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Notes from the Farm

Posted 10/17/2007 12:50am by Leaf Myczack.

As of Oct. 16th, 2007 the drought affecting the South shows no signs of easing. The rainfall total for the first half of the month is a mere .03 of an inch. We have reduced our planting to seed maintenance plots, growing just enough to keep our seed fresh for the next planting season. Not only can we not grow enough food to feed ourselves, but also we have little to sell to the public, thus reducing our cash flow to a bare minimum. Our water supply has dwindled to an alarmingly low level, and we have run out of land-based options for reversing the decline. With reluctance, we made the decision to pull the emergency lever and put our backup plan into action.

We bill ourselves as a sustainability teaching farm, promoting the idea that we have a lot of the answers to the sustainability challenges facing small farmers and homesteaders. Just as calm seas never make good sailors, ideal weather conditions never make good farmers. The best tool steel is forged with the greatest heat. And so it is with us. We can only effectively teach what we have experienced and learned from working through the vicissitudes of weather related climate anomalies. This demands a willingness to break from conventional and traditional ways of thinking and doing. It requires a flexibility and a commitment to change not readily found in our society.

For years we have been experimenting with and building rainwater collection systems that would help us amplify rainfall amounts on targeted areas. It involves removing water from the general area and selectively placing it in areas we had prioritized, i.e. fruit trees, garden plots, berry patches, our core reforestation area, etc. We have recycled both black water and gray water; in short, we have not wasted a drop! Up until this summer it has worked quite well, and we have continued to add reserve storage volume to our system. The question we are seeking to answer is how well would this system work under the worst-case scenario? Our answer has come this year, and although it has worked well in the early stages of this exceptional drought, the system is nonetheless inadequate under the current conditions.

The drought has also caused secondary effects, which we are attempting to address. Chief among these is, as the land dries out and the vegetation wilts and shrivels, wildlife is increasing drawn to the moist ground and green plants where we are still cultivating. To protect the soil moisture, we rely heavily on mulch. This oasis-like condition we have created has not gone unnoticed. Survival, ours included, is the foremost priority of all the living creatures using this local bioregion. Skunks, possums, raccoons, rats, and deer raid the gardens nightly. Fences, traps and selective killing are not entirely sufficient to protect the oasis from desperate, hungry animals.

For the second time in my life, drought has shown me how vulnerable even a most resourceful and thoughtful farmer really is to local famine. For now we can still find imported food for sale, and we can renew our water supply with a gasoline driven water pump. This is a very tenuous backup plan we are relying on given that oil prices hit $88 a barrel today, and our economy is on the brink of a recession. War with Iran, which the administration seems intent on initiating, could send the whole economy (including our backup plan) into the tank. Never was it a more appropriate time to heed the advice; Teacher-educate yourself!


.Next blog posting -10/24/'07