What a difference a year can make.
In mid April 2012 we had been in the field for a month already, planting peas, leaf lettuce and radishes. The garlic was a foot tall. Blossoms were appearing in the strawberries(!). And perhaps most important, unbeknownst to us the subsoil was as dry as it had been in a generation; the seeds of drought were well sown by early May 2012.
Now flash forward to April 2013. Mud, mud and mud, with more rain and sleet forecast for the end of the week. Snow drifts still melting at the edges of fields. Nothing growing. Tractors and equipment idled in the yard waiting to get busy in the field. And a greenhouse full to bursting with transplants- hundreds of thousands of them- that should have been in the ground weeks ago.
It’s a stresser, to be sure, but I must admit this: I’m more comfortable with a wet, late start to the season than a hot, dry early one. This particular year we need the deep soaking that we’re getting more than ever (many of you remember me lamenting the lack of precipitation in January). And the transplants will catch up eventually, more or less; a week’s delay in April planting will most likely translate into a couple of days’ later maturity in June.
The big picture is of course very disturbing. Disrupted climate will make everything we do in upper Midwest horticulture all the more difficult to predict (and therefore to succeed with). But we farmers are usually too preoccupied with the weather day-to-day to worry TOO much (for better or for worse!).
Meanwhile we have a number of interesting and exciting things going on in the shop and office at Featherstone Farm. The late start has given us (mercifully) more time than ever to prepare equipment for the field. We’re busy hiring and orienting new folks for work in the office and machine shop. And we’re conducting management level trainings for the Gasca brothers (field foremen), who this year will be called on to run things more professionally and efficiently than ever before. When we’re finally in the field planting, I’m confident we will be better prepared than we’ve ever been in 16+ seasons at Featherstone Farm.
The chill that lingers in my bones from a cold March has kept me from getting too excited about the coming season, even as its start is just around the corner. It just doesn’t feel like spring. But I know that all this will change shortly. A few days of warm south wind and we’ll be out tilling ground, spreading compost and making seed beds. That familiar tingle of anticipation will be there as I jump out of bed in the morning. And all that we have worked on all winter- from the tractor tune-ups to the tractor driver trainings- will all be let loose and tested in the field.
It’s a wonderful feeling, the return of spring. And being able to ease into it slowly and with plenty of moisture, as we are this spring, is as good a way to savor it as any.
As always, all of us at Featherstone Farm look forward to providing you with the very best, certified organic produce all season. Thanks so much for your support, past present and future!!