Glad I’m Not a Farmer

Janie Thibodeau Martin

First, a timely reminder:  Avoid a heartache!  July 4th celebrations are underway and will continue through next weekend.  Keep your dogs and cats INSIDE.  Collars with ID tags, and microchips are basic insurance.  Do not take your dogs to places where people might set off fireworks.  There will be hundreds of lost pet pleas in the next week. This is foreseeable and preventable!  Don’t let it happen to you!

This is the sixth year of gardening in our Wisconsin home, and it’s been a disaster.  We had everything tilled and most of it planted by late May, and were lucky enough to avoid a hit by a late frost.  But the rain in central Wisconsin has been relentless, and there’s been so few days of sun that what got saturated, stayed saturated.

It’s depressing to look at rows of green onions in standing water.  Most of our tomatoes seem sulky; the purple beans are unhealthy and the pumpkins, squash and gourds are the worst of all.

I planted a dozen hills of my fall favorites, and only two total plants came up. None of the jack-o-lantern pumpkins germinated, only one butternut squash and one gourd.  I tried replanting, thinking maybe birds got the seed from the first effort but no.  The seeds are still there, one inch deep like they are supposed to be; they’ve made zero effort to grow.  No better luck with the second planting.  At this point, it’s too late to try again.  Hard to take after last year’s smashing success.  And birds, my apologies.  This isn’t on you.

The other significant issue is all this rain, which is so hard on the plants I am trying to grow, seems to be exactly what weeds like!  We mulch and landscape cloth after planting, but weeds still erupt in the rows; I had to watch them thrive while gritting my teeth because the garden soil was muck.  Finally, I broke.  I put on old clothes and sat on the ground for hours, pulling weeds by hand.  The good news is the weeds were easy to pull out of the muck.  The bad news is they pulled a lot of soil out with them, not good for the health of the vegetable plants.  (There is a bible story about this phenomenon.  A man’s grain field was full of weeds.  His servants asked if they should pull the weeds, but the owner said you will disrupt the crop, so let the weeds stay and at harvest, we’ll burn the weeds.)  Maybe I should have waited to exact my revenge on the weeds, but besides getting filthy doing the work, I took out my seething frustration yanking the offenders out.

When I came in to the house, I sent a picture of my nasty jeans, doused in pre-treatment, on the laundry room floor to my daughter.  She commented that the wet clay soil sticking to my jean’s “nether regions” reminded her of an untrained toddler’s backside after a diaper blowout.  I can always count on her to make me laugh.

As I write we’ve just endured another significant storm with another inch of rain.  I console myself with the thought I can buy my summer vegetable favorites at the farmer’s markets, and with a lot less labor.  On the scale that we garden, it’s silly to imagine we are saving any money; it’s the satisfaction of picking something you grew yourself that is your reward.

My other worry is that I need 150 small square bales of hay for old Betty the horse, and no one is making hay due to the sodden conditions.  I will be suffering from “horse owner hay anxiety” until I get a call from Dan my hay man that he’s been able to fill my order.

That was my reminder that I really shouldn’t be whining about my little gardens.  It’s a hobby for us; we’ll eat no matter what.  But for farmers, these conditions can be the making of a disaster.  The farm field to our north was so wet it was just planted a bit over a week ago; meaning the crop will mature late.  The continued heavy rains damage some crops; make harvesting hay impossible; and will hurt commercial truck farmers who raise vegetables. I’ve seen corn fields with small “lakes” between rows.  

 For me, the weather is an annoyance.  For them, it may well end up hurting them financially.  Let’s pray that warmer, drier weather returns. My stress about getting hay is nothing compared to what the farmers must be feeling right now!

I welcome commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: 

Janie Thibodeau Martin


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