It was a muggy and stormy week. with periods of sunshine-blasting heat making things intense for work in the open field, interspersed with deluges of rain, firework displays of atmospheric electricity, and a barrage of crazy wind. And throughout it all, the air remained thick with moisture, which the plants no doubt loved, but we could have really done fine without, ourselves.
The wind partied hardest on Sunday night, during a thunderstorm powerful enough to warrant a warning from the National Weather Service.
In addition to terrifying our WWOOFers (who had to wonder if the rocking Albatross trailer was going to make like its namesake and take off), it knocked over sunflowers, laid most of the corn over at all angles, and KOed several bean plants and onions.
Most of the damage was minor, and we helped the corn stalks stand back up, propping them upright with handfuls of hay mulch, so most should regain verticality without “goose-necking.”
The worst storm damage was actually inflicted the next day – when an unexpected and incredibly prolific rain cloud descended upon us, dumping bucketloads of water per square foot in mere minutes … completely destroying the ten trays of kohlrabi, herbs, and head lettuce seeds that WWOOFer Ariel had just finished meticulously planting in soil blocks.
It was depressing to see all the hard work, time, and seeds destroyed, but all things considered, we got off pretty easy given how things could have gone down.
The week’s work was varied and satisfying.
I got the guest cabin on its own solar power system, and upgraded the main power system with another battery and 200 watts of additional panels, mounted up on the side of the semi trailer barn, using scavenged metal bed frames.
On Wednesday we thought we were being slightly irresponsible when we decided to head to the friendly local Wolf Creek Bar for dinner and a beer – but it turned out to be a highly productive and even synchronistic excursion, when we ran into Lee the Hay Man, who we had not seen for years – and he was willing to deliver 11 huge rounds of spoiled hay to the farm for a very reasonable price.
Just that morning we had been discussing how we badly needed more hay for mulch, but didn’t know where we would get it from – we couldn’t get in touch with the guy we’d most recently scored from, and were considering putting up a flyer or two … hey hay hey!
We planted storage radishes, tied up the growing trellis crops, sought and destroyed cabbage worms and potato beetle larvae, weeded rows of lettuce, beans, and melons, hay-muched melons and peppers and beets, tilled in the pea tendril row, and gave up on the scheme to- grow ground cherries in hanging pots (they hated it), and transplanted them out into the field, where the tendrils had been.
The voles … shit. They have been off our radar for weeks now, and was starting to dare to think that maybe they just went away. But no. They had just been building their strength for a comeback apparently. Because this week, the walkways between the pea rows were riddled with tunnels that we’d sink into as we tried to walk, and entrance holes appeared in the potato and lettuce rows. Of course we tried to set traps, but of course this yielded only frustration. Voles are an overly-worthy adversary. So far the damage they are doing seems minimal, but it seems the population is likely on the boom – and each vole must eat its own weight in vegetable matter every day. Or maybe every hour. Something terrifying like that. They breed faster than rabbits and we’re realizing that the pea plants that have already keeled over aren’t just dropping naturally from the heat, but from having their roots devoured …
I love the snap peas, but I’m eager for them to be done, so we can pull the trellises and irrigation, and I can run the rototiller through the area, destroying the tunnel network in there. This is an incredibly frustrating infestation, not just because they are nearly impossible to eradicate, but because they flourish under the very conditions we are creating for the health of the soil and plants, with the thick hay mulch (which not only suppresses weeds and conserves moisture, but also adds much-needed nutrients and organic matter to our sandy soil for future years).
Like the weather and the Quack Grass, the voles force us to face inescapably uncontrollable nature of this lifestyle, and to practice our mantra – “que sera, sera!” We will do all we can, but ultimately what will be, will be – and regardless of weeds and wind and wascally wodents, I think that what will be will be pretty awesome. Chinese curse or no, I prefer living in interesting times – and farming out in the Barrens is rarely boring ….
- Bean Medley – A half dozen varieties of green beans and wax beans, delicious raw or cooked – although the spotted and royal purple pods will lose their color when heated. :(
- Summer Squash Zucchini (three varieties) – Young, small and tender this week – you’ll likely get some larger ones better for baking later in the season, so maybe use these in a sautée.
- Salad mix – this week’s blend includes three kinds of lettuce, argula, plenty of pea tips, and some tat soi and spinach. It’s getting hot, we’ll see how the lettuce fares – this just might be the last salad mix til late summer. Or maybe not!
- Sugar Snap Peas – Last week for these crunchy yumbombs! If you’ve had enough of the fresh or chopped in salads or stir-fried, try making fridge pickles with them – surprisingly, they actually are delicious pickled, with great texture. Use the dill and onions in the box and follow one of these recipes!
- Onions – now that they’re getting larger, the neck between the greens and the bulb is getting tough, so skip that part – but the rest is still great!
- Dill – Chop up the frondy leaves and put ’em on eggs, or in a salad dressing, or juse them to make fridge pickles with your peas! The firework-ish flower tops are traditionally used for pickle making, but you can chop them up and use them just as the leaves.
- Kohlrabi – large shares only – on a hot day, slice it up and serve on ice with salt and pepper, maybe some lemon juice. Yum.