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On the Farm . . . what's happening this week (8/9/15) in words and pictures.

So much that happens on a farm revolves around the weather, of course. This past week can best be described as hot, sunny, windy. and DRY! We're trying our best to keep up with watering all the different crops growing in the fields, but it has been a challenge. The relentless wind seemed to spite us either by blowing the water from sprinklers away from where Bill had directed it or by drying the soil before we could get back to that spot.

Usually we water each area for 4 hours at a time to ensure a deep watering promoting lasting benefits and deeper root growth. The rule of thumb in gardening is that vegetables require 1 inch of water each week for even growth and general plant health. Certain situations such as newly germinating seeds or plants setting fruit need additional water.

It gets complicated trying to cover a couple acres of produce especially when using a cobbled together system of garden and soaker hoses with various sprinklers. The other complication is us. We both grew up on farms that didn't use supplemental irrigation. Whatever rain Mother Nature gave us was what the farm got, and the resulting crops reflected that. That is the way it was. The mindset of irrigating is new to Bill and I. While it may seem easy to change, we wait a little too long, trusting it will rain. We have seen firsthand the difference watering can make to a row of carrots or tomatoes or cucumbers, but honestly we have been frustrated with our inability to master the art of predicting the critical points of dryness for each crop. And sometimes, it is tense as Bill and I disagree over the order of irrigating.

The good news is, we are learning, and we do have a system(however unsophisticated it is) set-up. And over the years, we've had lots of practice smoothing the ruffles between us to focus on our shared goal. For the future we plan to upgrade our irrigation system next year, and realize that as we apply more compost and green manures to the fields new to vegetable production, they will be better able to retain moisture.

Experiencing the dry days of August also has us reflecting not only on the importance of water to our farm but around the world as well. We feel lucky to be farming in the Midwest, next to Byrds Creek, near the Wisconsin River and in the Great Lakes area of the country. We sympathize with farmers in California and elsewhere experiencing real drought and hardship. We talk of it in hushed tones for fear saying things like "dry wells", "drained aquifers", "mandatory water reductions" or "disagreements with neighbors upriver (in our case - upcreek)" aloud may have the power to manifest these hardships in Southwest Wisconsin. We feel uneasy and nervous until the immediacy of harvesting, planting or mowing draw our attention. For now we can choose when, if at all, we think about the predicament of drought comfortable in the knowledge that, at least for this year, the rain will come. We are lucky indeed.

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