Farming + weather = !

It rained, beginning on Thursday evening. Flash flood watches became warnings by Friday morning and when it was over we had three inches sloshing in the rain gauge. Planting had begun in earnest, and fields down by river looked more like ponds this morning as I drove to town. Recent stories in the national news have told of wildfires in the west and statistics posted by the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection indicate that well over one thousand wildfires have been reported thus far this year. The folks out there could surely do with some of our rain. It is because of this inequality that I feel just a bit guilty hoping for some dry, sunny, conditions over the next week or so. This pattern of spring weather is all too familiar however. Early spring is always quite cool and wet, providing excellent conditions for the hay crop. By the end of the month the grasses will begin to head up to set seed. This will be the best time to harvest but, if past experience is any guide, it will remain wet and the weather service will characterize most days as partly cloudy. Those who have followed this blog for a bit may recall a number of previous posts which have talked about hay production. In those posts I have said that, here at the farm, we require three dry days with full sun to make hay. On day one we’ll cut the field. On the next day, sometime in the afternoon after the uppermost surfaces of the windrows have dried, we’ll rake the field to expose the undersides of the rows. And on day three we’ll form the dried hay into round bales. There’s absolutely no rushing this procedure and a crop can lose significant nutrient content if rained on anytime after drying has begun. Along about the first of June I’ll begin to get anxious, especially when the weather service begins predicting good days, but just two-at-a-time. This will go on for another week or so when, all of a sudden, the weather prognosticators will predict four successive good days … three days out. The next day the great forecast will be reduced from four good days down to three, and then just a day out the good forecast will be reduced form three good days down to just two; and, after getting my hopes up (and the equipment greased and fueled) I’ll be crushed. By this time I won’t be able to even look at the weather map and will leave all of the big decisions concerning the crop to Joanna. She’s much more reasonable and less emotional about such things. Usually, within another week or ten days she’ll give me the thumbs up and I’ll climb onto the 1520 and, in terms of the local vernacular, start ‘er up and put ‘er down. [That would be, start up the tractor and then mow down the hay crop standing in the field.] Anyway, that’s all in the future. Right now I suppose I am happy for the moisture which will support the good growth of the field that I will eventually harvest and feed to my animals next winter. I will try to be patient.

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