Moon Dog Farms

Certified Naturally Grown family farm growing fruits, vegetables & flowers in the Texas Gulf Coast

MoonDog Farms is dedicated to stewardship of the land, reinforcing a healthy community and producing great food.  

Filtering by Tag: rain

How Things Can Be.

To complain of an excess of something when that something is a precious resource is typically a no-no. It's considered even poorer taste when the something is historically in scant supply for lots of the people you know (and, perhaps, maybe, your whole state). 

Which is why I haven't mentioned the rain. 

Well, until now. 

One of the fields to be planted for Spring crops. It'll have to wait a while.

Oh, the rain. It feels like it hasn't stopped, since before Thanksgiving.  It's funny actually, how Alex and I have been settled here for just over 2 years, yet we'd already formed notions of "the way things are" at this time of year. Of course, I don't see why we wouldn't, considering our status as 10th generation farmers born and raised on these coastal prairies, emerging from the womb with a pelican and pitchfork in each hand. However, our notion about Winter didn't include incessant precipitation. Because, it like totally didn't rain like this last year. But it totally has this year.

I guess it was time for Mother Nature to mix it up. And time for us to deal.

  It rained cats and dogs like this when we first arrived in 2013,--that I'm sure of,  because I complained about it then in one of our early blogs. But this Winter's rainfall has aimed to beat the band. And perhaps, McFarmer's spirit. 

Now, of course my dear partner's spirit hasn't been broken. He's stronger than that, and far too level-headed. He has, however, had quite a few choice words with puddles and stormclouds in the back of the orchard, safe from listening ears. We'll just say it hasn't been visitor-friendly. 

The problem is, when it rains every week and rains several inches every week ( sometimes upwards of 6 inches at a time), your field doesn't have time to dry out in between downpours. Add to this Winter's habitual grey skies and cutback on sunshine hours and you've got a very, very wet situation. 

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On our farm, plans for direct seeding most of the Spring crops were pushed further and further back, either because we can't get into the fields (does you no good to seed in the driving rain) or if we did, the damage we'd do to our soil quality would be too great. It's lucky we made the beds during the last semi-dry spell, but that's only done so much good as we haven't dared to work in them.

Major rivers impede our movement in the aisles, and no seed appreciates a new home of mud. The poor beets, scallions, radishes, peas and many more have just had to sit tight. 

Meanwhile, the plants already established back in the Fall have braved weeks of holding their own as their beds become less and less rows in a field and more and more islands in a mired gulf laden with funk and crawfish. There's been at least 3 inches of water in every aisle for 2 months. Cabbage leaves yellow from saturation and the lettuce's growth is stunted to the point of paralysis. I've found myself more than once in the peculiar situation of harvesting kale only to find that while busy and my back turned, my tub of harvested leaves has floated 15 feet away from me down our canal of an aisle. Woof. 

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It's a bummer of a time, to be sure. But also, it's impossible to see it as anything but a timely reminder that we, as ever, are not in control. The sun will return for good eventually, and our fields will dry. In the meantime, we might lose several hundred feet of crops and miss a few planting windows that will hurt down the line. But we've also learned so much already. 

Now we know what its like when it rains heavily for 3 months at Moon Dog Farms.  It's a painful lesson, but a lesson nonetheless. When everything seems amiss, there's always something else to consider. I'm incredibly thankful that during all this rain, we had working greenhouses to protect the thousands of plantbabies on whose petals and cotyledons now shoulder even more value. We've had better germination than ever in our greenhouses this season, even with the more tetchy flower varieties we're trying out for the first time. Compared to January 2013, when all we had was an old door and a shipping box, things are looking good. 

We've had secret talk of building a bio-dome-esque structure to shield us from all unwanted weather, but we'll probably settle on rebuilding the drainage ditches leading to the back canal, work to create even better flow and drainage of water in the aisles and investigate the use of high tunnels and higher beds.

And we'll make a note of "how things can be" during the Winter season.  Of course, that means it'll probably never happen like this again, but we'll have some other unexpected phenom to adapt to.  

We'll give it our best.

