Looking for signs

I won’t lie — it has been an incredibly challenging week on the farm. Just like every profession, there are times when the sun shines just enough and the rain falls in perfect amounts and the flowers look happy and healthy and I feel incredibly blessed to be doing something so beautiful with my life…..and then there are times when I find myself wondering if I am really cut out for this calling after all. This week I asked myself many times over if I am going to make it as a farmer. I still don’t have a definite answer.

This spring on Prince Edward Island has been very long and very cold. We had frost after what was supposed to be the last frost date, and after many days in the teens and 20s. The temperature has been up in the double digits and then plummeting down to almost freezing on and off for weeks. Those of you who have been following me on Facebook will have seen my dollar store plastic cup TLC strategy — going up the field in the evening and covering each sweet pea plant with a cup and burying it in soil, returning in the morning to pull the cups up again, and then back to the field in the evening to put all the sweet peas back under their little plastic domes. Miraculously, in total I only lost four plants. The others are all finally starting to climb their trellis, and I am really looking forward to being able to share some gorgeous sweet peas with you in the coming weeks.

Due to the crazy weather and heavy rains I had to delay tilling the field later than usual this year too. I finally got my first babies transplanted on June 18th. The rest of the crop went in between the 19th and 25th. This week we have had a lot of heat followed by lots of rain, and my zinnias and now many other flowers on the field have started getting attacked by what looks like earwigs. This afternoon I went around the field setting homemade earwig traps — jars filled with vegetable oil and soy sauce. Apparently earwigs are nocturnal, which would be why I have not seen any of them on my plants when I am in the field. They have been shredding my seedlings, which has been very hard to watch. Initially not being sure what was causing the damage, I sprayed my plants with fish fertilizer to help strengthen them, and tried a number of other home remedies. Unfortunately nothing has worked so far, so when it was suggested to me that it might be earwigs I decided to set some traps and see if I make any progress. I will go back tomorrow to see what I catch. I have always believed that if things are in balance insects will get what they need without wiping out what I need….but having invested significant time and energy in adding compost to my plot this spring and planting a cover crop in the fall that I tilled into the soil this spring, this week I have begun to wonder if my theory about balance was simply wrong.

Today I woke up to a torrential downpour. In general I love a heavy rainfall — both because I find it incredibly peaceful, but also because it gives me a reason to slow down and get caught up on computer work or even reading whatever my current novel is (at the moment ‘The Weight of Ink’). But today as I lay in bed looking out at the wind throwing the branches of the trees this way and that what I was thinking of was my flowers and how much stress they have been subjected to over the last couple of weeks. The more stress they have the more susceptible they are to being attacked by insects. Insects seem to just know which ones are most weakened by the weather conditions and choose those ones to feed upon.

After setting the earwig traps at the farm today I took a walk around, checking each row to see how each variety is doing. Some are doing really well — thriving really, while others have sustained a lot of insect damage — so much that I’m not sure they will recover from it. This is the first year I have had so much insect damage on so many plants. As I was walking back to my car I noticed that the two (still far too short to be blooming, but nevertheless healthy) poppies that I had noticed just starting to crack through their skins yesterday had burst open. Up close they were short-stemmed but in truth also absolutely perfect. I have them in a vase next to my computer as a type this. They make me smile every time I look up.

My farming mentor told me that you have to take time to look up when you farm. You have to find the miracles in the every day experiences on the land, and that if you don’t, you have no business farming. Some days I have to admit that I forget his advice. I am soaked and cold, or tired, or in a rush to get something done so I can get to my other job, but then a yellow-centred white poppy stops me in my path and reminds me to find the signs of hope and beauty. Today it was the poppies. A few days ago it was a robin on a power line chirping down at me as if in conversation. Farming has a way of doing this. It extends constant invitations to connect if we pay close enough attention. Have you had an invitation like this recently? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below. Have a beautiful Canada Day weekend, friends!

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