I've been eating my lips.
It's gross, but also sorta 100% true.
Working in the 40 mph winds that strangle across the farm during this season not only leaves your body feeling like it lost a very gnarly fight with some well-muscled 18-wheeler, but it also gifts me some very dry, blistered lips crisped from the sun and wind. Which then means that as my lips work desperately to heal themselves, I've got this dreadfully scary witch's maw that keeps flaking into my mouth.
Of course, a hilarious peanut gallery (whose members constitute one McFarmer and one slobbering pooch new to the family) works tirelessly to make sure we all know just how freaky my windworn lips look. It must be said in Petey's defense that he is completely nonjudgmental and has never said one word about my crispy lips. Not one. The bipedal member on the other hand--well, teasing is kinda in the McFarmer's wheelhouse. It's a good attribute in a farmer, we both believe. Even if my peeling kisser is the butt of the joke. Especially if my kisser and a butt can be part of the same joke.
You just wouldn't believe the lip I have to deal with around here.
I'm not the only one ravaged by the constant gusts, not by a long shot. There's Alex of course. As the one who goes out to the farm every single day no matter what, he gets the most consistent abuse. He stumbles into the house at the end of the day with the look of a newborn foal who just dropped from the sky. And didn't land well.
Unfortunately, we've lost a number of our healthy and newly-planted squash, cucumber and tomato plants within the last week as well. For the tomatoes, sometimes their viny necks just aren't strong enough to hold up to the incessant blowing across our prairies. It becomes literally a breakneck wind that snaps them off right at the ground. We can replace some with transplants we hold back just for this reason, but that can only ameliorate the situation if the winds finally abate soon----long enough for the plants to establish themselves and stand up to the stress of the real world. (It's no joke how human these plights are sometimes. All us living things just need to beg "uncle" sometimes, even the invertebrates. When you're made of cellulose, even.)
We've chosen to use large amounts of "floating row cover" this year, especially with our Spring crops. If you're unfamiliar, these are long swaths of a light, woven agricultural-use fabric called Agribon that farmers cut to fit their beds. Sometimes the fabric is simply laid across a bed, resting upon a directly-seeded bed of carrots, but most often a small tunnel is created over your long beds by using curved PVC, wire, rebar or the like and affixing the fabric over these arcs, over the plants. This allows for air circulation and light to move through your crops while keeping a physical barrier against insects and other pests. It's an incredibly effective method for multiple reasons: slightly raising the soil temperature, keeping off pests, reducing risk of fungus,etc. Of course, wind is not ever a problem with this set-up. Like, ever.
Which is really lucky for us, considering the aforementioned windy situation we've got at Moon Dog Farms. (Insert finger-hook into collar here, yank and add nervous grimace.)
Let's just say, at this moment, there's a reason I have no good photos of our row-cover setups. Let's also just say McFarmer is not feeling solid on the floating row cover at this point in time. We've done a lot of chasing fabric, to be sure, but I'm still incredibly optimistic that the benefits we'll see in our yields and crop quality will make the shouting at the wind gods worth it in the end. (Did you know in ancient Greece they were called Anemoi? Alex and I argue and plead--ahem, I mean converse politely-- with them frequently.) You can check in with me at the end of the season for row cover updates.
Spring is breakneck for everyone, not just the baby tomatoes. Farmers of all stripes have been putting gears in motion for weeks and weeks leading up to those days when the sun is out a little longer. It looks different depending on where you are, but farmers are moving fast and tackling page and pages of to-do lists (seemingly insurmountable, in our case) regardless of whether there's snow atop their greenhouses or if they're eating the skin off their lips and trellising outdoor cucumbers in March.
We're still figuring out how to best meet our own personal, physical, fiscal and mental needs while also maximizing crop yields, acreage and profits. A little better here, a little better there. We have a lot to learn, just as always. And it can't be said enough how much better a place we're in this year than we were last year. Mere coincidence, El Nino and unlucky-for-us yearly patterns left us swimming for almost the whole of 2015. Farming last year felt a lot less like farming and a lot more like developing an intimate relationship with stinky mud and our own bad moods. As of March 24th, with a dog at my feet and more crops in production (and moving towards production) than we had at any time last year---this go-round is feeling pretty good. We've already bungled some things. We have no clue what's around the corner. But now, NOW is good.
Let's see if we can protect some tender nightshade necks for a spell and hold gently to our current fortune.
And pass the lip balm, would ya?