OUCH! that’s a downer – who wants to know or talk about crop failures? well, ok, I can hear about them – as long as they are someone’s else’s failures. It’s hard for me to admit to failure. Some time back, I wrote about our problems/failure with tempeh production – it was interesting that several folks responded with suggestions – it appeared inconceivable to them that this “problem” could not be solved. We were there too – but after 9 months, we conceded defeat (in the short term – we still believe that we will figger it out eventually!).
So what am I talking about? what crop failure?
1. first & foremost: honey. In the last 25 years we have not harvested less than 100 gallons of honey in any year – the record was 410 gallons, the last few years, average 110 gal; this year – 22 gallons. THAT SUCKS – big time.
why the poor year? once again, i’m mystified. Sure, I can point to various factors:
swarming – seems like our bees just would not quit swarming this year; in fact, we had another swarm this week.
weather – cool & rainy; bees do best with the opposite – hot & dry.
But, somehow, it does not add up, because both of the above factors were also present last year, and we harvested 100 gallons.
2. dried beans – for our own eating: black beans, pinto beans, & red beans. At this time of year, they are usually 3′ tall and/or sprawling in between the rows and covering the ground. This year – some are 8″ tall, appear puny & stunted; others are 15″ now. The deer have been browsing on them freely and keeping them short – but this looks stunted, not just short. So why? too much rain, not enough sun, always theories – but it seems there were other years when we had similar conditions, and still had a good crop….?
I do note that the beans I replanted (the pintos and red beans) are doing much better; this year, later planting are more vigorous.
3. sweet corn – this hurts. we all LOVE sweet corn. What self-respecting back to the land commune does not grow their own sweet corn? well, okay, we are eating our own sweet corn now and even put some in the freezer – but many of the ears are short & stubby. Of course, the raccoons have been harvesting just ahead of us, as they like to do, but 4 strands of electric fence around the patch does deter them.
why the poor sweet corn harvest? too much rain, not enough sun, and yet?? This by itself does not satisfy me.
4. Mustard – okay, this is not a surprise. Our mustard crop fails more than half of the time. In fact, many years we do not even bother planting mustard – so why plant it at all? We make and sell prepared mustard as one of our products – we like to grow as many of the ingredients as possible in products we sell. Commercially, mustard is grown in more northerly areas: North Dakota, Canada, etc. Occasionally, we get a decent mustard crop – that keeps the hope/spark alive. This year was not one of them. What usually happens is that the plants are not vigorous, have a small seed set and then are overtaken by foxtail (weed). This last week, those conditions manifested and we decided to destroy the crop – to keep the foxtail from going to seed.
5. Popcorn – we have not harvested it yet, but I can already see it’s a crop failure: poor weather and deer are feasting on it.
SO WHAT IS NOT A FAILURE??
Sorghum – our main cash crop, looks to be an average crop.
Wheat – we had some vomitoxin (due to high humidity and too much rain), but an average harvest.
Green manure crops are doing GREAT! We have acres of buckwheat flowering now – the bees are loving it.
Garden and fruit crops (our food) are doing average; actually, we have had a great year for greens and the best year ever for zuchini.
As farm folks like to say, it’s not a failure unless you don’t learn from it. In that vein, we hope that calling it “failure” is incorrect – although exactly what we are learning is not evident yet.