TODAY a spring that has flowed every day of my life thus far, ran dry. This spring is marked on old land deeds from cattle ranchers many decades ago; it is a staple of great importance to us, providing water for household use. There are two small springs that support 5 households; one has gone dry and the other is very low. We are rationing water use to the bare minimum and praying for rain.
In my 36 years, I have never seen a fall so dry. The wildfire that is rampaging to the East of us is a grim and visceral reminder that climate change has arrived. The time has come for concerted efforts by both the public and private sectors to address climate change by engaging in aggressive cuts to fossil fuel use and massive efforts towards carbon sequestration programs through regenerative farming practices. We need more focus on renewable sources of energy and we need to ramp up methodologies that help plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
It is a strange feeling to experience the landscape being so dry in the middle of November. There is no rain in sight on the NOAA forecast, which I check each morning in hope of predicted precipitation. The ag pond is low and we have restricted irrigation and rationed household water; we await the rain.
I am a creature of habit, and have come to enjoy the ritual of writing the newsletter each Sunday evening. The process involves a natural reflection about the week that has just gone by; a moment for absorption and consideration. It helps me to gather lessons and offers an opportunity for organizing my thinking. I check in with my various theoretical pathways and the action items on my social change agenda.
Looking back on the things we’ve done on the farm each week offers a chance to gather information and store goals for future progress. Each trip around the sun we refine our process; this winter we hope to continue the practice of articulating our methodologies into work binders that describe tasks and operations on the farm. The old saying “a failure to plan is a plan to fail” rings in my head as I look to strategic planning for next year. We are creating budgets, considering compliance requirements and looking at crop plans. Soon we’ll be ordering seeds and beginning the journey anew.
We planted out several hundred kale and kohlrabi starts that have been ravaged by hungry bird populations. The dry weather means there is less abundance of shoots growing, and more pressure on our vegetable starts. I covered them with quick-hoops and floating row cover today to help provide an opportunity for them to recover, thinking to myself that I should have done so in the first place.
We use the thick frost blanket made by either Agribon or Remay; the thinner stuff breathes better and lets in more light, but it is too fragile and tears too easily. We re-use the spun row fabric season after season, and we prize the thicker stuff for its durability. Ten foot lengths of ½” metal conduit are bent to form hoops that will keep the row cover up off of the plants, providing them a chance to get bigger. T-posts hold down the edges of the row cover after it is placed over the hoops, keeping the wind from blowing it off.
The lack of air movement in these low tunnels can be problematic, especially when the weather is warm and dry. We will see how things progress, there will likely be a lot of “take the cover off”, “put the cover back on”, depended on the temperature fluctuations and bird presence. Hopefully the plants will spring back, although we are approaching the time when little growth will happen. Plants will remain in stasis for the dark months of December and January and then will begin to move again as February nears. We will also try to spend some time in stasis, resting and recovering energy from a long season, that we may go forth anew as the sun returns. As always, it is a joy to share the journey, much love and appreciation! 🙂
Casey O’Neill co-operates HappyDay Farms, a micro-diversified farm in northern Mendocino County, California. His family raises two acres of Sun&Earth and DEMPure Certified vegetables, poultry and medical cannabis in a small-farm setting while working towards sustainability. He is stoked about sharing food, medicine and cultivation techniques with others. He is passionate about representing small farmers and works to support Mendocino County policy-makers in crafting sensible regulations. You can find his radio show on podcast at HappyDay Farms - Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or Soundcloud.