Plus, there's always the back of the orchard for our less mature moments. 

The Case of the Melted McFarmer.

I arrived at our driveway, after driving through a torrential downpour, to find nothing left of him.

Nothing but his muddy farm clothes.

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The minute he'd left the farm, only 2 hours earlier, I'd felt it. Something was amiss.

He didn't like being sent home without me, but that was too bad--when you have a foot healing from minor surgery and the sky begins to open up cats and dogs, you gotta deal with your lady sending you home and out of the wet. He was lucky I'd even let him come out that morning, but we've been under the gun and dancing with the weather trying to put our Summer One field to bed in time to till it under, add amendments and get it ready for the Fall plantings.

We're so relieved this will be the last time we have such a rushed turn-around. By the end of this Fall, we'll have prepared enough acreage we can do proper seasonal crop rotations. Good thing, too. The weather always steps on your feet when you waltz, especially when she's armed.  

And so, off McFarmer went. I don't have a healing foot, so I wasn't too concerned about the rain. I stayed to roll up the last three 100-ft plastic fabrics we'd used as mulch for our tomatoes. I also stayed so I could fall in the mud half a dozen times. No one was there to hear me curse the squelchy ground, my puny muscles or  the unpredictability of nature. I squashed each black widow I spotted as they scrambled out from their rudely removed home of the last several months. I began to roll the final fabric.

And then lightning. Crash of thunder. More downpour. Way more cats and dogs.


After taking cover for about 20 minutes at our wash station, I finally decided I was eeked out enough by the constant claps and blazes of lightning to head on home myself. It was a hairy 25 minute drive or so, lengthened by a resistance to drive anything but 15 under the speed limit. I'm not a huge fan of driving in a classic Texas gullywasher. 

But then I was home. Safe. Close to an opportunity of dryness.

But then I saw my melted partner. Nothing but sleeves. He just hadn't been able to make it. A whole life of emptiness swam through my head, void of any beard hair whatsoever.

I trudged inside, pealing off sopping clothes. I stepped gingerly through the kitchen on my way to the shower, to ponder my loneliness, and who did I see, lounging on the couch? 

 My McFarmer! It was him!

He looked up at me, smiled sweetly and said,

"Hey!  If you're wondering why my clothes are in the driveway, I left them on the ground there so the rain would wash off all the mud. I thought that was probably the best way to get them clean." 

McFarmer. It was definitely him. 

"Thwwwwwiick..."

The week began with a loaded truck bed and ended with a farmer marooned in the middle of the field, stuck in sticky mud, laughing maniacally. The time had finally come, the moment we'd been waiting on for what seems like months. Transplant Day.  

The Mighty Mitzi boasts a a lush green haul.

The Mighty Mitzi boasts a a lush green haul.

 Truly, it became more like Transplant Week due to daily thunderstorms and various mini-crises of the normal sort.  But we got it done. Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower all found their separate little leases on the Fall field and have already begun to sigh and spread their roots. 

Baby broccoli on its way... 

Baby broccoli on its way... 

Of course, none of it happened as I envisioned, in the measured and efficient way detailed in our staff meeting early Monday morning. You'd think I'd have already begun a tradition of buddying up any to-do lists or similar declarations with asterisks* reminding me

"this very likely will not happen this week. Or next week. You can start thinking about it now, just don't get too attached. And when it does happen, it won't look like you thought it would. Just sayin'."

But I don't. I always try to outsmart the asterisk.

 Hopefully as I grow older I'll manage to balance the lofty ambitions with recalling the asterisk clause more often. I'd never get anything done if I didn't make those big goals, but that little eight-limbed guy will always be there--in the farming world and this whole being-a-human business.

While the watermelon vines quiver in proximity, Alex flame-weeds the last pesky weeds from a bed before a brussels sprouts planting.

While the watermelon vines quiver in proximity, Alex flame-weeds the last pesky weeds from a bed before a brussels sprouts planting.

Little Army worm, lying  in wait.

Little Army worm, lying  in wait.

However, we did have one of those glorious farm work days that felt like we were powered by the soil beneath our feet. The day seemed to go on forever and our energy and accomplishments felt nearly as inexhaustible.  

