Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Severe Weather Event….Again

By Richard DeWilde

Well here we go again!  Another severe weather event, the third in 3 years.  This is starting to look like an annual event!  What started in 2007, 12 inches in 24 hours, was called at the time a “100 year event.”  Meteorologists no longer refer to 50 or 100 year events, because they now appear to be annual events!

Jack weathering out the storms Tuesday night at Richard's
feet, all snug in a comforting denim shirt.
So what is it like for us to deal with such an event?!  On Monday night it started to rain with possible “heavy rain” in the forecast.  It rained and rained, our weather man referred to it as a “trailer,” new to me but meaning that the band of showers did not just pass through, but the tail end continued to build into heavy showers for 12 hours!  I dumped the rain gauge at 10 PM, emptying 4.5 inches.  I tried to sleep, but our sweet dog Jack kept waking us to adjust his blanket covering because he was terrified by the constant thunder and lightning.  So after a troubled sleep, we rose before dawn to assess the damage.  By morning the total rainfall had risen to 8 inches rain in less than 12 hours.

From past events, the obvious first thing to check is the animal fencing that crosses the creek.  Yep, they were washed out!  Angel and Juan Pablo were here at the first light of dawn to contain our animals.  As of Tuesday night the pigs are in the corral, their two creek fences still not complete.  The cows are all accounted for and contained, but much more fencing work is needed!

One of our field roads off of Wire Hollow Road , completely
washed out from the storm.
Now, on to harvest!  Our pre-dawn assessment found that no fields were accessible.  River and creek crossings, roads to bench fields and the dry washes were all plugged with rock and debris.  We canceled morning harvest, pulled every skilled operator and utilized every piece of equipment to spend the morning fixing roads and our yard to make them passable while the rest of the crew worked in the packing shed and greenhouses to pack things harvested the previous day and worked on trimming and cleaning onions and shallots for storage.

In the afternoon, we loaded up the harvest wagons to resume harvest. Unfortunately, the rain started just as the crews were heading to the field.  It was a wet, muddy afternoon, but we were able to pick peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and tomatillos in the on again/off again rain!  We had to fix some of the tomato trellises that had tipped over with the soggy soil.  Not the most fun day of harvest, but the product was fine and the crew got it done.

Large branches and other debris from the dry wash just down
the road from the field road pictured above.
A disappointing moment in the day was the field report from the corn harvest crew.  We’ve worked very hard to grow the very best crops of corn we have ever grown this year.  Sadly, they found the remaining corn was tipped over from wind and saturated soil that couldn’t support the stalks anymore.  The crop scheduled for picking this week as well as our next and final crop, flattened!  They were and will be able to pick some of it for this week and we’re crossing our fingers that the last crop might perk up with a few sunny days.  Also on that farm, they found all of our beautiful sunchoke stalks laying flat as well.  Argh!

Greens?  We delayed harvest until Wednesday morning because the leaves showed signs of being  water-soaked.  Based on our prior experience, the plant usually recovers from this, but needs some hours of dry weather preferably with sun before we resume harvest.

Vincente blading a washed out field road.
Everything we harvested is muddy and needs to be washed.  No worries, we know how to do that.  Tuesday evening still a steady rain, another “trailer!”  The old “normal” weather, gone, prepare for the worst!  As we finish up this article on Wednesday morning, we’re thankful for blue skies and sunshine.  The crews are back in the fields and we’re preparing to pack the CSA boxes for our Twin Cities members.  We’re making plans to continue the cleanup and will revisit the berms and ditches that failed or were damaged.  We’ll put things back together, build the berms higher and clean out the ditches.  We can’t quit--We have families to feed!

Our changing weather patterns are for real, and I don’t see this erratic weather going away anytime soon.  Should we transition to inside, greenhouse production?  Can we really curb the excess atmospheric carbon and stabilize our climate?  That would be preferable!  The technology is there for clean energy, clean cars, and carbon capture.  Much of the civilized world is already making huge improvements.  But will we?  Do we have the political will and leadership to do it?  I sure hope so.

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