Monday, March 19, 2018

Constantly Wet

The rain started in January. Since then there have been very few days that the farm hasn't been wet. Although a day may go by with no additional accumulation, often there was no sun or wind to dry the moisture off the surfaces of the plants. So things have been wet almost constantly for a long time now. What does that mean for this farmer? 

..... Mildew, fungus, mold, rot. While some of the crops are holding up well, others have died or are suffering. I'm seeing powdery mildew on many of the crops. The non-resistant zucchini has died, the pea crops are ruined with fungal disease, much of the kale isn't suitable to eat. The latest victim is the cauliflower. Most of the plants are rotting with some sort of disease. I'm seeing fungal rot in the onions and in order to save the crop I've treated it with a fungicide and erected a rain shield over the beds to ward off the constant wet. 
Photo - powdery mildew running rampant on zucchini plants. This is not in my garden, but another person who asked me to diagnose their garden problem. This plant is beyond saving. 

..... Mold in the house. Thankfully we built the house out of cedar. But I've spotted a little mold here and there, so I've had to be diligent in treating it. 
.... Rust. Between the vog and this moisture, the rust is running rampant. It's been difficult controlling it because the frequent rains rinse off the Os-Pho. I'm dragging tools, and anything metal and portable into the barn so that I can treat the rust. 
..... Flystrike danger. While I haven't seen any problem yet with the livestock, I'm checking them daily. I decided to use a topical preventative that will kill any emerging maggots. I don't normally do this, but one of the neighbors down the road has lost several sheep this month to flystrike. So the right flies are in the area. Why don't I always use the topical treatment? It can't be used on animals being prepared for slaughter. I have 2 sheep due to be slaughtered soon, so I have to do daily visual checks and deal with any problem in a non-toxic manner. So far I haven't seen a problem. 
.... Saturated soil. Two issues here. 1- mud in the tracks where I normally drive the truck off road. I use the truck to haul grass to the sheep. Plus to move rocks from the fields to the latest wall construction, move other construction materials around, move grass clippings and compost material, move firewood. I've had to switch to using the atv, which means that I have to make multiple trips---in the rain. Ugh. 
     2- I can't work the soil. I've spent years incorporating compost, manure, and mulch. This makes for much improved soil with a big "but" attached. It means that the soil retains moisture. So it has become super saturated. Mucky, in plain words. Such soil cannot be dug, worked, or tilled because as it dries out it would turn into dense concrete-like ground. Working such soil drives the air out and compacts it. Thus I cannot work in the gardens. This is putting a majorly big crimp in my food production. 
.... Leaching of nutrients. We've had enough rain now that I'm concerned about losing soil nutrients. Certain soil components are water soluble or readily move through the soil. I just sent off some soil samples to check and am preparing some soil additives in the meantime. I'm assuming that phosphorous might be an issue, but we shall see. I know that nitrogen will surely be an issue. The soil pH is already going down, so I'm looking at needing a quick adjustment when I'm able to get to working the soil. 
.... Deteriorating mental health. Both hubby and I are sick of the rain and lack of sun. 
.... Mosquitos. We're seeing a major increase in the mosquito population. Water is standing in plants crevices, open lava tubes, lava depressions, and of course any manmade item that can hold water. I treat what I can, but many of the plant pools can't be treated, such as those 20' tall banana trees. 
Photo - a bromeliad holding water. I drop a few bt nuggets into each plant to help control mosquitos. 

So without focusing on the details, what does this really mean on my day to day life? 

First, I can't garden in the main beds. Thus I can't produce veggies for selling and trading. This is putting a crimp in things. Not that we are in any danger of running out of food. The greenhouses and mini-greenhouses are doing fine. And there are crops that are doing ok in all this wet. But it's not giving me anything extra, nor giving me stuff we like to eat like beets, peas, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and all those other common garden crops. 

Second, I can't get much grass mowed. The livestock now have to be supplemented with haycubes when there is not enough fresh grass for them. That cost money, as in $18 a bag per day. That hurts. Any gain I would have made selling this year's lambs will be lost to buying haycubes if this rain continues. Being that it's still winter, the pastures haven't regrown well enough to support livestock on their own. In addition, I can't get the mulch I need and the bedding for the chicken pens. Grass clippings also are used for making compost, so my compost making is on hold. And of course, that means that the grass is getting way to long and thick, which will another problem to deal with once the rains stop. 

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