It's so hot and sticky. The humidity just hangs around the fields creating a bacteria and fungus cesspool. The bugs love it! It's a breeding and feeding bonanza. The weeds are happy too. They've steadily adapted to take advantage of these weather conditions. They grow so fast that they quickly get to seed before I can blink. Our plants grow super fast in this weather too—that is if they survive the soggy cesspool and the pest-breeding bonanza...
This time last year I broke down and figured organic farming in the south was impossible. It's just so defeating to watch everything you've built begin to wilt and die. It's as if this tiny thread of control you've been hanging on to through July just snaps under the weight of overgrown weeds.
That's the thing about farming; control is an illusion. I never had it and I'm definitely not getting it back anytime soon. But, as long as I'm planting new, bright, healthy babies under a big blue sky full of sunshine it feels possible. Then, there's this thick, damp, heavy sky of August under which even the baby seedlings coming out of the greenhouse look sick and tired. It's like the weather and the burnout team up on my subconscious until I'm sure this rock will never make it up the hill.
So, just for the sake of venting, here are the things that are the most frustrating:
- I have no idea what to do about the bugs. Organic sprays suck. Rotation is good, but really hard to manage in terms of getting plants far enough away to make a real difference, particularly when you plant as many successions of crops as we do. Where can I put them to protect them?
- Row cover is the devil. I can't win for losing with this stuff. Some moments I feel like it's magic—it definitely helps mitigate bug damage on small plants and I feel better under the illusion of protection. But then I pull it off and realize I'm just growing weeds. It also blocks light and traps in heat which seem to significantly increase loses from transplanting. Not to mention the labor costs of putting it up and taking it down constantly.. But maybe I'm just doing it wrong??
- The disease factor seems impossible. I have no recourse against the spread of disease under these weather conditions. It's just a perfect petri dish for dastardly microbes.
OK, now that I've got that out of my system, here's why I'm not giving up:
- I've built an awesome team. Nina and McCain are rockstars. Having them on the farm learning with me, struggling with me, and experiencing the woes and joys of farming with me is so gratifying. And Bobby is coming back too!
- I'll never stop loving and appreciating the physical work of being outside everyday. The intense connection with the land, these plants, this dirt, and even these dreaded bugs is rewarding. We're building something great!
- I know I'm (slowly) becoming a better farmer. Every hurdle is a new lesson and even though there are definitely repeat mistakes, I can see progress. The fields look better now than they did this time last year and I can only trust that they'll be even stronger this time next year.
So, I guess that's it, a little pep-talk to myself: keep it up, we're doing great, one way or the other this little farm is going to thrive!