The summer of whacky weather almost skipped the Methow Valley altogether. Almost. As I type these notes at the close of August and half way into harvesting our home field of einkorn here, Mother Nature has ushered in a pretty hefty rain storm! And a fast drop in temperature as follow up. No real damage done, and an admittedly pleasant change from 90’s and intermittent smoke but this is not the time of year when we expect much in the way of moisture. Still and all, I think we have had a far nicer and more stable summer than many other areas.
As I sat on the south porch sipping morning coffee this morning and breathing in the sweet, tangy aroma of fresh rain on dust – a unique smell all of its own – I watched a sharp-shinned hawk dive down and almost pick-off a soggy robin who was drying out on a fencepost. Then a pair of hummingbirds zipped. Then a towhee alighted in the bird bath. My “bird of the month”, however, has to be the cedar waxwing. We’ve two families here in our orchard and I just love their subtle voice that sounds more like an insect at times, than that of a bird. What a beautiful bird these waxwings are. I have no idea if and when they will leave? The bluebirds have left and the swallows gather. That fast, the season swings toward autumn and yesterday I noticed the first chickadee in quite a while. In many ways the land is beginning to quiet from summer. In others, not so much. Just ask the building crescendo of coyotes who are working their way up toward this Blue Moon. Speaking of, the weather cleared just in time so we got to see the stunning Super Blue Moon rise to the south above our apricot tree, and then early this morning set to the West behind the Butte. A true marvel.
We will still get more heat here, and plenty of dry weather in the next month, but the bulk of summer has passed. All the fruits are ripening and so have the grains. The einkorn I was able to get before the storm is heavy-headed and cured out perfectly. Had it cured just a couple days earlier…so it goes. The past weekend’s heat did the trick but it wasn’t quite ready. Monday I started; Tuesday it rained. As I’ve mentioned before it is a wonder we ever get any crops in! The rest of the einkorn is still standing and will dry out in a day or two. In fact, a big wind is beginning to stir already so that will help. All of this crop at the farm here is going to be used for next spring’s seed.
At his Lenwood Farms in the Basin, Brad has completed all of the harvest there and we’ve brought in a bunch of it already and our on-site storage is plugged at the moment. We’ve also been able to clean up samples of the new lot: Sonora soft white, our Pasayten Hard White, and Methow hard red wheats. They all have been sent to the grain inspection Lab and we had very good falling numbers (300’s) and good protein content (13 -14 %) on all. We’ve cleaned and milled up samples from each lot and have already gotten them out on the market with positive feedback trickling in. Soon, we will hull and clean up more einkorn. This year’s emmer harvest is about to begin.
Once I get the rest of the home field here harvested, I’m anxious to sow in winter peas. I’ll make another pass over the stubble and chop it up a little more, then direct seed the winter peas before mid-September. I like to see them get up a few inches before winter. This should give us a good nitrogen boost following this year’s grain crop.
Also, I’m looking forward to sowing some Native grasses along the cultivated field’s borders where we don’t have supplemental irrigation and have lighter soils that are otherwise too (stony!) to effectively produce on. With the help of the local Conservation District, we are also looking into planting some pollinator species of drought tolerant shrubs and wildlife attractors. Being close to the river, we have a myriad of birds and animals that might enjoy these enhancements. We like to include all the creatures great and small on the farm here.
This is my annual reminder that schools are back in session now, and especially busy during certain times of the day. Please be mindful of the little ones on the streets as they may not always be watching for you. September is a great time of year. Let’s try our best to keep it that way, as we enjoy the true bounty of the season at every meal.