Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring update

Sabbath eve, April 20, 2012

A front just blew through, dry, again. We had decent rain over the winter but since April 1st, nothing. The forecast calls for dry weather the remainder of the month. I’m not surprised that the drought resumes; I was surprised by the respite we had over the winter.

Fortunately, we planted oats and rye in the fall which provided winter grazing and have been cutting and baling hay from those same fields over the last two weeks. The hay is low quality, relative to the coastal Bermuda normally grown in these parts, but any hay beats none. None is what we had last year outside that produced from a few small patches of irrigated ground.

Winter rain and green grass created a false sense of security among neighbors. Best I can tell, prolonged drought of the past couple of years killed a lot of perennial pastures. As the rye dies, this will become apparent. Corn crops look good, but corn must have rain at critical stages of growth and the moisture in the soil won’t be enough to sustain it through the hot months ahead.

Winter rains caused fungal problems in oats and wheat, also in my onion crop. Bugs are ferocious; any hopes of going totally organic in our garden were dashed by the reality of corn root worms and the adult version of the same (cucumber beetles).

You can tell the true organic farmers in these parts. They’re the ones with a hard luck story and nothing to sell. Most of the rest selling produce claiming to be organic are liars. I know it’s not the same everywhere. I grew entirely organic produce in Oregon and have on occasion managed to do so even here in Texas, but there are times when grasshoppers, army worms, and or cucumber beetles present quite the challenge. All of the above can decimate a crop in a matter of days.

I hear people talking about how they’re going to run to some refuge and start growing their own food when the shit hits the fan. I got news for them. If you’re not actively practicing the art of producing and storing your own food, you aren’t likely to succeed when it’s forced upon you. I have been studying this stuff most of my life and routinely encounter new obstacles, some seemingly insurmountable. Despite years of preparation, I am woefully ill-prepared should there be an interruption in the fuel supply or a break in the production of electricity.

Time after time government and corporate responses to potential crises are opposite of that required—they opt for bigger more centralized models when we should be diversifying and downsizing—spreading risk instead of putting all risk into a single model.

I see this on almost every front, as heirloom seed and livestock are eliminated to make way for industrial strains, diverse crops sacrificed for huge monocultures. Manufacturing, energy production, banks, countries--you name it: small entities are sacrificed by hundreds or thousands to make way for the one big megapoly.

On the other hand, the recent death of a brother-in-law reminds to live in the moment. There are challenges enough today without spending all my time worrying about what might happen tomorrow.

So we milk the wrong kind of cows, feed and water the wrong chickens, goats, hogs and horses; plant, water and cultivate garden soil the wrong way, harvest the wrong crops when ready, store what we can, and hopefully live another day.

And hope like hell that at least some of our neighbors will do the same.

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