My reference to windows in this context is a limited time period in the weather allowing for specific farm work; currently, I mean a break in the rainy weather – enough time for the soils to dry so that we can till and plant our field crops.
About 2 months ago, my post read A More Normal Spring – indicating that after 3 years of wet springs, we were having normal spring weather – ie, the absence of small windows; that turned out to be premature. It is being another incredibly wet spring – with small windows.
In an average year (actually, I’m not sure there is such a thing anymore), all of our spring crops would be planted by now: sorghum, field corn, popcorn, corn for seed for SESE (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), soybeans, pinto & black beans. Right now only about half of our sorghum crop is planted – and none of the others. Earlier this spring, we had windows when we could have planted these crops but it was too cool for us organic producers. A week ago, we had a 3 day window in which to work down the green manure crop & weeds, and plant. We transplanted/planted about half of our sorghum crop; we could have planted more, but the weather was once again cool and the green manure crop was not all dead yet – so we decided not to plant more. Was it the right choice?
It is still too early to tell – why? Since we practice organic methods, we depend on good soil conditions for seed germination and weed control. In seasons of small windows, we are at a distinct disadvantage compared to our conventional neighbors; eg, in that last 3 day window, they finished all their planting: their seeds are treated with fungicides so that if the weather turns cool, the seeds will not rot and/or be picked apart by fungi. Further, they don’t have green manure crops and so what if there are still weeds in the field when they plant? They will be taken care of by an herbicide spray later. In our case, non-treated seed germination depends on how wet and/or warm the soils are; eg. even though I planted the sorghum seed a week ago, and some plants have poked above the ground, I am still not sure that the germination will be consistent enough for a crop – or that the crop will not be totally swamped with weeds.
For me, small windows are similar to niche markets: we often have to make snap decisions with little/no info to guide us. We don’t know until much later whether they were good decisions – depending on weather or changes in the marketplace. How to make these decisions? by the seat of your pants? consult your favorite oracle? prayer? At various times, I’ve done all of these. I have no definitive answers/results.
Small windows in agriculture make for stress. Oh well, I am trying to embrace small windows – I assume there is some kind of lesson to be learned here. Here’s to more lessons in life!