By Laurel Blomquist | Wisconsinites are no strangers to the question, “How’s the weather?” but as a farmer, that question takes on another level of meaning. That question can determine what we can and can’t do on any given day, and maybe even all week. As a human being going through everyday life, the rain can be a nuisance if you have plans to be outside, or pleasant if you’d rather spend the day curled up with a good book and a mug of hot tea. As a farmer, rain can be the difference between life and death.
You might think that farmers always like the rain. After all, plants need water to live, and it’s certainly easier for them to get it that way then for us to have to irrigate. A certain amount of rain is necessary and even desirable for a farm. But if it stopped raining, and we were in a drought, there would be ways for us to get water to our plants. We have a well. We are blessed to live near a Great Lake. We would capture what water we could and use it to our advantage.
The opposite situation presents some very real problems for farmers. Take this spring. A few weeks ago, we were still under a blanket of snow. This meant that the ground underneath was colder and wetter than usual, and that we couldn’t get into the field to till the soil. Two weeks ago, we got several inches of rain, which added moisture to our already heavy clay soils. If you try to till or otherwise work the soil while it’s too wet, you will ruin the structure of the soil, and make it impossible for plants to thrive there.
Early last week, we knew it was going to rain on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, making it even harder to get to work in the field. However, we had a long list of seeds and plants to get into the ground. We rototilled the soil in the areas that we wanted to plant in, but we abandoned the idea of making raised beds because the soil was still too wet.
We organized the team and got to work. We used the Jang Seeder (see photos) to seed the first round of our direct seeded crops. We put in peas, beans, edamame, carrots, beets, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, bok choi, sunflowers, chard, radishes, white turnips, cilantro, dill, and pea vine.
We also hand-transplanted salad mix, fennel, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. We had to work hard and act fast before the rain came on Wednesday, but we did it! It was a really positive team effort. Now we wait for the sunshine to do its work to see the results.
So, yes, I’m grateful for rain, and access to fresh water, but I’m ready for the sun to come out. After all, plants need sunlight to grow just as much as they need rain. What about you? Are you ready for the sun? Or do rainy days make you smile?