Ah, the whims of weather. Today, in 60-degree temps, I began hardening off all of the vegetable plants I have growing in my basement. Earlier this week, the veggie plants growing outside had a bit more than a dusting of snow to contend with. (Luckily, many cool-weather plants are snow tolerant.) In a couple of nights, the weather may dip below the hard freeze conditions of 28 degrees for four or more hours. Or not. (It all depends on which weather model you look at.)
As a gardener, this is part of what I must deal with. Should I cover my plants a couple of nights this week? Probably. But I have not cut the needed materials to the specs necessary to make such an action easy. I’ll have to weave thin, transparent plastic between my trellises in a couple of raised beds over my peas and green-leafy vegetables in what, if the weather has its way, will be windy conditions. Cry me a river!
I’ll have to figure this out in the next day or so. I should probably go ahead and prepare for the worst. The wrong decision could destroy a good number of my plants. However, I don’t sweat Mother Nature in some gardening situations. Yes, I’m invested in my garden, but I also know there are some things I can’t control. (Covering my raised beds is something I can.) But not sweating some things is what allows me not to get too sad when a straight-line windstorm topples my sunflowers, or worse yet, a hailstorm hits and decimates a large segment of my garden.
Growing real food requires paying attention to many things. Including the weather, of course. And I’m just a gardener. Imagine if I were a small farmer whose care for my plants and produce could be ruined (and with it tens of thousands of dollars in income) all based on if a rainstorm hits at the right time or not.
In fact, a few years back, a different job gave me the opportunity to talk with a lot of small farmers about how they grew real food. I remember a farmer called one meeting very short because an out-of-nowhere rainstorm popped up just hours away. A serious portion of the farmer’s income for the season depended on her harvesting all the produce she could that afternoon. One minute we were talking about crop rotation, the next, she was in her pickup truck just about to race away.
So why is this important? Because it is part of the story of real food that most city folks get to ignore. And that concerns me.
Sure, we may sometimes recognize a slight price fluctuation of one food or another at the big box supermarkets. But that’s hardly the consequence felt by a small farmer who wants to bring you the best food possible rather than the monoculture variety that can weather the most conditions and are often the types of produce found in the chains many of us frequent.
I garden for many reasons. One is to have to live with the consequences of Mother Nature. I’m not, for example, looking for pests to destroy my harvests. But knowing such things are possible based on the conditions of a particular type of season is something I (and many others) should care about.