|Lettuce on "lake-front" property?|
Rain of Terror
If you read our blog semi-regularly, then you have probably noticed that our monthly newsletter posts have a "Weather Wythards" section that summarized the weather on the farm for the prior month. Our July Newsletter highlighted a wet June with 8 1/2 inches of rain - far more than normal. More recently, our September Newsletter highlighted a wet August with another 8 1/2 inches of rain - again far more than normal. In fact, we had recently had some significant rain on the farm and we still had decent sized puddles at the point we saw the following forecast:
southern Wisconsin has been dealing with flooding and excessive rain for the past three weeks.
|Then we saw the extended forecast|
Then, an amazing thing happened. It didn't rain on Friday during the day. Rob had a chance to work outside all day and try to do things to preempt the problems too much rain might cause. Caleb was also working that day, so we gave it our best shot. Tammy came home in time to lend a hand with trying to pull melons out of the field. But, things get dark much more quickly in September and our time was up.
From 1:58AM on Saturday until 9am, we received 2.74" of rain. You could argue that the meteorologists were fairly accurate if you add the Friday/Saturday totals together and move them all to Saturday AM.
And then add another inch to it.
|forecast late in the day September 1|
|no, we do NOT do hydroponics...|
Storm total at the farm: 8.71"
Sat, Sep 1: 2.74"
Sun, Sep 2: 2.66"
Mon, Sep 3: .89"
Tue, Sep 4: .95"
Wed, Sep 5: 1.47"
Our farm is not next to a body of water that would tend to flood us. But, the soil is heavier and the "water table" is often high. We are pretty flat out here too, so the water doesn't have anywhere to go, especially when the ground is already saturated. The net result is that we can get a fair amount of standing water when we have excessive rain events. Like any farm, we have some places that tend to puddle up with any decent rain. We have worked to move some of those 'trouble spots' but most are scattered in areas we use for poultry pasture. The trick is to make sure the poultry buildings aren't sitting on one of the lower areas. But, what happens when the entire field becomes a puddle?
|Well, that puts a crimp in our pasture-raised poultry plan.|
Many of our crops are winding down much more quickly than they would have in an August/early September with average rainfall amounts. The tomatoes were loaded, but the plants have crashed over the past two weeks. I guess they aren't fond of being this wet at this point in their development.
We're beginning to think we should have pulled all of the green tomatoes in addition to the ones that were starting to ripen prior to the rain. A recent scouting effort showed a significant number of them cracking. Well, what do you do? You do what you can and deal with it. That will have to be enough.
We did take the time to raise the planting zone for many of the rows in our fields this season. We've done this more and more over the past three years as it has become apparent that excessive rainfall is becoming a new norm for our farm. Please note that when I say "excessive rainfall" I am not referring to a single storm. Instead, I am referring to a series of rain events that lead to completely saturated soil to the point that we have standing water for a week or more in areas that are not our normal 'puddle zones.'
If you look at the picture at the right, you can see that the lettuce is up on hills that we created with Rosie (our tractor) and a disc hilling implement. This does not solve the problem of farmers losing boots in the muck when they try to pick, but it buys the plants just a little more time so they have a chance to survive. It's a little early to tell if we bought enough time, but at least we gave it our level best to prepare for this situation.
On the other hand, we did not hill every single bed on our farm. In our defense, it does take more time and effort to make these hilled beds. Second, rainfall normally gets more scarce the deeper you get into the season. With the picture at left, you can (maybe) see some of the seedlings that were just coming up at the point the rain started. These are not planted in hills and they are under water.
You might notice some yellowing of plants at the right showing an older crop that has not been liking the moist weather even prior to the beginning of the "Rain of Terror." This picture was taken after a bit of a "break" after the first four inches or so. I figured it had gone down a bit and wouldn't get much worse. I was wrong. But, I didn't have the gumption to take the camera back out to record it. I've got enough of a picture in my head thank you. I will say it was odd to see spinach and turnip seedlings looking a bit like plants in a fish tank. While we are on flat ground, water still moves with the slightest change in elevation. Those poor little seedlings were moving with the current. At last check, many of the seedlings were gone. Now to wait for things to dry out so we can try to seed it all again!
The turkey pasture was looking very good this year. I think we managed to cut it at just the right time prior to letting the turkeys out on the field. The key is to not have the grass too tall when they first get out there. But, you want the grass to be tall enough and healthy enough that it will last into early October. Unless it rains buckets and barrels in early September. If the turks don't tear it up, the grass should survive just fine. For now, the birds have their own private swimming pool. Some actually liked running around in it for the first couple of days. They have since decided it isn't much fun.
Crazy Maurice, our weeping willow, may be one of the few creatures on the farm that is happy for the excessive amounts of rain.
Where would we move it to?
Who will pull the tractor out when it gets stuck?
How will we get out from under the
Rain of Terror?
Tune in next week when our topic is making sweaters out of toe jam! (oh! are you still reading? Good for you! I hope you aren't too disturbed the toe jam thing, it's really a pretty amazing project.)