Monday, December 28, 2015

The Most Important Thing

Looking back at the past year, it’s easy to point out our accomplishments and use superlatives to describe events.

 The biggest…the best…the most…  

However, absolutely all of our accomplishments depend completely on something we can’t control.

Something for which we can take no credit and yet affects absolutely EVERYTHING.

And, to my way of thinking that would make it the MOST important thing here on the hill. A force to be reckoned with, respected and understood.

I’m talking about the weather.

I know, it seems like I’m always talking about the weather.

But, quite honestly, we can do nothing without a balance of warmth, precipitation and sunlight. 

That’s right…NOTHING. But, at the same time...we have absolutely no control over it.So, we have to do what we can to learn to work with the weather…to foresee problems and have a recovery plan in place. Since the weather is truly THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, and we are powerless to change it,  we have to accept that fact and make the most of it.

way too many days looked like THIS

I must say, the weather of 2015 wasn’t always an asset. While we cannot point to any one event, (like the Derecho of ‘12, or the blizzard of ’09) this past year's weather indeed created challenges. We had late season cold and lots of wind…that spelled disaster for the early broccoli crop…and then the onion crop. However, things improved after that.

Oddly, weather in different parts of the country/world affect us, too. Those small, spindly onion plants were unable to handle the weather challenges due to the ongoing drought in Texas where they were originally grown. Smoke from CANADA drifted down in the warm still air of June and made for some eerie skies. Even local grain prices are affected by supply elsewhere.

But, the big weather story here on the hill had to be moisture. 

foggy sunrise

hot, hazy sunrise

frosty sunrise

While we didn’t set any rainfall records…not like that year that we had double our annual rainfall. (I think that was 2003…talk about soggy!) But, many mornings started off foggy and gloomy and the grass stayed dewy until lunchtime and beyond. This made for lush, green grass (that is still growing today…December 28) for the animals.  However, it made it difficult to get hay harvested. It was nearly the end of July before we got the first bale in the barn.
dewdrops on grass

Weather affects everything.

The weather affects the farm overall.

 Cold weather is taxing on the animals, the plants and even machinery. Not to mention the farmers who have to work out in it!

The same can be said for record-setting high temperatures. This recent “heatwave” didn’t do us any favors. The trees and plants that are budding now are more likely to expire during the course of the winter. And, the fruit crop will probably be affected as well.

Repair work


The weather affects the Market. 

Ever wonder WHY Staunton doesn’t have a winter market? Try visiting our Market spot after a February snowstorm! 
our vendor spot after a February snow

And, that’s just the location…it’s impossible to grow things in frigid temperatures…and forget about harvesting when everything is blanketed in snow. In 2015, we had more rainy Saturdays than we have had in years. Rainy Saturdays are not the best for business.

this year the market needed an umbrella vendor!

Then, there was the threat of hurricane Joaquin…we were supposed to take a direct hit. 
On a Saturday. 
The days prior to the market were spent agonizing over weather reports. The storm missed us…the Market went on…maintaining its record for being open every Saturday (minus 1---when it was literally under water during hurricane Fran) since 1993. But, market attendance was way off as vendors and shoppers alike worried over storm issues.

a nearly empty Market due to rain

The weather affects the gardens. 

I suppose this should go without saying…but, a lot of folks think that farmers want it to rain ALL the time. As a matter of fact, they don’t understand that there can actually be TOO much rain. You can irrigate during a drought, but it’s nearly impossible to divert a flood. Aside from the issues of flooding, plant disease and pests thrive in warm, moist conditions. We found ourselves battling both this year, adding to the workload and our input costs. 

too much rain is NOT a good thing!

And, we won’t even talk about the weeds!

2015 could have been the year of the snail.   Snails are a host to parasites that affect the sheep and animal health became a big concern. …not to mention snails eat…EVERYTHING!

The weather affects the animals.

old, wet hens

Lush grass promotes great growth, but unseasonable weather causes all sorts of health issues. That damp, dewy grass provided the perfect environment for parasites to flourish, and we lost the battle for animal survival more than once. Although, overall, our livestock endeavors were incredibly successful.

lambs on lush summer grass

Yes, the weather is indeed the most important thing. We can’t do a thing to change it, so we might as well appreciate and enjoy it.

 a beautiful summer day
early fall

While the white stuff is really not my favorite, snow actually fixes nitrogen into the soil and aids in the upcoming growing season.

...and Pyrs LOVE snow!

Ice crystals in the upper atmosphere make for some amazing skies.

There is nothing like the fresh, clean beauty after a storm rolls through.

And, when we somehow experience the balance of moisture, sunlight and warmth…the thriving farm is truly a thing of beauty!

Watch it change throughout the Market season.
(one shot, every Friday afternoon after chores April through November)

Our entire life and livelihood is made possible by the weather...the good, the bad and the ugly. It's all necessary, if for no other reason than to make us appreciative and aware of our surroundings.

Now, I'm wondering what the weather of 2016 will bring to the hill.


  1. What an informative post about your year Barbara, and so interesting. As I am sure you will know from the News, the North of England is in the grip of the most terrible floods - much of the farmland is underwater and we are all holding our breath as there is more to come tomorrow. But as you say, we have no control over it, we must take what comes. Happy 2016 to you both.

    1. Thanks, Pat!
      I have been following the weather stories from your part of the world. How very frightening!
      Take care! And, Happy 2016 to you as well.