The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

One of the things that I have found most fascinating with our farm share is the different ways that different weather conditions affect different crops. Some years there will be lots of rain in the spring, wiping out, say, the spinach, but leading to happier tomatoes down the line. Or a heat wave will, say, frizzle the snap peas but delight the strawberries.

Farmer Jim and Sherry do such a fantastic job of providing us with a wide array and balance of crops, so it always seems that there’s something thriving in conditions that other things aren’t happy with, and we don’t often consider the way that tumultuous weather can really be devastating to farmers. This week, though, we learned first-hand.

After a smothering, humid heatwave, Wednesday finally saw a front move through New Jersey to break the miserable, sweltering conditions for us. That would be good news, except for the way it broke — it was a giant, slow-moving front, and it crept along over us, giving us a constant string of strobe-light lightning and incessant thunder for almost 10 hours. And in the middle of the afternoon, we had a 20-minute stormburst with an intense brutality the likes of which I’ve never seen before. First there was crackling thunder and blue-green lightning flashing constantly, then sheets of rain whipping around in every direction, and then hail. Lots of hail. Giant hail. The pond below my office window looked like it was being barraged with golf balls, and when I looked out the front of the building, the parking lot looked like it had been covered with white gravel. The hailstones were the size of that huge, industrial gravel, fully an inch long. The skies pelted us with the stuff for about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out (but not for long — the thunder and lightning resumed shortly thereafter). It was the strangest storm I’ve ever seen.

It was also extremely destructive. Just that brief a spurt of violent storming wreaked havoc. On my way home from work that day I stopped for corn at the farm stand and discovered their barn had been struck by lightning (no one was hurt, and the barn is apparently fine) and the farmer was apparently on the phone with the crop insurance people. When I walked past the fields this morning, the plants were in tatters. On Thursday morning I received an email from our membership farm explaining that the summer lettuce and chard crops had been destroyed, and the tomatoes, watermelons, scallions, beets, and summer squash had all suffered severe damage. While I’m feeling very mopey that I won’t get as many wonderful tomatoes as I’d hoped for this summer, and that my produce habit is going to be more expensive than in years without hail-damaged crops, it’s also really humbling to think about people who rely on the land for their livelihood. It’s easy for me just to go to another farmer’s market, or suck it up and buy the shipped-from-who-knows-where produce in the grocery store. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if there wasn’t a fallback. Pookie remarked when we were assessing our own garden damage that it’s amazing to consider that hail doesn’t do anything good. It’s puzzling that Nature destroys things without reason, without some offsetting benefit. Puzzling and, literally, awesome.

Meanwhile, there’s been some clamor that we haven’t been posting enough pictures lately (so we’ve been lazy! Sue us!), so here’s a look at the damage our own modest crops sustained.

First, remember the pumpkin at the front door?

Here’s what a quarter-hour of hail did to it:

Our puny little habaneros, which were finally starting to look like they were bushing out just a bit, took a beating, too:

The peppers on the nardellos plants, some of the gherkins, and some of the tomatoes got pitted by the hailstones and cracked. And even more tomatoes simply gave up the ghost and were buffeted to the ground.

But you know what else is puzzling (in a “mysterious” sense) and awesome? That all was not lost. Here are some ripening Black Plums that were unaffected by the storm…

…and here are some San Marzanos soaking up the post-storm sunshine:

And look at what a week of harvesting has yielded of the Black Plums!

Meanwhile, while we were scoping out the destruction in the garden, we were also seeking signs of new growth from the wave of crops we planted this past weekend. That’s right — we spent a tortuously hot Sunday afternoon filling in the recently emptied beds with carrots, beets, and some impulse-bought beans.

These are Lina Sisco’s Bird’s Egg beans:

These are Hutterite Soup beans:

These are October beans:

And these are Tigers Eye:

So even while we shed some tears for our fallen, tattered plants, we were thrilled to see signs of life all over the bean beds.

And over in the beet bed, an eagle eye can see signs of life, first from the Touchstone Gold and then from the Detroit Dark Red:

And on the fringes of the beleaguered pepper bed? The first wave of carrots are growing like a literal fringe. Even after the hail, their fronds are cool, elegant, and lacy.

