why farmers don’t vacation…

…at least in the summertime.

Coming back to the field this morning was, erm, ahem, <choke>, a bit of a shock. There was good news, and there was bad news.

I’m a realist. Let’s start with the bad.

First of all, in two weeks, dawn has changed noticeably. Emmett and I arrived on the field at 5 a.m. in the pitch black, figuring we were just a bit before the blue stage of the morning — and that, at any moment, dawn would grab hold of the horizon with her rosy fingers and illuminate the greens for our timely harvest.

Newsflash: in San Francisco on August 16, the sun doesn’t rise until 6:25 a.m. Which means that civil twilight (when the sun is within six degrees of the horizon, aka “bright twilight”) doesn’t get going until 6. Which means we were yanking, washing, and sorting beets, not to mention harvesting chard, when it was utterly, absolutely, one hundred percent dark. Also: truck headlights do not work very well as a light source. They tend to blind you, and cast all sorts of horrible shadows which make it exceptionally difficult to actually distinguish the vegetables you’re picking from one another. We only had one headlamp between the two of us. The going was slow.

The next bad news came with the dawn (aka, when we could actually see things). The salad we’d sown three weeks earlier has barely germinated. Where we had expected to see densely-packed, decently-sized leaves ready for next weekend’s harvest, there were only tiny, itsy-bitsy lettucelets sparsely strewn across the damp earth. And the only harvestable salad (one that had been in seedling stage before we left) was bolting.

Crouching down to the overgrown lettuce, Emmett announced, “I’m going to cut like there’s no tomorrow.”

I interrupted. “…because there isn’t one for the salad?”

Emmett grimaced. “Because it’s really big, and it needs to be cut back.”

I mentally estimated the cost of our lack of harvestable lettuce. For this weekend’s markets, we’ll have lettuce (salvaged from the patch that was partly bolting), but next weekend we won’t. We make, conservatively, $200 a week off our lettuce and baby brassica mixes. So by the time we get our salad rotation back up and going — it’ll take another three weeks minimum — that’s a $600 loss to tack on to the cost of our “vacation.” (We did some non-farm work on our vacation, and family reunions aren’t exactly “vacations” anyway…)

That loss was a lot to swallow that early in the morning. Still, the worst news came from the corn patch, when we tried to determine whether or not the corn was ripe.

Emmett wrested an ear of corn from its stalk, and gently pulled back the silk. The kernels were still slightly transparent and watery-looking, suggesting the ear wasn’t quite ready yet. Emmett shucked the rest of it anyway just to try a taste — revealing two fat green bastard worms chowing down on our pre-natal, organic, well-watered, well-tended, well-fertilized corn.

We went to a different plant, a different ear, and pulled back a bit of its silk — revealing another fat bug.

“Well, I guess this is all chicken feed,” Emmett said. He shrugged. “Crop failure.” Matter-of-fact destruction: It was just that kind of morning. (Our chicks, by the way, will arrive Wednesday. Perfect timing, right?)

Emmett flicked off the green bastards off the first ear, and we each gingerly took a bite far away from where the grubs had been dining. Not even Emmett — a true king of eating disgusting things — would eat the rest of the damaged ear. I don’t have a problem with buying spotted apples, cracked tomatoes, or funky three-legged carrots. But there’s no way I would buy wormy corn, so there’s no way I’m selling it.

Was there good news? Right, I’ll get to that part tomorrow.

-Lynda

p.s. — OK, this morning I mentioned I was going to snazz up the blog. Here’s the plan: I’ll comb through the daily online media onslaught and try to find relevant articles about local food, organic agriculture, pastured poultry, integrated pest management — whatever seems relevant. Then I’ll post links for you guys to peruse, so this blog won’t just be about Foggy River Farm, it’ll also be a portal for all kinds of interesting farm news.

I’m also going to (once I plant some salad, stake tomatoes, and generally catch up on the farmwork) try to offer more complete, detailed instructions for planting and maintaining some of my favorite, most successful crops. Which, as of now, does not include corn!

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3 Comments

Filed under Farm Tales

3 responses to “why farmers don’t vacation…

  1. Bruce

    Hi – just found your website/blog, and am enjoying it very much. With regard to the corn worm, it is certainly my expectation to find worms in organically-grown corn (which is all that I purchase). Seems like they are more prevalent later in the season. So unless the worms are eating most of the ear, I don’t think you should be reluctant to sell these (I would just post a sign advising customers of the presence of the worms, and let them decide). We have a bird feeder, and I treat the birds with any worms that I find.

  2. I’m always into discussions on anything organic, so this read made me feel at home.
    I’ll bookmark the site and subscribe to the feed!

  3. farming101

    Thanks for the advice! We did just that, and we sold almost all of the corn… although we tried to give customers a good deal, throwing in an extra ear just in case the worms had eaten too much. (In some cases, they’d gone pretty far down the ear.)

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