Got back this afternoon from a VERY soppy farmer’s market day, which followed a VERY soppy week in general. We managed to make some sales at market this morning, but it felt like I spent most of the second half pushing rain up off our market tent so it didn’t collapse from water weight. At one point, the released water landed on me rather than on the ground, and Anabel asked: “Mama, is that a shower?” Nope, Anabel, not a shower.
Let’s just say that I was glad to get home and into dry sweatpants. I thought briefly about having Tim take a picture of me in my sopping wet clothes before getting changed, but I wasn’t really in the mood.
All of this rain has been intense. I don’t know what the weather’s like in your part of the world, but here in Virginia it suddenly feels like we live in a rainy-season climate. For at least the past week, every day has been super humid. We might start out with relatively clear skies, but then afternoon brings a daily deluge (as in a good couple of inches in less than an hour), followed by a reprieve before starting the whole cycle over again.
I’m certainly not a climate scientist, but from what I have heard, climate change may well bring more rain (and intense rain at that), to our part of the world. While other areas will have to deal with droughts and desertification, our new reality might include a lot more weeks like the one we just had.
At this point in the week, it’s a depressing thought. But let’s be real–climate change is depressing. I’m still holding out a tiny bit of hope that we stubborn humans can respond and at least slow down climate change’s progression, but I also know that we’re all going to need to learn to adapt and cope with new weather patterns and a new climate reality.
As farmers and homesteaders, we may feel pressed to adapt and cope a little earlier the than others. Tim and I have already begun to think of future spring and summer seasons, wondering if they’re going to be more often than not like this one. As market gardeners, what crops will do okay with this kind of intense rain? What kind of methods or tools can we use to cope with over-saturated ground and water run-off?
We’re feeling thankful that the farming methods we’ve shifted towards already seem to be helping us. Our raised beds have been a crop-saver, pushing rainfall and run-off–for the most part–into the aisles instead of the beds where our crops are growing.
Our tarping system, where we cover up a spent bed with silage tarps and allow the tarps to break down any germinating weed seeds and remaining crop matter, has allowed us to continue planting without needing to till into wet ground. Even our size has helped us. When the ground is too wet for tractor cultivating implements or even for cultivating hoes, hand-weeding less than 1/3 of an acre is a lot more reasonable than doing the same thing on even an acre.
So we’re feeling like we’re headed in the right direction in terms of adaptive vegetable-farming techniques. But certainly these methods aren’t full-proof. They won’t help us much should the creek flood it’s banks or rain-induced fungus completely take over our crops. And a lot of times it’s less our methods and more sheer luck that helps us. A thunderstorm misses us but hits a farm a few miles east; our soil drains better than someone whose land so happens to have soil with higher clay content.
Already, we’ve got some dynamics at play that are outside our control. A neighbor up the hill has been doing some kind of serious excavating over the past little while. And it seems to have led to a veritable river arising during rainstorms, rushing down the hill and along the edge of our gardens. We’ve had some good wash-out and nearly-drowned seedlings thanks to this river.
Part of our coping and adapting, then, may mean needing to strike up some awkward conversations with the neighbor and attempting to think together as a community about how we can live differently on our land in light of new weather patterns.
I’m ready for sunshine, and it looks like we just might get some next week. But as ready as I am to move on from rain, I’m wondering if maybe this recent weather has been a good reality check. A good kick in the butt to acknowledge the reality that we as humans have helped to create; to figure out ways of coping with this reality together; and to move forward with eyes towards a reality that perhaps could be different.
Whelp, guess I’ll sign off now. It’s raining again.