July Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

The smoke has even the birds off-kilter in my estimation.  Truth to tell,  I’ve heard evening songs in the middle of these shrouded days.  As was somewhat feared, if not expected, our little valley is on fire again.  The heavy heat came early, back in late June, and has run head-long into the hot month of July.  Only a stray thunderstorm so far this year, but just enough lightning to touch off a pair of fires to the west of Mazama, then, just days later a human sparked fire a couple of miles north of our granaries here.  This one looked and was dangerous.

Both fires burn on in the current heat and drought conditions.  With a great deal of fire fighting support, neither fire has consumed a human life as of yet, and very few structures.  However, they both consume 1000’s of acres of wild habitat each day, and countless numbers of wildlife species and birds. It is a hard pill to swallow – this living in a “fire environment” at times. It means this somewhat natural course of events can lead to a new habitat, but not before the destruction of so much. But eighty percent of wildfires are human-caused. I know.

I know because we had the misfortune two years ago of our combine fire that was fortunately quickly extinguished. You might imagine my anticipation when I went out to the very same field this year and laid down massive windrows of rye next to a heavy stand of winter wheat.  Just in time for the Cedar fire to flank southeast and come down into the valley floor.  Harvest often brings stress all of its own, but it is doubled up this year. The early and sustained heat turned the crop quickly and what I might have been combining in early August was ripe and ready to go.

The good news: We had perfect harvesting weather despite the smoke. It was a heavy crop and with a new water pump tank onboard our work truck, we were able to peck away and finally bin all of the rye and winter red wheat at an optimum moisture content of around 10%. The ole Gleaner sprung a fuel leak early on but recovered and was surely put to the test on the thick rows of Treebeard rye.  Which ended up beautiful and about 65 bushels to the acre. About the same for the winter red. And as soon as we got the crop off, I turned on the irrigation so no wayward hot ember would touch the whole field off.  Amen!

But it is just barely August… that is the sad news. Even though it has seemed like August most of July.  We have a long, long way to go in this fire season. Many folks are not in their homes and the Cedar fire is on a path to kicking many more out. Mother Nature is excellent at surprises, but generally one doesn’t look to August for cool temps and precip.  September… maybe? October?  November…. Ahhh, November. This farmer dreams of sodden, sullen November!

Brad also got our einkorn all harvested, and our spring white wheat will be ready by the end of August. We had a great visit from our friends and emmer partners Blaine and Suzie.  They got a good visit in before all the fires… just. Blaine loved the podcasts that Don at KROOT and I did. He was dying to meet Don. On a day that hit 113 FH in Twisp, Don invited us to the studio where we ran off quite a reel on Sustainable Ag. – something Blaine has been a significant player of as long if not longer than I. Once Don gets done all the fire reporting etc, we will refine and add to our series which has been fun for me, not sure about you? The next day we floated the river. With all the recent panic, those days seem a long time ago.

Meanwhile, orders have picked back up at the Granary and we’ve been shipping our products daily, thanks to all of you! As you can see from the photos, here at Bluebird we will do ANYTHING to get fresh grains and flours from the rich field direct to your plate! Even at times like these. It may be times like these where/when staying the course is ever more important.

During these trying times, however, like most other times I can always look to birds for peace and sanctity. Each morning when I drove down the work road at Big Valley to make sure the crop still waited, and to prep for another window of harvesting, 5 partridge would flush from the overflow ditch that separates the 2 pivots. They are such pretty, wild, and resourceful little buggers.  Watching them warmed my heart. Also, in the evening listening to a new bird here in our young aspen grove that I’ve yet to identify.

Oh, the world keeps turning through it all.  The Full Buck Moon has come and gone here; an orange ball the same color as today’s rising sun.

My hope is by August notes we all will still be here, and many back in their homes. That is a lot to ask this time of year, but I ask.  I look forward to the final month of summer, keyword Final!

Then again, only fools wish away our precious time, rain and snow, smoke and fire. One moment is as important as the next.


Farmer Sam

Sam Lucy with a load of  Methow Hard Red Wheat. Cedar Creek fire rages in the background.