Thursday, July 19, 2007

My first CSA anxiety dream

I had my first CSA anxiety dream last night, as the share bags have been dwindling. In part due to the drought we're experiencing and in part because all those beautiful spring lettuces took up so much space. I try to keep that in perspective, but perspective is difficult in the face of drought effects. Our only saving grace is that it's been raining to the north, south and west of us, so the underground water sources are still holding their own—not great, but not yet dire.

This photo represents 3 shares worth of food, though the potatoes and zucchini were divided into 4. Even the hens are laying about 6 fewer eggs a day than normal due to the heat, which has thrown at least three of them into a molt from what I can tell. This week's share was similar but thankfully a bit bigger as the beans and tomatoes have begun producing: minus the potatoes and with fewer lettuces and adding into the mix an acorn squash, more tomatoes, more royal burgandy beans, cherokee pole beans, chioggia beets, and a bulb of hardneck garlic.

I think folks have been happy with the shares and certainly the one you see here was our barest as we transitioned from spring to summer produce. The anxiety stems from my end—seeing all the drought-stressed plants, watching thunderstorms roll right by, and wondering what the next share will be as many of our succession plantings fail to germinate without rain. I can't and won't water irresponsibly off our well, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage against the big CSAs in the area with their fancy irrigation equipment. Here, it's just little old me, a couple of 55 gallon drums, and a husband sweet enough to help me after a long day at work and a grueling commute home. We're both having a hard time keeping our spirits up as we watch crop after crop suffer and yields drop dramatically. I should be having extra shares to sell by this point, but we're barely holding our own with just our six member families.

Folks around here got a scant first hay cutting, and no one even has the possibility of a second cutting. One local guy got only 30 square bales off 10 acres of alfalfa. The lady we buy our beef from who has just shy of 400 acres and I don't know how many head of cattle and generally produces all her own hay and grain on premises has finally found enough hay to get her through the winter and is looking at a $10,000 bill. She says even the Mennonites are at the sale barns looking for hay—a very bad sign if they can't find enough within their own community. Farmers in our area are hurting, badly, and that story's being sung across the country, just with some different lyrics. The weather's been brutal this year, no doubt.

So, I awoke early this morning in the midst of a dream that was very clearly an anxiety dream...

It was Thanksgiving day, and our family had arrived. Apparently I'd been so busy that I hadn't taken a turkey out to defrost, so I was trying to cook one of our turkeys while it was still frozen. Our heritage birds weigh between 10-12 lbs, and I will cook 2 for our Thanksgiving of six people because folks in my family really like the leftovers. So in my dream, all I had was one frozen turkey, and next thing I know all these people show up—apparently neighbors, all of whom I now need to figure out how to feed off the one frozen, 12 lb turkey. I woke up in the middle of the dream, as the kids were trashing the house and refusing to go downstairs to play, and I was beginning to drink heavily....


Madeline said...

That IS a nightmare. So is not being able to count on irrigation for your crops. We have had a drought as well (just where we are, not around us) and had to count on our well water. I'm curious as to how you define irresponsible well usage for yourself. You have put so much energy into this, I can't imagine letting your crops diminish at all when you can irrigate. I am so impressed with your huge steps towards sustainability and leaving no footprint in every area of your life. You are way ahead of us. And I have list envy - you have almost checked off everything on your list and your's is about huge farm goals where my unfinished list is pertaining to things like buying a bra. You're the Rockin' Woman. Like I said.

Jenny said...

I second that! All of it. Couldn't you give yourself a break and hit some of the rows with a soaker hose? I've had to do that a couple times between ditch water deliveries this summer. We are finally getting some rain now--had a good one yesterday--but we were hot and dry for 6 weeks solid without a drop. Indeed, our well is solar pumped, but even with your electric pump I think a good soaking is justified.

(((hugs))) your way and sending rainy thoughts Eastward. Hang in there--it's all a learning experience and you will get through it. And your members will roll with it too!

Danielle said...

Thanks guys. We started irrigating the tomatoes a couple weeks ago and began with some of the crops in the market garden not long after. We have some soaker hoses set up in the cucurbits that we can hook up to the barrels and gravity feed overnight because they're on a nice gentle slope. We've also begun hand watering the beans and corn directly at the roots with a ring turned upside down, but again with the barrels that we tractor out to the garden. I'm heading out this week to see if I can get some more hoses and rig something up.

How do I define irresponsible water usage? Well, our neighbors all pull off the same underground water source we do, only our neighbor's directly next door have a much shallower well than we do. So, in large part I feel like I'm not only making the decision for myself but also for them.

So, I'm picking and choosing very carefully what I water, when, and how often. Potatoes haven't gotten any irrigation, neither have the sunflowers or most of the fruit crops. None of the plants in the upper garden ever get irrigated, and I have no idea how many of the 100 raspberry transplants will actually make it through to next year. Many of the succession planting beds haven't been watered to help the seeds sprout, so they sit bare. I just have a hard time feeling justified in using water every day to try to get them to pop when they may or may not make it all the way to maturity before frosts set in. I haven't been able to water the onions, or the carrots, or the garlic, or the horseradish, so some aren't growing very well, or have already died back or will most likely be bitter. :-/

It's a catch-22: if we didn't have a drought, I wouldn't need to water, but watering as if we have no drought, seems irresponsible. Years like this have ramifications and not all crops will succeed, plain and simple. That's all part of it, and at the end of the day, I need to be able to look my neighbors in the eye.

As Jenny said, much of this is a learning experience. There are folks that want to irrigate pastures; that to me seems foolhardy. There will be lean years and years of plenty, and that's part of nature's rhythm. I'll learn which varieties succeed on less water, which don't, and I'll be sure to have extras of the drought-tolerant varieties to plant next year.

Christy was here today, and we were talking about what would happen in this kind of weather two hundred years ago, for instance, and how people would make it through the winter. I looked around and said they'd be very thankful for their livestock and for hunting.