Friday, June 23, 2017

Too much of a good thing




Summer 2016:  " I guess you farmers could really use some rain!?"

Summer 2017:   "I guess you farmers are really loving all this rain!?"

  I slogged back to the house early this morning after dumping another inch of rainfall that had fallen overnight out of the rain gauge. Rainfall sheeted down with biblical intensity from a sky that roiled like diesel exhaust overhead.

  A check on the computer weather forecast informed me that Gormley was currently experiencing "light thunderstorms".

  I have never heard the word "light" coupled with thunderstorms before, but I guess that it's kind of like light beer: a marketing gimmick designed to make you feel better about quaffing beers.

  Sure enough, the rain gauge showed another inch of rainfall in the gauge by 9:00 a.m., but I didn't feel so bad because they were light thunderstorms.

  Clifford and Keroy, our two Jamaican farm workers and I spent the rest of the morning in  Stouffville, getting in grocery shopping early for a change. Too wet to do any farm work.

  Apart from a few puddles, there was very little evidence that it had rained heavily in Stouffville at all, although they had experienced similar rainfall. Urban environments, with their pavement, lawns and storm drains are designed to quickly and efficiently deal with excess water.

  The difference is that the two inches of rain that fell on our 150 acre main farm in the last 24 hours is over 30 million liters of water. While there are two watercourses, the vast majority of that rainfall has to percolate down through already sodden soil.

  We will have to wait three to four days to even consider getting back on the land without damaging it by working it too wet.

  Vegetable farmers rely on succession plantings to ensure a continuous supply of corn, beans, lettuce, and cole crops throughout the summer. Ideally we would like to plant sweet corn every three days, beans, etc., every seven days.

  The challenge of doing so in the spring and early summer of 2017 has been considerable, given that we had about five days to work the land in May and about seven good days so far in June.

  We are fortunate to have some well drained land that has been planted and will continue our succession plantings until mid-July, so we will be back in business soon. Sweet corn and beans will be later this year, likely the first week of August.

  God willing and the crick don't rise....

  Guy









Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jessie



  " You have to come and see this dog, she looks just like Rachel."

  It was my wife's third call from the pet store in the past half hour with the same message.

  The truth was, I didn't feel that Rachel could be replaced. She had been part of our lives until September 11, 2001 (yes, that September 11) when she jumped out of the back of my truck, landed awkwardly and broke her leg. The vet said that, at 14, she was too old and feeble to rehabilitate. We had to have her put down.

  Reluctantly, I drove to the mall and found my wife, son and Rachel's doppelganger.

  In a room populated with smaller, cuter puppies stood this gangly hound with feet that were three sizes too big for  her body. Her body was three sizes too big for her crate, which was euphemistically labelled "Pointer Cross." The original asking price had dropped to one hundred dollars from three hundred.

  And so, from a pet store in the middle of the city, Jessie came to us and our farm.

  To say that Jessie embraced life on the farm would be an understatement. She had the run of the place, which was Big Rock Candy Mountain for that dog, who brought a manic, unhinged joy to each and every day that she spent there. Her glass wasn't merely half-full; it overflowed.

  Whatever you were doing was just what she felt like doing. She was hard wired to the throttle of any farm vehicle, no matter where and how long the job. Her personal favorite time of year was during sweet corn harvest, when she had a 25 acre buffet to graze selectively.

  She wasn't beyond a little devilment: ambushing my son's soccer ball in a high speed run by assault, or snatching the odd carrot from the counter at the market. We marveled at her easy athleticism and stamina.

  Jessie's presence at our market was a calculated risk. Some people, especially children, are afraid of dogs, fearing that they will be bitten

  Jessie put in long days at the market working assiduously to tear down this belief using her own method of dogged diplomacy.

  Rather than going right up to the stricken child, she would find her tennis ball, which she would then drop in such a way so that it would roll up to their feet. Jessie would position herself in front of them, about eight feet back, sitting in a non threatening position. From there, she would see if this particular kid could put two and two together.

  Most did. Parents would constantly be amazed that, in short order, their formerly terror stricken child would be joyously throwing a dog-drool soaked tennis ball and having it returned to them.

  We have a large graduating class of young adults who now tell us: "I no longer am afraid of dogs because of Jessie."

  Jessie had slowed down over the past couple of years, her eyesight and hearing both diminished. I turned her out early one morning as usual this past September. She came back dazed and badly torn up, having been blindsided by a coyote in the dark. Despite a round of antibiotics and treatment, she never really recovered her health and her former zest for life.

  In the end, it was her legs that finally failed. Those marvelous limbs that had propelled her over thousands of miles were unable to lift her frail body any longer.

  We spend a lot of time and energy in our lives looking for "the one." Sometimes, with luck, we get it right.

   It is my experience that dogs are, invariably, "the one." Dogs don't fall out of love over time. Rather, they define love, work hard at it and embrace us, imperfect as we are, to make the absolute best of our short time together.

  Although my life is poorer for having lost Jessie, it is infinitely richer for having known her.

  Guy