Friday, June 14, 2013

After The Rains

I could hardly sleep knowing I would be rising at 3:30 in the morning. It didn't help that the upstairs tenants were noisy as always. So, when I awoke at 2:58 am, I got out of bed and readied myself for the drive to the farm. Brooklyn is unsavory at four on a Sunday morning. Still so many people up, yet those who rise early are also about. There is more traffic on the highways than one imagines at that hour. I could relax, however, by the time I made it to Nassau County, and then the road was nearly empty by central Suffolk County, before this part of the Earth rolled into the visible rays of the sun.

Driving through the Hamptons was also a quite hospitable at 5:30 in the morning. Every place I usually turn to for breakfast was still closed on a Sunday morning, but thankfully the chatty, vibrant ladies of Hampton Coffee were open for business before 6 am. And, for those interested, their restroom was spotless.

All was covered in early morning dew.

Hard not to notice the elephant garlic scapes as they rocket to the sky.

The plan is to market these to local florists. Any florists in the house? At what stage are they most appealing -open, closed, half-way?

Generally the field looked better than I imagined given the report from my farming neighbor stating that my field was a pond. The surface water had 24 hours to drain since the last of the rain, and all had from the cultivated rows.

The weeds and the clover cover I planted had grown as expected in the three days since my last visit. Everything, but the garlic, was significantly taller.

At the edge of this year's plot the water still stood.

At the northern extent of my field the water was a few inches deep and the weeds acclimated to the soggy soil made themselves known. I slogged through the mow cut, hardly making it as my boots sunk ankle deep in the mire. I then crossed to the adjacent lower field that had recently been cultivated. A real nightmire.

The field had received nearly 5 inches of rain in 24 hours. That's nearly a month and a half's worth in one-forty-fifth the time. But that doesn't make it any less of a problem for growing a crop that generally accepts dry soil conditions. I can only hope that this soggy condition doesn't exacerbate this spring's growing problems.  I'm also not sure that I can make use of the northern third of my field for garlic. I'll have to work with the Trust to find an equitable solution, possibly drier land.

Checking on flood damage was only one reason to head to the farm. The reason I left so early was to be able to harvest garlic scapes to deliver to my neighboring farm for this week's farmers' market. He needed them by 7 am, and as luck would have it, we both arrived at the gate at exactly the same moment. Unfortunately he had a hard time selling them. Apparently there isn't much taste for the garlic vegetable in the Hamptons. I hope he has better luck at his Thursday market. I also cut 5 pounds (250 scapes) for shipment to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture kitchen. Scape season will be on for another 3 weeks and I hope I can sell more, lest they become compost.

Scape cutting was finished by 8 am, so the remainder of the day belonged to weeding punctuated by breaks designed to alternate from my weeding posture. I walked to the edge of the field and I spotted a remnant of an old plot. Evidently used for growing herbs, it had chamomile flowers, culinary sage, thyme, bronze fennel, and some purple lettuce.

I also discovered this bed of strawberries.

I bumped into a turtle crossing the road. They are such funny and cute creatures.

And I noticed peas growing in the wheat.

Unfortunately, the East Coast just endured yet another bout of heavy rains, only two days since the passing of the last event. The field in Amagansett received 2 inches of rain on top of the five of Friday. Hudson Clove has been socked with all kinds of difficulties this season, but most can be tackled throughh better soil preparation, including grading and amending to compensate for wet soil. After harvest I will be able to concentrate on the good work of preparing the land for next season. Proper liming, adding gypsum, compost, turning under the summer buckwheat crop, contouring for better drainage. That's about all I can do without moving to another field. With luck I will be able to plant some of my garlic in November, but it's too soon to tell. Although I planned to do this to increase my yields and acclimate the planting stock, I may have to buy a significant portion of my planting stock this season to make up for losses. This practice will greatly add to my costs and at some point becomes a deal breaker. 

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