Today is the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. Beginning tomorrow, the days will begin getting shorter and the nights longer. But on the farm, it feels like it’s still May.
In fact, this week’s CSA box list is almost identical to a box we would normally pack on May 20th instead of June 20th. The peach varieties we are harvesting this week usually ripen in May. And while our strawberries and cherry tomatoes often overlap in May, I don’t think it has ever happened on the summer solstice.
Just about all of our summer crops are two to four weeks behind schedule. Most of the time, if it’s a cold spring, the crops will catch up around this time of year thanks to the long days and hot weather that usually accompanies them. Except we’re not having any hot days, and the crops are not catching up.
That’s not to say the plants are unhappy. The crops actually look beautiful…for May. They are distinctly smaller and less lush than we are accustomed to seeing in June. They’re not experiencing the growth on steroids that is so common this time of year, pushed to shade themselves from the hot sun and slurp up huge amounts of water to stay hydrated.
We humans are enjoying the milder weather somewhat. But as warm climate denizens, we are not accustomed to bundling up in jackets and warm hats in the summer as we did Monday morning when a cold west wind kept the temperature below 70 degrees well past noon. Many years in late June it’s 70 degrees at dawn.
We’re also not used to the mellow pace that the cool weather brings. Our normal summer schedule has us harvesting items like tomatoes and zucchini every day except Sunday because they ripen so quickly in the heat. Right now we’re picking most crops just two or three times a week — totally unheard of for this time of year.
Even the weeds are growing slowly, which reduces stress and gives us more leeway to get them cleaned up. Most summers we struggle to find time to hoe or hand weed, but this year we are actually ahead of schedule on those tasks. The crew even left early last Friday — another thing I don’t believe has ever happened at this late date.
So if you’re out this evening enjoying the latest sunset of the year, be sure to bundle up against the, er, summer chill!