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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer fun...plan on it

Summer is officially here, and the list of projects and chores weighs down like the hot humid weather we've been experiencing. This summer, we intend to build a second greenhouse, re-plastic the first greenhouse, build a new chick brooder and sheep corral, bring a new ram into our flock, expand the orchard, and install raised beds of herbs. The house renovations continue: gut and repair the kitchen and bedroom and install new insulation/wiring/sheetrock, tear down and rebuild the rotting porch. Some earthmoving projects are in the works too, curtain drain to dry out our basement, and drain tile to dry out the gardens. Of course, there are many things that need doing every day (livestock care, weeding, feeding family, housecleaning maybe).

Wow, I think to myself, that's a mighty impressive to-do list. Let's get to work....

But wait a minute, there isn't anything fun on that list. Okay, not exactly true, work can and should be fun, and there's satisfaction in a job well done. However, that list is still missing something.

So here's our other list. Visit a state park and go kayaking, attend our friend's wedding, throw a 50th anniversary party for my parents, see a movie in a theater, go on 6 hikes where we've never hiked before, catch and eat fish, attend workshops at the library, ride our bikes from Burlington to the islands in northern Lake Champlain, listen to concerts, try a corn maze, host an awesome birthday party for Jonah, eat really big hamburgers, go out for ice cream, sleep in the tent, go to an amusement park, watch the Perseid meteor shower.

We have (finally) learned that if we don't plan for fun, it won't happen on its own. We post both lists on the fridge. Will we work and play till we're utterly spent, and ready for a quiet winter by the woodstove with a book? Yup...plan on it.






Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer! Well, maybe....

With the warm temperatures we've been experiencing since early May, it felt like summer was here. However, we had a very wintery storm on May 25; seven inches of snow (yes, really), and freezing temperatures. Two days later it was 80 F again, and we were mowing around the last stubborn snowdrifts. June 2nd was warm and sunny, until it wasn't, and our farm was blasted with hail, lightning, wind, and torrential rain. Weather records show that this was the wettest May ever (going back to 1884 records) with over eight inches of rain.

In our six years on our homestead, we've had some pretty big losses to extreme weather. Our first summer, it rained and rained, slugs were everywhere, late blight took our tomatoes and potatoes, and most of our vegetables just plain drowned. We've had wind and hail knock over our corn and hay crops. High winds have also knocked down fences, ripped away tarps, and sent animal shelters flying. Last summer was the siege of the insects: cutworms, hornworms, cucumber beetles, potato beetles. Every disaster is sad and disappointing, but we try to learn from each experience.

Unfortunately, all this wild weather is probably the "new normal". The climate models have been out for years, and it's pretty straighforward....if you put greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, it traps extra energy from the sun. Extra energy means more power for more extreme events.

Of course, we should all do what we can to cut down on greenhouse gases. But we also need to deal with the change that is already here, by planning resiliance into our homesteads and farms. At our place, we're  working on drip irrigation for dry spells, swales and ditches for soggy times, strong structures for wind and hail, and diverse plantings in the hopes that every year, at least some things will thrive.