Agriculture has a pretty unforgiving schedule most of year, and most everyone in the field looks forward to having a nice period in the winter to catch up on sleep, visit with friends and family, and relax. But this winter has been the first of the decade at Terra Firma that we actually got to slow down and take a real break. For the last three years we’ve had barely any downtime, with warm and dry weather that made January, February and even December feel more like fall or spring: there was always work to do.
But there’s little we can do when it’s pouring rain and windy. And there’s a dozen tasks we can’t do even if it’s raining lightly, or the day after a big storm. Take pruning fruit trees or harvesting oranges, for example. The ground has to be solid enough so that the ladders don’t sink into it. Harvesting crops that grow in the soil, like carrots or leeks, is also impossible.
Accessing our fields is a big problem as well. Only a few of our field roads are gravelled. The soils we farm quickly become slippery when wet, and we take care to avoid using tractors on them in the rain as it causes deep ruts that are hard to repair.
Of course we don’t count on having dry weather all winter. But we do like to have a dry day once or twice a week to get caught up with harvesting. We haven’t had that, so we’ve gotten behind on harvesting oranges, cabbage, and carrots. We’re also behind on pruning.
And we absolutely need a multi-week dry spell at some point in January or February.
Even when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, as it has been this week, it takes at least a week for our soil to dry out enough enough to weed crops like onions and garlic and plant items like spinach, lettuce, peas and carrots. Potatoes for summer harvest also need to go in soon.
And while I don’t expect it to stay dry for very long, if it doesn’t rain at least a little bit in a week or ten days….we’ll actually have to start irrigating again.