Managing Rainfall

Sometimes I feel like I live in a 1930’s newsreel, running to avert disaster as a huge wind or thunderstorm bears down on the farm. You know, that footage of the guy holding onto his hat as he jumps in the storm cellar as the dust bowl rages? I’ve been doing these adrenaline-filled sprints lately as our weather gets severe in the hot, humid days of July. On the forth of July I even got thrown down to the ground as I was trying to close a greenhouse door in a 60 mph + wind.

0693a-thundercloudHeavy summer rains create big problems on a vegetable farm because we have delicate plants and need always have some areas open without plants. A heavy rain like the 2.5 inches we got yesterday causes the soil to move on even the most gradual of slopes. Think about something like a young bed of salad mix…when you have a couple inches of rain pound the ground, it can really damage these tender leaves and half bury them in silt. Arghh.

The big program that really kills me is soil erosion. Despite our best intentions and use of cover crops and buffers, we’re in the hilly Vergas area where nothing is flat. More than 2 inches in an hour will get soil moving downhill, no matter what. The maturity of plants matters and a stand of mature corn will hold the ground and soak up a lot more water than a field of inch-high beans, so rains this time of year are less of an issue than May or early June heavy rains. The problem is that I need to keep open ground and constantly seed new areas to have continual supply of veggies. These bare areas will wash, yet it’s necessary to have some open ground in order to plant. I wish I could go directly from a 2-foot tall stand of an oat or field pea cover crop directly to carrots, but that amount of biomass doesn’t break down overnight and you need a really fine seedbed for carrots.

The best we can do is weatherproof the farm as best as possible. For example, there is quarter-acre area in the front field that always erodes because water channels there. I’m totally giving up on planting in that little location, and, instead, will plant a permanent crop like clover there. We also did a heavy mulch between the melons in the back field. Little improvements year after year will begin to make a difference in time. I hope so because I’m tired of getting disgusted after big storms.

In the box:

    • Farao Green Cabbage
    • Bunch of Beets
    • Hakurai Salad Turnips: Maybe these will throw you for a loop, but I think of them as just big white radishes with better flavor. They are called salad turnips because they are easily added to a salad to add some crunch or you can eat with a little salt…peel and slice.
    • Cilantro
    • Greenleaf Lettuce
    • Snap Peas
    • Cucumbers
    • Kohlrabi
    • Bunch of Kale: I think kale lends itself well to Italian cooking (see recipe below) or use in simple salads.
    • Zucchini: Once you start making zucchini into fritters, you’ll have a new relationship with this too-common vegetable. This video is pretty much what we do…pretty quick too:

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Lots of Kale from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

Kosher salt, 1 large bunch of kale, any type (about 1½ pounds), 5 garlic cloves, ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling, Freshly ground black pepper, 12 ounces spaghetti, thick spaghetti, bucatini, or other long strand pasta, Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving), Flaky sea salt

Directions:
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, strip kale leaves from ribs and stems, then tear leaves crosswise into 2″–3″ pieces. Cook kale in boiling water until bright green and slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer kale to a colander and rinse under cold water, tossing; squeeze out excess liquid from leaves. Keep water at a boil (you’ll use it for the pasta).

  • Whack garlic with the side of a chef’s knife to crush; peel off skins. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Season very generously with black pepper and cook, smashing with a wooden spoon, until cloves break into rough pieces, soften, and look golden. Add kale to pot and cook, stirring often, until darkened in color and very tender, about 8 minutes (garlic will break into even smaller pieces). Season with kosher salt and pepper.

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions).

  • Using tongs, add pasta to kale; splash in about 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce lightly coats pasta, about 2 minutes.

  • Serve pasta topped with Parmesan, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and more black pepper.


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