Hoof prints like they’re dancing on the buffet table

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A sea of ​​delicate flowers swayed in the gentle breeze, the white tops like a layer of clouds across the field. But this rustic scene is wrong. They should be tall sunflowers, their yellow and brown faces beaming skyward. Queen Anne’s wild lace took over, forcing the expected harvest. Planning has been dropped for sunflowers this year, as well as for our other crops. Agriculture is a real struggle; farmers who successfully cultivate and raise livestock deserve our unconditional respect.

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The planting season started late. The regular spring rains were appreciated, but they soaked the ground until the end of June. It was so spongy that my son’s 1940s tractor could only spin its big tires through the mud. Field clearing was delayed, then several days passed to get seeds and tiny seedlings nestled in the ground. Hopes rose over the next few weeks for our son, my husband and I as sprouts emerged, the delicate leaves of pumpkins, radishes, beans, peas and more.

Scattering behind the tractor over two acres, sunflower seeds landed in swirling rows. Germination usually takes two weeks or less for sunflower leaves to emerge from the ground. The days are ticking away.

While visiting the farm a few weeks later, I noticed that only a small number of sunflowers were growing. Queen Anne’s Lace – a biennial wild carrot – claimed the field as her own. The imaginary forest of two meter tall sunflowers that my son planned to turn into a fun maze was just stubby stems. Hobbits are said to be taller than sunflowers. The little flower faces looked depressed, pointing down instead of admiring the sun. Of the thousands of seeds planted, only a few dozen plants have grown. The sunflowers were radiation.

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Sunny days turned into hot, dry weeks without a hint of dark clouds. The three small basins used to fill the watering tank have dried up. The muddy pond beds quickly dried out and cracked. Little frogs jumped to a better watering hole and the croaking toads disappeared. The plants withered toward the ground, as if searching for a drop of dew. Applying sips of water here and there to the most desperate crops, we anxiously awaited the rain.

The parched garden allowed insects to feed. They were rummaging through the cabbage leaves. They nibbled tomatoes. They gorged themselves on cauliflower, leaving not a sprout to survive.

Thunder rumbled as rain clouds formed to the north. The storm moved north without leaving any moisture. A few days later…drops started falling. Fields thrived during three days of mild rain. Some plants grew so fast that we could measure the change between morning and dinner. Normal weather conditions have set in with regular rains filling the ponds. A few splashes and a deep croak broke the silence. The frogs and toads were back.

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Constantly growing among the plowed rows, the milkweed plants thrived. Monarch butterflies enjoy milkweed as a favorite home for their caterpillars, I’m sorry to say that only a few orange, black and white butterflies were seen floating among the pink flowers. The soft, silky silk of the milkweed pods caught the breezes and spread the seeds, so there will be no shortage of the plant next year.

Enjoying a feast, several deer nibbled the tops of almost all the green and wax bean plants. The beans were still growing and a multi-row crop was being taken to the food bank. Chewing on zucchini, the animals also dug sharp feet into melons for a bite and left a trail of hoof prints as if dancing across the buffet table.

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Developing long vines with lush green leaves, pumpkin plants sprouted eye-catching yellow flowers suggesting the harvest to come. “All pumpkins are gourds,” said Brendan Borrell in the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Great Pumpkin” (October 2011). Pumpkins are “a loosely defined group of species in the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes melons, cucumbers, and squashes”. The type of pumpkin grown for Halloween pies and pumpkins “is derived from the same Mexican stock as zucchini and spaghetti squash.” Giant pumpkins belong to a different species called Cucurbita maxima.

It didn’t take long for a veil of white mold to appear on the pumpkin leaves. The mold did not harm the little pumpkins on the vine but damaged the plant itself. Plants also suffered from vine borers. The pumpkin crop was small – the drought caused the pumpkin vines to produce few female flowers and many male flowers, resulting in fewer pumpkins.

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At the end of August, many members of our family contracted non-COVID-19 flu and agricultural work was interrupted. Three weeks passed in limbo, and when the three of us returned to the fields, the courgettes were huge. (Food bank staff said they really couldn’t use such large items.) The few butternut squash that surfaced were twice as usable, but the spaghetti squash was perfect for harvesting.

Throughout the season, the equipment insisted on causing hassle. The tractor battery died several times and a front tire had to be replaced. (The front tires are smaller than the large rear tires.) The clutch bearing on the five-year-old bar also failed and the tire tubes rotted. All were smaller aggravations but took precious days.

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Planting fewer rows of potatoes due to the potato bug infestation the previous summer, this year’s Yukon Gold crop was a success, with big potatoes and plenty of potatoes. soil per plant. The Russets were less productive but still pushing happily. Plus, a little garlic garden was a spicy triumph.

Frost has ended farming for this year, but my husband and son deserve big kudos. Instead of giving up in aggravation, they are busy planning next year’s crops, aiming for plants that need less water and are resistant to insects and deer. Looks like I better develop a taste for fresh garlic.

Susanna McLeod is a writer living in Kingston. She’s not a fan of garlic.

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