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.