One of the sayings here on the farm is that “no two days are ever the same.” And that is true. Every day presents its own challenges: something breaks, another chore rises to the top of the list, a new crop comes into season. But the fact is, some days are more memorable than others. Yesterday was one of those days.
Strawberries have a rhythm. We grow strawberries in a type of culture called “matted row.” The basic idea is that the berries are planted in the ground and we work like crazy to keep the weeds out of them (rather than covering them in plastic). This requires a lot of discipline. Immediately after the berries have completed their crop, we spray a herbicide that is just strong enough to kill many of the weeds, but not strong enough to kill the berries. Then they must be mowed just a few days later. Then they must be tilled to narrow the rows and destroy any leftover weeds. Then they must immediately get a treatment of premergent herbicide to prevent new weeds from growing. But things can go wrong with the rhythm.
Our rototiller is rather old, and while tilling I realized that the results were going to be quite poor unless we upgraded the old blades. So 10 days later, the machine was ready to use. But in 10 days, the plants had developed fresh new leaves and were growing quickly.
The only problem here is that the chemicals used to prevent the weeds can also burn the new strawberry leaves… unless it is immediately rinsed away. Since we only have trickle irrigation, the only way to get the badly needed herbicide on the crop was to await a storm. And to be right about it; because if the herbicide went on, but the rain didn’t come, the crop would be damaged.
So last night after work, I was anxiously watching the radar and noticed that a storm was tracking to the east of us, but was building in size. I prepared the sprayer, measured the material, and waited. The sky blackened, thunder rumbled, and I saddled up and sped for the field.
I was dry for five minutes before the wind began to howl and the rain began to pour. It turned out to be quite a storm with two inches of rain and over 30 mph winds. The rain came sideways in sheets as I pulled my hat down and squared my shoulders into the wind. The crusty salt from my sweaty hat dissolved and streamed down my face in a briny flow. I questioned the wisdom of riding a tractor on a hill in a thunderstorm, and thought about how few people were hit by lightning or killed by sharks…. and about how less likely such an end would be if people didn’t expose themselves to lightning or sharks.
In the end, the field was sprayed, the product stayed off the leaves and moved into the topsoil where it would bond to the ground and prevent late summer weeds. Everything worked out well, except for the phone in my pocket that needed a day of drying before it could be coaxed back to life.
And I made a memory.