But the best lesson of the day for us was this: Sure, Nature can’t help but destroy things for no reason, but Nature also can’t help but make beautiful things, either.

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14 Comments

Filed under 7. July, Bad News, Garden, Harvested

14 responses to “The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

  1. Those tomatoes on the ground make my heart break! But at least your attitude about it is good…right?

  2. Hee! Yeah, it’s all about the positive thinking. Or something. (I can’t even imagine what the carnage must have looked like at our farm, where there would have been thousands of tomato plants. That’s a lot of tomatoes down.)

  3. Sue

    When life gives you green tomatoes…do like a Yankee…make Piccalilli:

    http://www.yankeemagazine.com/recipes/search/onerecipe.php?number=5191

    To die for on hamburgers!

  4. Sue, that’s a great idea! Thanks for the link!

  5. Iain

    Jings, that’s a lot of damage in such a short period of time. Here’s to the autumn crops!

  6. Douglas

    Sorry about your storm damage. Glad it wasn’t worse. You’re lucky to be able to grow beans. For reasons of space, aesthetics and the technical challenge of it, I refuse to put up a fence. So, the woodchucks have taught us the things that we can’t grow — namely, broccoli and green beans. They don’t call woodchucks groundhogs for nothing. Woodchucks don’t believe in sharing, and invariably attack the broccoli the day before I had planned to pick it. We used to have no problems with the tomatoes. But in the past couple of years, the chipmunks have begun to eat those. So, we have learned to harvest the tomatoes as they start to turn red. Happily, no varmints seem to go after the lettuce, swiss chard, kale and beets, so we grow those, too, and they have have done well so far this year.

  7. Thanks, Iain — here’s hoping we don’t have more hail between now and Fall! :D

    Douglas, we refuse to do fences for our beans either — these are all bush beans. Who can be bothered trellising beans and stuff? That’s hard work! And that’s awful about your woodchucks. Of course they would wait until right when you’re about to harvest your veggies; it wouldn’t be right if they didn’t maximize the pain and agony. Our neighbor has had trouble with them, but so far — touch wood — we’ve been okay. (We also harvest the tomatoes before they’re fully ripe. Whatever we lose in flavor we gain in not having to share our tomatoes with the birds.) That’s awesome that you’ve had great luck with so many delicious crops this year!

  8. Man, all those tomatoes. So sorry about the hail.

    I can just hear that little bean sprout saying, “Ehn!” as it tries to push that boulder out of the way. :P

  9. Patty, you’re so right! That’s the cutest little bean sprout EVER!

  10. Liz

    Yeah, food is not something that shows up in our supermarkets – it must grow somewhere and not until you watch it grow (and do the work) does the agony of a lost crop hit home. Here’s hoping that some of your plants bounce back, and good thing you didn’t plant seeds a week or two earlier!

    What’s your seed source?

  11. One of the funniest things about growing produce is when you go out to look at your plants and discover something on them that looks exactly like its grocery store counterpart. Like, “hey look! A bell pepper! Hanging from this plant!” We’re just so disconnected from our food sources, even those of us who use farmers markets and CSAs, that it seems these things should just come out of a factory or something. I know I certainly take produce availability for granted! Even after the hailstorm!

  12. Here’s hoping that some of your plants bounce back

    The tomatoes seem okay but the verdict’s still out on the pumpkin. Keep your fingers crossed!

    As for where we get our seeds, all of the stuff from years past and most of the stuff we’re growing this year are from Seeds of Change. Midway through the season we discovered Seed Savers Exchange, which is so freakin’ cool. Our beans all came from there, and so far, they’re doing great. The Seed Savers website doesn’t have a lot on it, but you can join and get a giant catalog filled all kind of crazy seeds being saved from people’s garden all over the world. There are something like 4,000 tomato seeds to choose from. It’s staggering! So next year we might order more seeds that way.

  13. Liz

    I’ve used Seeds of Change in the past and I think I read about Seed Savers Exchange in Animal, Vegetable Miracle. I hope todays storms were kinder on your crops.

  14. One of the gardening blogs I like to read (Skippy’s Vegetable Garden) says that Sand Hill Preservation Center is another great seed source. The logo looks so old school! I’d love to get seed packets with that logo on it. I’d feel so earthy!

    I haven’t read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”; would you recommend it?

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