Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category


And no, I don’t mean the vampire thingy.Taking in my backyard two nights ago in the raspberry-periwinkle twilight.  Yum!

Floods R Us

Well, last night’s projected heavy rain didn’t materialize in this immediate area.

Or if it did, it’s hard to tell because I seem to recall only one semi-dry moment this season–when I decided to dig the new potatoes and figured out that just because it looked kinda dry on the surface didn’t mean I wouldn’t be excavating mudballs that I’d have to squish to find out if they were potatoes or just glops of saturated soil.

Heading out to the farm this morning to harvest for CSA deliveries, I met a dense wall of fog in the valley that allowed just enough visibility to see that the Vermillion River is out of its banks again at the first bridge on North University Road.  I had never seen that happen before this year.  So far this season, I’ve seen it twice.

August 3--Vermillion River at the first bridge on North University Road, looking north

I read last night that at the crest of this latest round of flooding, 25,000 acres of farmland between Davis and Vermillion will be inundated.

The corn is pulling its leaves in and starting to yellow–not the “late-summer-ripe-corn yellow,” but the “please-give-my-roots-some-oxygen yellow.”  You can tell where the edge of the flooding is by the fact that the corn in those margins is still a deep green.

The gardens are starting to show extreme moisture stress–in that everything that isn’t actively growing is starting to mold.  Anything with a hole or insect damage of any kind is simply rotting.  I spent part of my harvest time this morning disposing of anything with a fuzzy white sheen.

I did still manage to get a good harvest for today’s deliveries: summer squash and peppers, tomatoes and onions, cucumbers, basil and sweet corn.

The corn is from our neighbor’s acre-sized patch–she came outside when I pulled in the yard to tell me (again) to take as much as I want–to thank me for picking it (waste not-want not) as I was thanking her for sharing it, then ran back in the house to escape the mosquitoes.

I was wearing my headnet, of course.  I have not been on the farm without it for three months now.

At this point, the pickings are gleanings and secondary ears–there’s still a fair amount of corn out there, but it won’t be worth eating in another week.  So, I picked enough for all my members to have a dozen ears, and somehow managed to end up with a dozen extra for us.

I might go out and get a couple dozen more to go with those and do another round of canning–H has been sick for a couple of days, so he’s not really in the mood to eat more of it.  And no, it wasn’t the corn that made him ill, but getting ill in the temporal vicinity of eating so much corn has killed his appetite for it.

At any rate, the neighbor has a better view of the valley at her place (if the view can at this point be described as “better”), so I snapped a couple images of the perspective from there.

The river is supposed to rise a couple more feet before it starts to subside.  I was disappointed earlier this year that I never managed to get my kayak out in the flooded fields, but it looks like I’ll have another chance.

On my way back into town, I stopped to take the image at the top of this post, and saw our other neighbor (whose family members are almost all “conventional” farmers in this area) drive by.  She gave a friendly wave, then indicated the river, threw her hands up, and shook her head sadly as she headed past and into town.

Five Inches?

Or maybe closer to six?

I put this harvest bucket out on my side walkway last night (dry and empty).  This morning, after seeing the tongue of water in my basement (which NEVER happens except with a truly big “gully-washer”), I walked out and thought–hmm, maybe three inches?

And then I measured.

It is hard to get an accurate reading in my home neighborhood because of all the trees.  But this was a damn big rain.

By the way, the most accurate pronunciation of the above-quoted term is actually, gully-wahrshur.  Ya know, in case you need to pass as a local. 😉

A River Runs Through It

For readers outside Southeastern South Dakota, I’m going to assume you haven’t heard about our early June weather woes.  The farm has been barely navigable for the past week and a half–and I say navigable because that’s pretty much how it feels after all this rain.

Last night I was out in the gardens and this blinding golden orb suddenly appeared in the sky.  I thought maybe it was the end of days, but H calmly reminded me that’s what the sun looks like.

I don’t have all the summer crops in, but I haven’t been able to do much but pull a few weeds by hand and mope about the hot pepper plants that are still sitting out front of my house and the winter squash and melon seed still sitting in the packets.

