, portable lines eliminates that need, so it will be a vast improvement once it’s up and running. Until then, we scramble.
The pressure to produce food is the most intense it’s been in years, due to the pandemic. Our CSA sold out in April, and when there was a subsequent run on shopper shares, I had to pull the plug on those, too. Now, with the weather finally settled and the row cover pulled back, I can see that there will be food—plenty of it! What remains uncertain is how smoothly things will run in the office and the Tin House. Normally, I can count on returning members to help show new members the ropes, whether it’s how to interpret the chalkboard, how to harvest herbs, or the way to the berry field. Now, with the expectation of social distancing, I’m bracing for a different kind of experience. The farm stand has been open since April, and we’ve gotten the hang of retail in the age of COVID-19, but it will be different when CSA pickups resume next week. It’s inevitable that there will be kinks in need of ironing out, so we simply ask for patience and understanding (especially on the email front!) as we work things out. Dan and I had some choice words for each other this week as we struggled with
irrigation, but late at night, when the kids were asleep and tempers had cooled, we could agree that challenges, whatever they may be, present opportunities to grow. Without challenges, we go soft; with them, as we face them, we grow strong. I’m certain that when Thanksgiving rolls around and we reflect back on this season, we’ll all be impressed by our newfound strength.