Saturday, June 11, 2011

Super Hot and Then... Rain

Gardeners and farmers alike are getting frustrated with the weather this year. I'm a gardener; my Dad's a farmer. Central Wisconsin is smack-dab in the heart of Wisconsin's vegetable growing market basket.

I keep meaning to check, but I think we had measurable rain every day in May. This, after two nights of super cold and over a foot of snow in late April. The first week of June came and temperatures shot up to record highs in the mid-90s. Yesterday, it rained all day. It felt like we had six entire months of winter this year.

I realize the weather sucks almost everywhere in the continental United States. A friend told me it snowed in Hawaii...first time in 30 years. I need to confirm that!

On the western side of Wisconsin there are the apple and cranberry growers. To the east, apples and cherries. Down south in Dane and Waukesha counties, they sure grow some really pretty field corn. Here in the central sands we mine the earth for ground water, and sand is little more than a hydroponic medium to grow potatoes, sweet corn, peas, soy beans, cucumbers, and green beans.

My dad, a small dairy farmer; and as such one of the few of a diminishing breed who milks his own herd of 60 head at 78. We joke that it's his exercise program. As a dairy farmer, though, he is always interested on what the corn crop looks like when I am out and about. Particularly, is it planted, how big, and later, where is the best looking corn.

In a scene something out of 'Snow White', he asks, "who has the best corn of all?" Some years I can answer amicably, " You do, Dad."

This year, though. I am seeing too many fields, yet to be worked. They are the screwed up triangles, or chopped up fields, or odd corners. The big plots have all been planted, those where the big farmers have the huge walk-around irrigation.

I saw potatoes being planted the end of May! We typically plant them late April.

Globally, we have had some poor crop seasons recently; Australia and China particularly, had poor wheat harvests this past season. I've been expressing my concern that this year it is vitally important that America have a great crop. My Dad replies we have had a great crop for a quite a few years now, we are due for a poorer one. I pray this is not that year.

I went grocery shopping yesterday. It seemed prices had taken another leap upward. Granted, I grocery shop about once every three weeks, buying staples and making by hand the food we consume. During the growing season I augment with anything I can harvest, typically greens in May and June. I eat a lot of salads. We had rhubarb cobbler, and strawberry shortcake will soon make it on the table.

The price of milk has jumped to $2.79 a gallon for 2%, $1.99 for low-fat Monterrey Jack cheese. Five pounds of flour is $1.79, five pounds of sugar $2.79.

Amidst these prices a pint of blueberries is only $1.29. I bought three! I know some poor farmer in Martinez, Georgia, did not get paid what it cost to bring his crop to my grocer at that price. All spring, I have lamented blueberries at $3.79 a pint-- beyond my food budget. In the family garden, it is one of the big ticket items. We planted 20 blueberry bushes.

So, today, I will make fresh blueberry muffins. I will wash and freeze a pint of the precious fruit. Then tomorrow, maybe I will make a bluebbery cobbler.

But during my baking and preserving, as I wait for the sand to dry out and so I can do some gardening; I will send up a silent prayer that we continue to have a good harvest here in America,and a silent thank you and apology to the blueberry farmer whose labors I got at discount.

I admonish all of you to do the same.

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