Weather—The Bane of Spring

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The greenhouse is full of plants. So full that there is no room to start the next round of lettuces, green onions, fennel, chicories, and brassicas. It’s a good feeling, watching it fill up with flats loaded with potential. Hundreds of thousands of baby plants growing strong, ready to live up to their expectations and feed folks.

But it’s frustrating when we wait and wait for a dry stretch of weather, so we can get them all planted. When it rains for another week. Hard. And we think about how many days it will take to dry out again, so we can get the tractor back into the field and work up soil to make it fluffy and receptive to seeds and baby plants. After a very rainy week, it can take several days of dry weather to make the soil workable. If we take heavy machinery out too early, we can compact and ruin the structure of the soil, and while we may be able to plant, we pay for it in the weeks to come, when the ground is so compacted and hard that we can’t cultivate easily, and the plants grow slowly from lack of oxygen to the roots.

That full greenhouse feels great. Until the second planting of broccoli and cauliflower outgrow the first planting, and the first planting is looking purple around the edges from the stress of being root-bound. They’ve been in the greenhouse for too many weeks, and they long to stretch their roots into soil. They don’t want to be bonsai.

When we started out the season a month ahead of where we were last year because of an early warm spell, and we watch that month close in on standard time, and we realize that we can’t possibly replant hundreds of thousands of transplants into bigger pots. And we struggle to figure out the best solution: do we toss out those plants and start over, or wait it out another week.

And so we wait.

And wait.

We watch the weather forecast. Oh! It looks like Monday will start to dry, and then Tuesday it’s just cloudy and wind. Wind is good! Wind helps draw moisture from the ground, and speeds up drying. Then, no, showers for Wednesday. But Thursday might be sunny!

 

But, the Weather Man is wrong. We get just one sunny day before it rains for three more days, and the wheel ruts and low spots are full of water again.

It’s hard not to feel helpless.

We look for the positive things. The peas are growing! The carrots are growing in the greenhouse! Oh, but those won’t last forever. We need to get the outdoor carrots in the ground or we’ll run out. Everyone loves carrots, we need to try to  keep everyone happy. We need to plant the lettuces, because the early salad mix we’re picking will run out in another week. Then what will we feed everyone!? This is an anxiety attack. All these people have already paid us to feed them, and we haven’t been able to plant the second succession.

We bargain with the weather gods. I say to myself, “OK. I can handle another rainy weekend at farmers markets, if we can just have a week to get a bunch of things planted.” I’ll take it. I’ll work hard. “We just want to feed everyone!” I plead.

Will it work this time? Rainy markets are no fun, but neither is a rainy week where we all just sit around and wait. Wait and feel pressured, because the longer we wait, the more there will be to do, and in an ever-shorter amount of time. There are only a few of us to do all that work, and we are human.

That adds up to more hours we need to pay in labor, and more money we need to earn at farmers markets to pay those labor hours. And what if we don’t have enough to sell, after we’ve harvested for our CSA families?

Deep breath. This is spring.

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