Week 6 (Chicago Week 4)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Mizspoona Greens
  • Oregon Giant and sugar snap snow peas,
  • Summer squash (zucchini and Patty Pan)
  • Bright Lights Chard
  • Long and short cucumbers
  • Garlic scape
  • Radishes
  • Broccoli
  • Basil

Working through a world of whirlwinds

A solitary farm above open plains knows storms more intimately than any protected cluster of dwellings. At least, we’ve found that again to be true.

A line of powerful storms swept over us one night this past week. Dela and I awoke to horrible sounds of something being ruined in the rushing wind and driving rain that beset our farm on Scotch Hill.

I thought one of the giant black locust trees flanking our lean-to greenhouse had fallen across a high tunnel hoop house. She imagined an entire greenhouse structure blown over. We’ve seen such destruction before. It was difficult in darkness not to imagine the worst repeated.

Neither of us had courage nor desire to venture into the rain to inspect the damage. Well before dawn, though, the storm passed, I went out to face what damage the storm had inflicted on our farm.

We built our high tunnel greenhouses in 2010 and 2011. They run more than 70 and 90 feet, respectively. Thirty feet wide and 12 feet tall at the peak, each took weeks to construct, even with occasional help of volunteers.

Unimaginable pressure in near constant winds taxes greenhouse plastic stretched over enormous high tunnel structures. I noticed early this spring our plastic was beginning to fail along the eye bolts, which run chest high the length of each building. Those little bolts hold anti-billowing ropes to protect curtains raised and lowered. The curtains vent the high tunnels.

This storm that struck us this week seized plastic off both buildings at this weak point. It ripped the plastic almost completely off both buildings. Imagine nearly 2,000 square feet of plastic flapping up into a mighty wind and back onto the structure itself and the ground. This was what made that sound as of a giant tree falling, or entire buildings collapsing.

Later, in half a day’s work, I freed most of what held the torn plastic to the structures. I even folded up one building’s plastic to recycle in some way. No human-made material here in 22 years has escaped my attempts to reuse it as many times as possible in other applications. Scotch frugality is in every sustainable follower’s blood.

Covering the buildings with new plastic will consume more money than we earn from an entire season’s service to two households. It seems on the face of it a misfortune, a cruel reversal of good fortune. Yet it was a sudden, hard reminder of where almost every dollar we earn, at least $92 of every $100 goes.

What you pay us for a year’s work to grow and deliver weekly to your neighborhood, provides hundreds of items necessary to maintain buildings, equipment and land. From financial support of 92 households, we derive net income from another 8. We can’t minimally sustain ourselves, our farm, without at least twice that total number of supporters – 200 CSA members. This year, we have not reached 70 members. We’ll have to find and work other jobs over winter.

None of these circumstances or tough realities is to be pitied. Torn greenhouse plastic is spilt milk. Thought, not tears, is what a world or a farm in midst of storms needs. If we would understand sustainability, we must think of how to respond to reversals, to climatic changes in weather, to costs of living. Together, we must balance and meet the true costs of serving and protecting farms, food and farmland. Health of everything depends on our working through mighty winds together.