There was weeding and weeding to be done, the glorious transplanting itself, compost tea concoctions to be brewed and sprayed on said glorious transplants, large items to be moved (somehow, it feels like every week includes some large item that needs moving, or at least contemplating), electric fencing to be installed and the disconcerting discovery/identification of some very potentially scary pests as well as the joyful discovery of oodles of earthworms.

( Attention Army worms, this go-round we're not wasting time on your nonsense...expect a very inhospitable environment in your future.) 

So many earthworms were found while transplanting our brussels sprouts! Yay!

So many earthworms were found while transplanting our brussels sprouts! Yay!

And of course, there was rain. Although the puddles that form in our field's aisles frustrate us and slow us down (and lead to me actually getting stuck and unable to move my feet), it means we're not dry. We have rain, and that's a beautiful, lucky thing. If only I could send some of those drops to our pals in other parts of the state.  

Plus, you haven't lived until you've heard the hilarious"ttttthwwwwwwick" sound when you finally pull a fully-submerged shoe from the mud.

Maybe it's the rural living, but that's damn funny.

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McFarmer is soaked!

McFarmer is soaked!

Paintbrushes and waterbabies.

anaging a farm, like managing any wild beast constantly working to rip off its party dress while you force a teacup and saucer into its paw, is an exercise in sweat and repeated attempts. And cursing.

We've got lots going on this week, tons of time to make up for after a few days absence (here's to family visits and lovely weddings!) and a high number of things to scratch off The List before the next few weeks are out...

Weeding, weeding, cleaning the barn, setting up the washstand, harvesting for market and orders, planting,  mowing the orchard,weeding--seriously, this list is predictable but formidable.

But who am I kidding? The List will always remain long and  we'll always have those numerous goings-on.  I will never feel the barn is organized enough, Alex will always have to order the missing part to the tractor/weedeater/saw and we'll both always feel like the unpruned trees in the orchard are taunting us by flail-waving with their gawky, ant-ravaged limbs. And apart from all that-- I'm not the only boob on this rock with "The List." We can't all have such vital to-dos and recognize it's all a little silly.

o let's say

FORGET IT.

Let me tell you something  lovely about having a companion in this enterprise.

Sometimes, after companion has been otherwise saying "Did you remember to file that receipt? Did you log the mileage?" and "We can't disc that bed, we've got to fix the irrigation on those cucumbers! They're gonna DIE!!!!",  companion gets to say,

"Everything's gonna be ok. Don't worry about it."

If you're anything like me, there's the occasional stressball that makes itself known by imposing a sense of Life-Altering Importance to OtherWise-Not-Important-Goober-Like Activities. And in these situations, it helps to have a companion--in my case, chivalric McFarmer--reminding you to cool it. Just let it go. 

 Also, it helps to have wildflowers everywhere and watermelon babies planted in your field right before a delicious heavy rain begins to fall. In fact, it's amazing.  These babes are draped along the road out to the farm, and they make my morning--they got there on their own , and yet I get to enjoy them. Our watermelons had been looking rough, and longing to get in the soil--we got lucky with a grey drizzle-covered day yesterday perfect for their move to the earth, and we had a fine time moving them.

So here you go.

 

 

Oh, the Indian Blanket.

Oh, the Indian Blanket.

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com
Alex spreading the hay on the bed pre-seedlings. Our hope is the straw bedding will help prevent rot on the melons, which is common even in areas NOT as moist as the coast.

Alex spreading the hay on the bed pre-seedlings. Our hope is the straw bedding will help prevent rot on the melons, which is common even in areas NOT as moist as the coast.

Plucking the babes ever-so-carefully. Melons don't love the transplant game.

Plucking the babes ever-so-carefully. Melons don't love the transplant game.

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And there it is. There's oodles to do. There's myriad things wrong and terrible, all the time. But we've put the watermelons in the ground, given them our hopes, and we stopped to look at wildflowers.

Alex gave me good-natured grief about stopping the car to photograph those beauties. I told him,

"...Everything's gonna be ok. Don't worry about it."

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com