Are we toast ?

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                     August 4th, 2013       

 How’s that for a change in the weather ? This is my kind of weather, but warm season vegetables are not liking it. To make a living at this I  need stinking hot weather in the end of July in and into early August. We had several mornings with temps in the mid 40s. Chilly. Temperatures like these are typical for September.  I suppose that it is too late to get off the weather roller coaster.

 As you probably guessed it has been a busy couple of weeks.  Our crew has been hard at it cultivating, mowing, hoeing, and hand weeding, making a big push to keep weeds from going to seed.  Even if the weeds are not going to impact this years crop, we don’t need to add to the weed seed bank.

 The weather has been absolutely beautiful, so we have been busy watering.  Tiny seedlings  and any plant that is setting fruit  needs water. If we water all day long every day, we can keep up with the veggies when it does not rain. Everyone here is hoping it rains tonight.

 Last weekend we had a crop mob. They weeded and  trellised tomatoes and pole beans. We had several CSA members show up, a lot of crop mob regulars, and several new people. Tracy provided lunch as she usually does. I have no idea how to thank these people for the work they do and the support that they provide. I am very grateful that they do it.

 Next Saturday ( August 10th) is the Minnesota Garlic Festival. It is a celebration of local food, crafts, and farms.  The festival is a fund raiser for our Sustainable Farming chapter. The money lets us promote (real) sustainable agriculture ,  F2S,  and to try new ways to get everyone involved in understanding why good food is important.

 Come to the festival.  Support our vendors. Eat in the Great ‘Scape Cafe. Sample local wine and beer. Build a kite. Buy some garlic. Play a game of bocce. Volunteer and get in for free. Subtle, right ? Actually, the woman who was doing our volunteer recruiting had a death in her family and has had to step back. If you can volunteer for a couple hours let me know.  Be forewarned: If you volunteer for the Cafe, we will work you mercilessly and no one only works a two hour shift. You do get free admission and your choice of meals at the Cafe.  Other shifts are not so intense and you still get in for free and a meal in the cafe.

 We had been hand pollinating the zucchini. A lot of the small zukes were dropping their flower and shriveling up. Usually that is caused by lack of pollination. Hand pollinating helps, but the bees are better at it than we are. Next time I’m going to try using pollen from two or three male flowers and see if the results are better.

 It turns out that the chilly mornings are also causing the zucchini to abort. When the temperature is below 55º at night the pollen tubes quit growing and the tiny zukes are not pollinated.

 I didn’t think much about the bees and colony collapse disorder until we had to hand pollinate the zucchini. Last year we would find a bee or two in every squash flower. This year we may find three in a whole row.  Loss of pollinators takes on a lot more significance when 1/3 of our food is pollinated by bees and there aren’t enough bees to pollinate our zucchini and cucumbers.

 There aren’t many squash bugs, cabbage moths, or cucumber beetles this year either.  A dearth of pests is not something that I would usually complain about, but a die-off of insects could be a real problem. Bugs are pretty tough. If they are not making it, what does that mean for us ?

 Stalled weather patterns  have been bringing us some of the extremes that  have been so troublesome this year.  The never ending winter, the rain every other day  in June,  sudden intense heat and humidity,  record breaking 40º lows in the end of July….  Did you hear about the lake that formed at the North Pole ?

 Last year the apple and garlic crops were ruined by bizarre weather.  We all know about this year.

 I used to be concerned about that our grandchildren would have a hard time coping with the glocal  climate changes that are happening. I’m starting to think that we may have a hard time dealing with the new weather patterns, such as they are.   

 Hopefully we will be able to adapt quickly enough to survive these changes.  Of course that means that you and I have to change the way that we do things. Really.