The salad mix is done for, but I haven’t been able to mow and till it–I’ve got a few beds of incredibly luxurious buckwheat cover crop that really need turning under, too.  And the weeds?

Can we not talk about that?  I had a farm tour scheduled a couple of weekends ago but that didn’t fly due to scheduling conflicts.  The gardens looked really nice then.  I’m guessing it will be another month before I’ll get back to that state.

At least the summer crops that I have gotten in look good.  The spring cabbage does, too.

I harvested these for the CSA today, and I pulled a not-so-nice one for us last night.  We usually eat the ugly produce, the gleanings, and the leftovers from market and over-harvest–which is generally plenty for our small household.

So while this majestic cabbage above is what my members got today, what’s in the tub was for us last night:

Actually, my CSA members got some of the ugly white turnips, too.  They’re ugly because my row cover didn’t come in until about a month and a half after I ordered it, and it was too late for these poor little roots.

At least they’re still really succulent (all that rain) and tasty–best-tasting turnips I’ve grown in a long time.  Too bad they look like hell.

The cabbage above was a casualty of a marauding deer who tore through the top of a row cover and ate the tip of the vegetable.  They don’t usually do that, and the fact that this one did makes me think perhaps I ought to eat her before she tries it again.  But the season for spring cabbages is not the season for venison.

Adding the the mess right now, the mulberries are starting to ripen.  We have both kinds–the regular black ones and the white ones as well.

Ripe mulberries fall off the trees.  And birds eat them, too, and then do what birds do.  The white ones aren’t so bad, I guess.  They just weigh down the row covers and sprout more mulberry trees.  The black ones do the same, plus they stain everything they touch.

Because we have mulberry trees all around the garden area, we have fallen mulberries all over the garden area.  When it’s dry, they’re annoying, but when it’s wet, they make a sloppy mulberry-mud soup.  Yum.

We are slowly removing some of the most annoying trees and branches, but there are quite a lot of them, and some of them are doing double duty as field snack provider and shed stabilizer.

Considering the bloom of mosquitoes we’ll be getting in the next few days after all this moisture, we need at least to keep the trees to hold up the shed to provide the swallows access to their nests, so they’ll stick around and help with insect control.

It’s all feeling a bit ramshackle right now what with the mud and wet and weeds and mulberries, but once July hits we’ll probably be crying for water and cursing that bright golden orb in the sky.  Once we start to remember what it is.

The June Rise

We’ve had our massive snowmelt; we’ve made it through those early, chilly gray days of spring and the first glorious sunshine-and-blue-sky epiphanies.  We’ve even had our hot spell in May that drove everyone out to the garden centers and the river shouting, It’s here! Summer!

Now, we have our monsoon.

Old timers call these rainy weeks just before the summer solstice the June Rise–the river comes up, there’s flooding in low-lying areas, the toads hatch and the peonies get their pretty dresses muddy, and it’s all a big, sloppy mess.  It rains nearly every day, and the clear spells aren’t long enough to dry out the fields for hoeing or planting.

This is when the weeds get ahead–even if you’ve managed to keep on top of them before the rains hit.  Besides ripping them out of the mud by their roots, one at a time, there’s little you can do to stop their growth except wait ’til the rain stops.

And even ripping them out doesn’t always work. It’s so wet, their roots don’t dry out enough for the plant to wither.  They just kind of lie there all green and smug, and maybe a little root hair works its way back down into the mud and they come back.

This morning, I harvested for the farmers market in the rain.  It started off with just a few drops as I was loading the truck to head out, and by the time I was in the field, it was a full-on lightning-and-thunderstorm, which isn’t very comforting while picking peas off a metal trellis in an open field.

Luckily, I decided to wear my river sandals this morning.  Usually if it’s damp out, I’ll go for the shearling-lined clogs that keep my feet warm even if they’re not dry.

This morning, seeing that at least the temperature was balmy and that the rain wasn’t likely to let up, I went for the easier-to-hose-off option, so I didn’t end up six feet tall with six inches of mud on my shoes, sliding all over in the glop.  I guess that’s like a farmer’s platform heels?

