Wishetwurra Farm, 2015: Year-End Report

Another year is here.

2016.

Now, this might seem odd, but one of my daughters is happy that this is an even numbered year. She says that even numbered years are much “neater” than odd numbered years, which she describes as “messy”.

The 2015 gardening year at Wishetwurra Farm was not even, which, given the unpredictable nature of weather, is not odd. Last winter was the oddest, coldest, snowiest winter in decades.

Snow covered parts of the garden until the first of April. When spring finally came, it was as if a “no more frost” switch had been thrown. As our days lengthened, seasonal warming came slowly and steadily.

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April 1, 2015. The last snow in the garden. On April 2, 2015 it was all gone.

After a wet early spring, the rest of the growing season was droughty. There was so little rain that people just left things out “wherever”. Many even stopped rolling up their car windows at night.

We watered, and watered, and watered some more. In April we had 600 feet of soaker hose on hand. During the summer we bought 600 feet more in order to keep the rows crops from dying. By the end of the summer we were in a 20″ rainfall deficit.  There were doodlebug (ant lion) lairs in the pepper patch and under the eggplants, out in the open garden. We had never seen this happen before. These critters are typically found in permanently sheltered and dry locations, such as under building eaves.

The garden produced well, despite drought. Thank you, good well and soaker hose.

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Tom-a-toes. With a basket of tomatoes destined for the cooking pot. September 8, 2015. How do you pluralize this word, “tomatoes” or “tomatos”? See: http://www.elearnenglishlanguage.com/blog/english-mistakes/tomatoes-or-tomatos/

A few days before the annual Agricultural Fair, having previously decided not to enter anything, we made a sudden U-turn and entered what we could from what was available in the garden. Of thirty-two entries submitted, thirty brought home prize ribbons.  Not bad!

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The hundred and eight dollars in prize money received will be used to buy the greater part of the seeds we’ll want for the 2016 garden. Already the first two seed catalogs have come in the mail.

Rain did not really return until fall. In the months since, there has been over twenty inches of rain. We finished the year with about forty-three inches of total precipitation, an amount right in the middle of our annual average of forty to forty-five inches.

This fall and early winter has been a period of record warmth. Frosts have been few, and there has yet to be any deep cold. The greenhouse looks like October, not January. The meteorologists say that this year’s strong El Niño in the Pacific, and the forcing effect of climate change are responsible.

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The little greenhouse, full of greens. December 31, 2015. Next spring I’m going to have to rebuild this structure. It’s over ten years old and the plastic has gotten really milky.

December 2015 was the warmest month ever for this area, about 12°F warmer than average. The open garden is still full of green.

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December 3, 2015, at Wishetwurra Farm.

The Wishetwurra Farm gardening year was a good one. It was always nteresting. Another year that made us realize that whatever you do in a garden, results are unpredictable and that perfection is forever attainable.

One word that sums up gardening to me is “labor”. Labor isn’t bad. It’s one of the essential reasons for existence. At Wishetwurra Farm, our labor is invested in hauling, in working the soil, in weeding, in harvesting and in storing the garden’s yield. 2015 was not a record year for hauling, but it was still a good year.

Some people pay good money, in large sums, to labor in a gym or with a fitness trainer. I prefer garden labor to gym labor. You don’t have to pay anyone. You get food, fitness, and happiness for a reward. Recent studies noised about online say that digging in the dirt makes you a happier person.

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Another load of meadow muffins to feed the plants. Twenty-four truckloads of horse manure were wheelbarrowed through the garden gate.

No tally was kept of the number of fall tarploads of leaves that were used as mulch. Six truckloads of seaweed for mulch came to the garden this year. Two of these loads were unexpected gifts from my friend AF.

Geography curses the Wishetwurra Farm area with but a few inches of topsoil and a nearly impervious gray clay subsoil. We have to take what the glaciers gave us, up here on the moraine. If we want good loam we have to make it.  How to make good soil? The answer is simple (and hard). All you need is labor.  The recipe: “Add and incorporate as much organic material you can manage to haul in.” I don’t know how much “too much” is, but here, so far, that point has not been reached.

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Dig, dig, dig. Dig trench, refill with layers of manure and soil. This area is being worked and dug to a depth of two and a half feet.

Harvest and storage occupy much of our late summer and fall time. You could also call taking photographs and writing about Wishetwurra Farm “labor”. It’s pleasant labor, and helps a person pay attention. A labor worth the time spent.

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Another basket of tomatoes. These are paste types, for sauce and for drying.

Each of the last few years we’ve made more pickles and relish than the year before.

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Relish time. Peppers, onions, cucumbers, and more waiting canning and final processing. We have and still use a generations-old galvanized cast iron food grinder to prepare the vegetables.

The first white of the winter snuck in last week, exciting small children and the snow bunnies. It left a temporary tracing on the brickwork on the path to the front door.

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A half hour later, this trace was gone.

The most recent forecast says we’ll get a 48-hour cold snap early next week. Fifteen degrees Fahrenheit? I think these will be the coldest temperatures since last February or early March. Brrrrrr.

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Forecast chart from “weather underground”.

If you go out our road, and head down Music Street for a  quarter mile, you can find another trace of white, not snow or ice, but an early harbinger of what to expect once January and February have come and gone.

What harbinger is that?

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Snowdrops on Music Street, West Tisbury, MA. December 31, 2015.

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

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One response to “Wishetwurra Farm, 2015: Year-End Report

  1. It was a joyous adventure, not laborious whatsoever, to read this edition of thetompostpile. Your gardening efforts are admirable, your harvest impressive. Thanks, Tom, for offering such inspiration.

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