Tucker, swimming out our driving lane to inspect the mayhem. It's nothing like this spring's flooding, but it's high enough that Cara was mid-hip in places.
Yesterday afternoon, as the storm was winding down into a dismal grey funk from the howling deluge we'd had earlier, the phone rang. It was a farming friend from Columbia County calling to check in and see how we were doing with the rain and flooding. It's not like any of us can do anything to help each other when Mother Nature gets cross, but there's some solace in sharing. The creek at his place hadn't quite come out of its banks, but he shared the bad news that several of our other farming friends were sitting under a foot or more of flood water. Getting ponded with rain is bad, but when a creek or river floods a vegetable field, it renders most crops unsaleable, and brings huge disease pressure to the ones remaining. Depending on the crop, those farmers might have gotten some or even all of the harvest to market by now... but for others, they're right at the sour point where all the season's resources had gone into something that was nearly marketable, and now those expenses are just soaking in river mud, waiting to drain away.
At the time of this conversation yesterdat, I had just come back from a walk through our fields. Yes, there was horrible ponding all over the place... but with a full six inches of rain in less than 24 hours, that's normal. The river, though, was scary high, and definitely above flood stage. The only question was, would it go up or down, and by how much? As it got dark we had a friend over for dinner, enjoyed some warm company, and tried not to worry.
This morning the sun broke clean and clear, with none of the fog and mist we so often get here at Quincy Farm. And the river was UP.
We went down to check it out and had to strip out of our pants and wade across to the higher ground. As of this morning, NOAA was calling for a peak at 96 feet, which is a full six feet of flood water... counted after the river had risen a good 5 or 6 feet to reach flood stage from its normal mid-summer level.
As of this morning, this is the only spot the flooding is actually up onto the veggies. These carrots are junk. Luckily, the beds on either side were already harvested, and the floodwater just barely got into the fourth bed... yet.
Things are not good... but they're not horrible. As I type this, the river is right at the balancing point where it could screw us or go back down. It's way, way, way out of the ditches, but has just barely come up out of its banks directly onto the field. It's swamped some of our carrots and a little of the brussels sprouts, but that's all. To be sure, the rest of the carrots are very unhappy with their saturated muck beds, but if the river goes back down they ought to hopefully be alright and not rot. Aside from the flood, though, the 65+ mph rain has destroyed most of the lettuce on the farm--it all looks like someone shot it with a pressure washer... so even though those beds aren't underwater, the product is likely not salvageable. Pretty much everything that isn't trellised has blown over, but most of it should perk up with some sun, and we're prepared to go trellis the lodged eggplants and peppers as soon as we can get a vehicle out there with supplies.
Arugula and a lot of just-transplanted fall broccoli has very wet feet, but isn't actually flooded. The clover in the background is experiencing some pretty heavy ponding, though.
The 8 acres of mixed clover we have down as a cover crop isn't going to be happy with all the ponding... but that's why we sowed the mix: yellow clover is a stronger cover, sending down deep aggressive tap-roots to open up subsoil, but isn't too tolerant of flooding. Red clover is less aggressive, but much more tolerant of flooding. So hopefully we'll hold onto some decent amount of something there.
All there is to do now is wait, fingers crossed, and hope that the river goes down, and soon. With a forecast of sunny weather all week, if the water table drops a bit then the crops that aren't actually submerged should be salvageable and we can move forward with the season. Rough as it is, we're keeping our heads up and being grateful that things weren't worse.
But jeez--what a first year.
Edit: At 1:30pm Tucker and I went back down to reinvestigate. NOAA says the river has crested, but they must be asleep at the switch or something, because it's obviously still rising. The Hudson has topped its bank into the field pretty badly, swamping at least part of a lot of crops. At this point, every inch is critical. While I was down there, I also saw a ~30 foot piece of floating dock drift by, with the patio furniture still set up on it! Maybe a boatload of money will wash up in our fennel? A man can hope.
100% junk. Thanks, Irene.
Thankfully a lot of this isn't in veggies right now. Won't be good for our infant clover mix under there, though...
It'd be beautiful if it wasn't a crop field. This was Tuesday night as the water was (finally) receding.
...and some days, the bear eats you.
It's August. It's racing season in Saratoga and Cara's working 4 shifts a week, trying to stockpile funds. I'm still taking days in the city as an electrician (had a doozy of an 18 hour day the other week, before counting the commute!). And of course, we're trying to run this farm. And we're supposed to get married here in a handful of weeks. And did I mention it's August?
Despite the fact that we're hanging on by the very last shreds of super deep reserve energy we didn't even know we had, Cara and I both feel like we're over the hump and control is in sight. The days are shorter and shorter, which means fewer workable hours but also fewer weed-growing hours. We're running out of energy, but so are other things. We can talk optimistically about getting caught up (even if we're still doing triage on the to-do list). I finally found us an affordable chisel plow, which I've been searching for since January. The tomatoes and pepper and eggplants are finally coming in, and we're getting nothing but great feedback at our markets, and we're meeting our targets for the business.
Every time we feel like we're getting our balance, though, something pops up: First, we had a surprise visit from a particularly nasty bug that is threatening to destroy our otherwise thriving winter squash. Even conventional guys have few defenses to this one, and we're hard-pressed to save things. Then our hard-drive fried itself (which I hadn't backed up in months, because I didn't want to leave the backup drive connected to protect it from surges and lightning). Amazingly we were able to salvage enough information off it to keep moving, though a lot of our applications are wacked out now. The guy at the "genius" bar showed me how to make our computer run entirely off an external hard-drive, so it's a nearly seamless fix and hugely cheaper than a new computer.
The clincher, though, came this afternoon--I'd been in the van all day on a mix of highway and back roads, hauling a borrowed trailer to pick up this new chisel plow and a load of fall cover crop seeds. At the end of this long high speed day, mostly on I-90 and in heavy traffic with the commuters, as I was backing into position here on the farm to unload the plow... I stepped on the brake, heard a loud PSSSST!, and lost the brakes entirely. A quick inspection showed brake fluid pouring from two different ruptures, one in the front circuit and and another in the rear. I haven't yet figured out how or why it blew two spots at once... and am terrified of a more complex problem that over-pressurized the system, making it a more difficult and expensive fix...
While it's hard to be happy about a massive brake failure on the only market vehicle on a vegetable farm in August, I'm keeping in mind how absolutely more horrible it would have been to suddenly lose all brakes at 65mph on the highway with a loaded trailer.
Now, having been up since 4, I'm headed back out to the shop to soak everything in PB Blaster before turning in for the night. Tomorrow I'll wrestle with Chucho's rusty brakes instead of doing my obligatory half-day-a-week of wedding planning, then we'll either rent a van for this week's markets or run to the DMV and plate/title/register the 82 F250 we have sitting out by the barn... and then I somehow need to return this trailer that was so kindly lent to me.
While this brake thing has very definitely trashed any hope we had of getting on top of things, at the end of the day, I think that we ate the bear on this one... but it was a tough, nasty, over-cooked bear. I would've much preferred a BLT.