The rain returns

The plants are happy for rain! And so are we!

After many, many unseasonably dry and warm spring weeks, the rain has returned in earnest. It took awhile for it to actually amount to much in the soil, because the preceding weeks had brought soil moisture down to summer levels. Before the rain returned, Casey would go out to work a field and make a lot of dust in the process (which meant we actually need to irrigate fields prior to working them! In April!). Even after it began raining again, the dust was initially still present, but I think this last week of solid downpours may have finally penetrated into the soil profile.

On Thursday afternoon, Casey was actually quite giddy because of the rain. He kept repeating: “The whole farm is being irrigated at once!” It was pretty awesome timing. To reiterate, it had gotten dry already — so dry that we had already irrigated our orchards once, something we normally don’t think to do until late June or July. But, now they’ve been irrigated even more thoroughly, and the sudden growth visible on all the trees and perennials is outstanding.

I get giddy this time of year just checking on all of the trees. It is so thrilling to me to watch the trees wake and put out fresh vibrant green leaves or new needles. Inevitably, we find that a few trees didn’t make it through the winter for whatever reason — this year we lost an oak we planted in a hedgerow back in 2007. There’s no sign of damage, just no leaves. I was sad to find it, because it had the most amazing red fall color, but I suppose we will just have to plant another tree in that vicinity this upcoming winter.

Most of our trees, however, survived the winter and are thriving now, both in the orchards and hedgerows and by our house. Back in 2010, Casey and our then-employee Jeff stuck hundreds of willow cuttings into the ground along our property boundaries. Amazingly, most of them ‘took,’ and this year we have a beautiful willow hedge that is double my height in spots. Up by our house, we’ve all been marveling at the gorgeous Big Leaf Maple tree that we also planted in 2010 (to celebrate Rusty’s birth the prior December). It too is looking quite established and even casts a nice little circle of shade when the sun is out.

Just beyond the maple is a volunteer English Walnut seedling that popped up our first summer here (back in 2007). When we first noticed it, it was in the fence enclosure around our first home flock of layers and in the shade of a large apple tree. It was just a whip with some leaves, but Casey decided it was worth keeping, even though it seemed an unlikely spot for a new tree (being below an existing apple tree and all). But now that our apple trees in our orchards are producing, we’re ready to take down that old apple tree for fire wood and give full space to the walnut tree … which has grown to be almost as tall as our house already! I am in awe of anything that can grow so prolifically under such less-than-ideal conditions. I can’t wait to see what it does once that apple tree is gone.

In our orchards, the great excitement of the year is the Asian plum fruit set, which is the best we’ve ever seen. We love Asian plums, but they typically bloom just a bit too early for reliably warm weather. Meaning that they bloom at a time when there are few pollinators about and typically have pretty poor fruit set. My parents have some mature Asian plum trees in their yard that often only bear a handful of fruit — last year my mom had to ration Rusty to one plum per day, because otherwise he could have practically eaten them all in one sitting. This year, in contrast, it was warm and beautiful during the bloom, and we are predicting a bumper crop. Those same trees in my parents’ yard are loaded with fruit, and so are the small trees in our orchards. We may have to thin or prop some of our young trees so that the branches don’t break under the weight of the maturing fruit this summer.

And now all of these delightful trees are basking in the abundant rain. We planted a lot of crops during the dry period, and those too are being irrigated and well. The pastures are benefiting too. What a comfort to us farmers in this moment in time, to know that everything is growing at its peak thanks to plentiful water, mellow temperatures, and long days.

We people have been enjoying the rain for ourselves as well. It was a fun treat to build a few fires in the wood stove last week — almost a month since what we thought was “the last” one of the season. Casey came home from the chilly vegetable CSA pick-up last Tuesday to a warm, cozy house, and it was a sweet little final good-bye to the season we are leaving behind.

Of course, it’s also a bit of a shock to us to have our outdoor play somewhat limited after weeks and weeks of days spent almost completely in the yard (and, on the children’s part, mostly naked). But apparently outdoor play is Rusty’s favorite thing still, so he has been insisting on continuing doing his “dinosaur tricks” in all weather. This morning, he was outside at 9 am, in the rain, bare bottomed and shoeless, stomping through wet sand and roaring (I insisted on a warm hat and jacket, but he insisted on wearing nothing else).

In the blink of an eye I’ll be back to worrying about sunburns and the jackets will sit on their hooks for months (and probably be outgrown in the process), but for now this is a lovely little restful moment in a very busy season. What a rare treat for us to so delight in May rain! We have loved this spring. I’ve said it before, and I’ll surely say it again: it has been a true gift, and we are grateful for it.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Sugar snap peas — Raw peas have been a staple snack in our house this last week, but we’ve also enjoyed them roasted as part of our meals. I just put them in a pan with some butter or coconut oil and maybe some other vegetables too (chopped carrots or spring onions) and roast at 425° until everything is cooked and starting to caramelize (helps to stir a few times). Rusty loves cooked peas possibly even more than raw peas.
  • Fava beans — How did you eat your fava beans last week? We shucked and then blanched the beans and then added to kale while we were cooking it. Next up we are going to roast some whole: toss liberally with oil, place on a roasting rack in a single layer, salt liberally and roast until they are starting to blacken. You can eat the whole pod with beans inside!
  • Strawberries — Recipes? Serving suggestions? No need! Early summer candy is here!
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green garlic
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