Tuesday, August 31, 2010
3:11 pm pdt
Weather has made us what we are. We make our plans based on it. We talk about it, read about it,
and watch it. Weather determines if we are flooded out of our homes or live a mucky albeit safe life in the mud. While you
would not know it here in Kitsap County, chilled under the miles-thick cloud blanket, this year, 2010, has been the hottest
year worldwide recorded since 1880 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began keeping records.
That does not mean that 1879 was hotter, only that no records were kept before 1880 by NOAA. This year, three areas experienced
cooler than normal temperatures: Scandinavia, southeastern China, and the Pacific Northwest.
The food we eat, locally grown or imported from some far-flung place, depends upon the weather. When
the temperatures vary beyond of the range we consider normal, our food crops die. For tens of thousands of years, the weather
has fluctuated very little. During those years, we humans developed agriculture, domesticated animals, and gave up the nomadic
hunter and gather life for one of home ownership, grocery stores, and relative leisure.
Since we became vegetables farmers, our lives have revolved around germination tables. We have built
and will continue to build structures to trick our food crops into behaving as though the temperature is warm enough. Because
our temperatures in Kitsap have been cool, we build our structures out of plastic in hopes of capturing and amplifying the
heat of the day so that our plants think that they are living in Paradise. If the temperature commonly
becomes too hot, farmers will be building structures to keep the crops cooler.
The ideal temperature for plants to germinate is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Vary too far from
that temperature range and our food crops do not grow in great numbers and produce adequate amounts of food. Within that range,
each plant variety has its own ideal germination temperature.
many areas of our country and around the world, a salad with delicate lettuce is a rare treat. Lettuce likes to germinate
between 65 and 70 degrees. Between those five degrees, the greatest percentage of seeds will germinate, and within that range
the greatest number of lettuces will survive to maturity. Lettuce, like most plants, will germinate and grow in less ideal
temperatures, but at 32 degrees it becomes a slimy mess, and at 88 degrees it crumbles to dust. Sudden fluctuations in temperature,
such as last week’s 20 degree temperature drop, stresses plants and makes them bolt — produce seeds
and die — so that they fulfill their biological destiny of next year’s plant. This hold true for
all plants including grains we use for bread and livestock feed. Even Okra, which germinates and grows at the highest temperature
given high humidity, will die above 110 degrees.
half a century, we have been eating off the highway and shipping system, and worldwide weather conditions take on a new meaning.
When we read that Summer daytime temperatures hold steady at 90 degrees, we know that the crops are dying. Less food will
reach the grocery stores worldwide.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
1:04 pm pdt
Goings on at the Farm
few weeks ago I wrote about kohlrabi, and some folks asked for more information. You can use the kohlrabi bulb as you would
any crunchy vegetable. I use it instead of cabbage, celery, or radishes in salads and slaws. It adds a solid, satisfying sensation
in cooked vegetables, especially Oriental stir fry. The kohlrabi bulb is part of the stem. The leaves can be used like kale
or cabbage, and like many other cool weather plants, kohlrabi leaves may be more tender to eat when it cools down this fall.
The root end of the kohlrabi bulb tends to be woody, and should be discarded. The leaf end of the bulb is softer. I don’t
know why sometimes one kohlrabi bulb will harder to peel and the one next to it in the field will peel easily. If you have
trouble peeling the bulb, use a potato peeler, or cook it slightly so that the outside will come away more easily. If you
like garlicky or peppery foods, marinate your kohlrabi in the dressing for a few minutes, and it will take on that flavor.
We are always planting
six to eight weeks, or more, ahead of harvest. We are direct seeding and seeding for transplant the fast growing fall vegetables.
The other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and winter squash have been sequentially planted over the past month.
Fall peas, beets, carrots, turnips, chard, kale, and bok choy are being planted, too.
Yobby, the orphan calf who lived in our backyard, is
hale and healthy. He has rejoined the herd wearing his red halter. Much to everyone’s relief, the cows groom him and
other calves hang with him. He comes up to the pasture gate for his bottle. He is still a baby.
The white plastic round bales in the field
by the orchard are ten tons of haylage. See the picture, above, of the bales and Donna’s ducks and goose. Haylage is
hay that is cut and baled into the round bales while still damp. The plastic wrapper keeps it damp until eaten. Cattle tend
to love it, and it provides great nutritional value. It is quite popular here in the Pacific Northwest. This haylage comes
and tomatoes are growing like weeds, blossoming, and fruiting. All the fruits are immature
but ripening fast.
Life on a farm is a school
of patience; you can't hurry the crops or make an ox in two days. — Henri Fournier Alain