Human Versus Nature

A month ago, I was braced for a grim future of merciless drought.  Then–just in time for our solstice potluck—Tropical Storm Bill rolled through and broke the spell.  True to form this year, we have of course reverted back to excessive rainfall.  Three straight weeks.  Almost every day, often multiple deliveries a day.  Worries have shifted back to, “What do we do when the ground is never workable?  How long can this last?”

Although they lap over each other inexorably and recede into a sameness, every year is invariably different.  The weather presents varying degrees of challenge.  Rains fall opportunely or hardly at all.  As farmers, we are sometimes captains of the ship but always sailing headlong into the unknown, mighty, insensate force of nature.  We conduct symphonies of seed, soil and sun, meticulously managing a myriad of minutiae, but we also roll the dice, come up lucky or scorched, spared or submerged, assisted or thwarted.  Our position being so permanently precarious, we feel a deep compassion for and solidarity with the worldwide workers of the land.  At any given time, many of us, through no fault of our own (except perhaps for being crazy as Ahab), are picking up the pieces of our tornado-tossed, hail-squashed, and/or drought-withered livelihoods.  It may well be me next time.

So, lurching from one weather challenge to the next is what we do.  Although we do at times get in a groove and wax romantic about it, nature, in the form of weeds and pests and weather, is usually trying to undermine our human designs.  It can be maddening, as if the thing we are hunting is equally determined to do us in, as if futility is the very essence of farming.  But, paradoxically, this is also part of the unending allure of the pursuit.  We believe in being humbled.  There is indeed more in heaven and earth than can be dreamt of, predicted, or planned for.   We learn and learn about the mystery, we make science out of the facts before us, but the depth and breadth and mystery only augments and we fill fuller with awe.

The bounty we have enjoyed so far this year is a testament to the power of holistic farming, diversity, hard work and generous community.  Early unirrigated plantings of beets, carrots and beans suffered for lack of water, but later plantings are providing or prepared to.  Onions have been hardest hit by this bipolar weather.  They would prefer plenty of water early and drier weather near harvest time and have received just the opposite.  But so much beautiful food has flourished that it is ungrateful and ungracious to dwell on the casualties.

How many more weeks of waterlogged soils can we withstand?  For that matter, next time I find time to write a newsletter, will we be bailing out water or pumping it in?  What crops will be fried or foundering?  Will the whale maim the man or might the seas for a time go calm?  No one knows.  Any which way it goes, it is an epic adventure story, likely to keep us on our toes.

As we feast on our fortunes and fear our far-off failings, our hearts hurt for those who are right now hungry or hurting from some environmental disaster.  Sometimes it doesn’t just rain it pours on the just and the unjust and living becomes scratching to survive.  We are grateful for all of your various and generous contributions to this place on earth, making it more resilient to the challenges that await.  It is an inspiring and vital community that feeds off selfless sacrifice and gives off love.

One Response to “Human Versus Nature”

  1. talkin’ about it | radical farmwives Says:

    […] wet season. the reality of fields too soaked to work. as i went online i noticed other kentucky farming friends sharing their […]

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