Sometime between the bunching and packing the turnips and clipping the kale, the thunderstorm let up, and then it really started to rain.  Total downpour.

At the end of the harvest, I was standing there chuckling to myself, wringing wet with rain pouring off the brim of my hat into the five-gallon salad spinner I was stooping over, attempting to wring the excess water out of my lettuce in order to pack it into the bags.

A conventional farming neighbor drove by and slowed down a bit as they saw me coming up from the field, grinning like a crazy woman, streaming water, and carrying as many bags of lettuce as I could manage.  Had I been able to make them out through my spattered glasses, I’d likely have seen a head shaking in disbelief.

Harvesting for a market in the rain is a double-whammy: not only do you get soaked and muddy in the process, but if the weather doesn’t clear off, sales aren’t likely to be good.

And, let’s face it: market customers can often be fair-weather friends, especially in places without pavilions like lovely St. Paul’s.  If you harvest a load and bad weather keeps the customers away, you end up with a bunch of compost.  If you decide to cut your losses with a light harvest, and the weather clears off, your customers will be disappointed.

Still, we do have die-hards, and one of my favorite young customers, a Miss Lucy, actually loves rainy market days because she gets to wear (and show off) her fancy tie-dye pattern wellies.  I’d like some boots like that.

The coolers packed and the fence electrified, I headed back to town with the heater turned up high on my wet feet and hopes turned up high that even if the sun won’t come out, at least the rain will let up for the sake of this afternoon’s sales.

Back at home, after peeling off my sopping clothes and hanging them on the shower rod, I grabbed a couple of the not-so-nice-looking turnips I stashed away from this morning’s harvest, and started them going with some carrots and garlic scapes in a little chicken fat.

Along with some meat peeled off the frame of last night’s roast chicken dinner, the end result will be a quick chicken soup to rekindle my body’s warmth before packing up the table and tent, and seeing what this afternoon’s market–rain or shine–will bring.

…and the Creek Don’t Rise, Part Two

While the gardens at the farm are high above the level at which all but an apocalyptic flood of the Vermillion River would reach, there is certainly some flooding and near-flooding taking place in other  low-lying areas in the vicinity.

I headed north of town yesterday afternoon to discover what the “Road Closed Ahead” sign on North University referred to.  The actual closure is about nine miles north of the bypass in the broad valley before Hub City, though the road wasn’t actually covered with water at that point.

For non-locals, Hub City isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a “City.”  It’s just the intersection of 306th and University Road, and at the northwest corner of the intersection there’s the Dalesburg Lutheran Church.  That’s pretty much it except for Dalesburg Farm Supply a little up the road.

Also for non-locals–what looks like a lake off the the left of the picture is actually farmland.

The bridge seven miles north of Vermillion looks like it may get flooded out–but what’s more likely is that the river will simply spill out across the bottoms, leaving the bridge high and dry–an island in a vast lake.

The river was maybe four feet below the bottom of the bridge when I took these images yesterday.  I’m tempted to venture out again today to see how much it has risen, but the best angles for images are on the side of the bridge I don’t really want to be on.

See the ridge those trees are on?  The water on the left of those trees is not the river–it’s the bottoms–farmland.  The ridge is the north bank of the river, and off to the right out of view is the actual channel.  The ditch in the foreground is running almost too fast for the culvert to keep up, so that water is rising there, too.

I kind of want to take another jaunt up there and see what’s going on, but I’m also interested to know what’s going on below the City of Vermillion in Cotton Park.  The river level was only a few feet below the lowest part of the bike path down there a couple days ago.

Lovely Weather Out There

It hasn’t even been snowing very much.  Which is probably a good thing.

H an I made a run out to the farm in my little truck this afternoon.  It was a good thing I was driving painfully slowly–as I was coming up on the edge of the shelterbelt, I couldn’t see the road ahead with all the wind and blowing snow.

H had to navigate the drifts and walk in while I tried to get the truck turned around in the middle of the road so we could get back out.  I snapped this image during a brief break in the white-out.  The drifts across the road were two to three feet high.

The following images were taken once I got turned around and was waiting for H to come back out so we could head back into town.

Local ingredients: snow, wind.