Want to know what life is like on a working conventional onion farm, and the day to day musings of a real life onion farmer? That's what you will read about, plus posts for music, weird news clips, and stories about my lobbying in behalf of agricultural public policy!
A few weeks ago it rained 6 inches over a roughly 4 day period. It was an extended “soaking rain,” not a fast downpour that ran off into the drainage ditches. Over the past month or so we have gotten close to 10 inches of rain, including nearly 2 early last week.
That is not good for crops. Many fields do not have proper drainage, for whatever reason, and you have subsequent sections and spots where the plants (in my case, onions) literally start to drown and suffocate from a lack of oxygen being available to the roots.
See this CCE newsletter, pages 2-3 for details:
So, what can you do?
First, on June 28th I applied nitrogen to my most damaged fields.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday I went in with my Ac-G and duck hooks and hooked all of my wet spots, in an attempt to aerate the soil and dry the ground out.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we came within a hair of having another major flooding event with the Wallkill River. If we had gotten 7 or 8 inches of rain versus 6 or if the rain had come down in the form of a heavy downpour that mostly drained off versus slower rains that saturate the soil we probably would have seen an 8th “50 year flood.”
And that is an outrage because a river of that size should be able to handle a 7 or 8 inch rain event over a 4 day period. The reason why it can’t is because it has not been maintained. I and my neighbors cannot afford another flood of the magnitude and timing that occurred in 2011. If it happens again you can kiss most of the farming in the black dirt region goodbye!
What exactly is happening to my onion crop? Essentially my onions in certain parts of my fields are drowning. They are turning yellow, they are melting down and not only not producing new leaves they are losing old foliage.
I will later today post photos.
What can I do about it? Not much. I can hook my fields in an attempt to try and dry them out. I’ve done that twice already but I can’t even think of doing that again until the ground dries out.
I can add fertilizer, particularly some form of nitrogen. I’ve done that once already.
I can add a foliar feed to my fungicide/insecticide spray package. I’ve done that once already as well.
Since last Thursday, as of this morning, we have gotten roughly 6 inches of rain. That included 2 inches from the latest event which ended last night. The various tributaries that feed into the Wallkill River, including the Quaker Creek (which much of my land drains into or is near) are very high, as is the Wallkill itself. Because the river is so high the tributaries are starting to back up and a small portion of my fields started to go a bit under water, but as of 9:00am the water began to recede.
I have an incredible ache in the lower part of the right side of my back. I can’t bend or move really well.
So, since I can’t get into the fields and I can’t take any more pain killers for my back to compensate, I decided to lay low and do the laundry for the week. I separated our laundry into 4 loads and loaded the first into our relatively new Samsung WF328AAW (http://www.samsung.com/us/appliances/washers-dryers/WF328AAW/XAA).
I don’t think we have owned it longer than 2 years. It was a $1K machine.
As the first load was about to start the rinse cycle a warning code popped on. “NF” I started to search for the owner’s manual and couldn’t find it in our mess of a filing cabinet. I then searched online and found it meant the machine couldn’t fill with water. So I turned it on and off and the machine started to work. It filled with water and started the rinse cycle.
Then it stopped.
Then the door unlocked.
Then the door popped open and the water just poured out.
I quickly tried to close the door as the water rushed out. But I couldn’t, because the towels prevented it. I finally was able to shut the door but the laundry room was filled with water. And my back was killing me. I went down to the basement and got our wet/dry vac, which is functionally useless. It pits out whatever you are sucking in at a nearly equal rate. But, I was able to suck enough of the water up. I then called Eve.
Me: “Holy crap, the washer crapped out, it opened in mid rinse I have water everywhere. WHERE IS THE DAMN OWNER’S MANUAL?”
Eve: “You can’t find it? (hears my frustration, starts giggling)
Me: “This isn’t funny … I can’t find the manual, my back is killing me, the laundry room is a mess, we are almost flooding, this is terrible.”
Eve: “Did you get the wet/dry vac?”
Me: “YES! It sucks, or rather, it doesn’t! And I can’t find the one attachment for the vacuum cleaner because Jonah plays with it I am so pissed! And where is the manual?”
Eve: (laughing now) “Listen, man up!”
Me: “I am manning up … this sucks.”
Eve: “I’m on my way.”
I then called my dad and he brought the barn’s wet/dry vac, which actually opened up. He then opened the door to the laundry room and said “leave this open … it needs more air to dry!”
Ah, he worked in his obsession for more air!
Eve arrived, I eventually found the manual and we were able to run the spin cycle, getting the remaining water out of the machine. I then got a hold of the therapeutic massage person our family uses and made an appointment for my back tomorrow morning.
When I drove down Indiana Road most of the standing water had finally been absorbed by the ground and the water in the ditches and Quaker Creek continued to recede.
But at 3:00pm it began to rain … heavy, and cells from the north keeping going over us like a train. We picked up at least a quarter inch but the Village of Florida (where the Quaker Creek runs thru) was hammered. The waters will now ride again and who knows when they will recede … but hopefully they will recede soon (http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=okx&gage=grdn6)
As Tropical Storm Andrea targeted our region I was interviewed by intrepid News 12 reporter Carolyn Rowe regarding the potential impacts of the storm. As I told her, anything under 5 inches we should be okay, but if we go above 5 or 7 inches I sadly expect the Wallkill to flood.
And that river should be able to handle 5 or 6 inches. It is a disgrace that it can’t.