Summertime has arrived and declared itself! The recent heat has grabbed our attention and required some serious hard work to keep the farm humming along. This type of weather is why we’ll never complain too much about the rainy spring we had. Super-hot days are demanding on your farmers, our plants, and the animals. Of course, as with most farming conundrums, the sultry days of high summer present both challenges and opportunities.
The first thing that sweltering weather dictates is changing the rhythm of our days. Instead of starting around 7 or 8 AM, we begin our days at 5 or 6 AM. When it can reach the 90s by 10 or 11 AM, these extra few hours of cooler weather help us beat the heat. This makes harvest easier on the plants as well, preventing wilting and reducing stress. We also plan to provide lots of shade, both for ourselves and for the plants – we put out a shade cloth covering on our greenhouse and over some sensitive plants in the field.
Water is also crucial to managing heat stress for farmers, animals, and the plants. For the livestock, we change their water out with fresh, cool water twice a day. Sheep especially don’t like to drink if their water has warmed up, so it’s good to provide them frequent top-ups. For the pigs, we also pour some water on the ground to make a wallow. Pigs don’t sweat, so their rolling around in mud is not just cute and messy, but critical to help keep them cool. For the farmers, we carry around a 5-gallon water cooler and take frequent hydration breaks. We sometimes add electrolyte powder to our water to replenish our salts – farming is a full contact sport!
Finally, for the plants, dealing with water is demanding but also rewarding. We have to time our watering schedule so we’re not wasting water in the hottest time of the day, but also get water to all of the beds that need it. We generally water in the evenings using our high efficiency drip irrigation system to reduce loss due to evaporation. We also take the heavy watering schedule as an opportunity to give our plants a little boost. We add a certified organic fish-based fertilizer to our irrigation water – it dissolves instantly and give the plants a big flush of critical nutrients right when they are dealing with the hot weather and big growth spurts.
In other farm news this week – we’re going to be on TV! The Maryland Public Television show ‘Maryland Farm & Harvest’ came to visit on Tuesday morning to shoot a segment for the upcoming season that will air in November / December of this year. The focus of this episode is farm to chocolate, featuring Pure Chocolate by Jinji. Jinji is a friend of the farm and an amazing chocolatier. Jinji makes incredible and inventive raw chocolate confections, and the episode will show how she works with local farmers like us to incorporate seasonal and fresh ingredients in her treats. We’ll update everyone when we know the air date of the episode.
Stay cool out there and happy eating,
Billy & Sarah