Enough with the rain already…

by Susan on June 27, 2009

Global climate change stinks. It has been raining on the East Coast for the past month and the average temperature in New England is 10 to 20 degrees below normal. This is after a really, really, cold winter.

Obviously some jobs are more effected by the weather than others and shepherding is one of them. But whenever I start to complain, I think about roofers and housepainters who CAN’T work in this weather and I shut my trap. (Our own house has been half painted for months now.)

dsc_00273

All this rain is also terrible for farmers who make- and depend on- hay.

dsc_0028

These fields probably look beautiful to most people driving by…

dsc_00361

but to farmers, these pictures are heart-breaking.

dsc_00401

Absolutely heart-breaking.

dsc_00291

See how the stalks are bending over? That’s because they are going to seed. Which means most of the nutritional value in the hay has already been lost. It will still be cut and baled and fed to animals in the fall, but it will take a whole lot more of it to meet the nutritional needs of the cows, horses and sheep that depend on it for the majority of their diet.

The expression “make hay while the sunshines” isn’t just a suggestion: it’s a stone-cold, iron-clad order. Hay can only be cut when it’s dry and when there is no rain the forecasts for the following week. Since we haven’t had that kind of sunshine in a month, the hay remains uncut in the fields.

dsc_00322

The only thing worse than letting hay go to seed is trying to sneak in a cutting and getting caught by the rain. Once the hay is cut, it has to “cure” in the fields for a few days before baling. Rain on cut hay = a total loss to the farmer. I actually got a lump in my throat when I took this picture and I’m getting another as I write this.

Why is all of this so important? Besides the fact that small farms that almost always teeter on the edge of insolvency are watching one of their key cash crops rot in the fields? Because I make wool and wool is made from hay. Hay prices will almost certainly skyrocket in the fall.

What can you do? Support your local small farmer. When you pass a farm stand this weekend stop and buy some berries, lettuce or apples. Try to buy more yarn from small farms and less from international conglomerates.

Farmers will survive this rain, as they have survived all kinds of weather since time began. They are a tenacious, never-say-die lot. They don’t need your pity, they need your business.

{ 14 comments }

1 Lori aka knittingfool June 27, 2009 at 9:33 am

Well said, Susan. Those pics are indeed heartbreaking. If I could box up the sunny days and heat out here in the Bay Area, I’d do it in an instant.

2 nutmeg33 June 27, 2009 at 10:07 am

Sing it, sister!

3 Liz June 27, 2009 at 10:31 am

Ohh, that IS sad. I’ve never known that tidbit of information. Thank you for sharing! I’m with you — enough with the freaking rain! It’s hard on the soul, too. Grr blah. /end rant!

4 Rona Thau June 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

susan
i can’t help but say i love you

what a post

very sad…u guys have had a lot of rain which sucks…so odd for summertime.

hoping the sun shines soon and that the damage done to the hay and the crop will some how even out some way …maybe an indian summer.

with love
beaming always
rona

5 Leslie from California June 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Susan, thanks for the lesson and I will be shopping at my local farmers markets all summer and thinking of the hay in the field that couldn’t be baled due to rain. It always helps us to see the other side of the coin. I work for city government, and our revenues are down like every other city in America, my recommendation is to shop locally, in your own community. The revenue that is generated from your sales tax is what pays for lots of what happens in your community. This economy is going to wipe out someone, sad truth. But lets as individuals try to keep our home town business working and open, buy from your local farmers market, shops and support your local shepards too! We can’t change the weather, but we can change our habbits, so lets think about what we do each day and see if we can do it better!

6 Jenni June 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

And here in the UK, all we have had for the last month is hot sunshine – very unusual this early in the year and not good for the farmers either as the young crops are drying out and dying. Global warming or a shift in the earths axis – who knows for sure. Send us some of your rain and we will send you some of our sun.

Jenni

7 qutecowgirl June 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm

It is heartbreaking. My brother lives in upstate NY where many of the farm around him grow hay. One farm may fold I hope they do not their farm is a family farm for generations. Even local farm stands have slim pickings because of all the rain and low temps. My thoughts are with all farmers.

I also totally agree with you buy local! (well in my case as locally as one can)

8 jamie June 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

your last paragraph is so POWERFUL!!! and true!

9 turtle June 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm

i remember those days when living on the farm in NE. We have been lucky out here on the west coast this year and have had it extra dry, our gardens are thriving after 2 years of complete molded gardens. I do love that green you have chosen! (my mom is in NH and has been trying to get her roof finished as well, maybe it will just be a late summer!)

10 woolies June 27, 2009 at 9:00 pm

wow, I didn’t know all of this, and I feed hay to my horses. I learned something important, thank you!
We can’t grow hay here in Arizona, no rain. too damn hot. So we pay up to $15 for a bale of bermuda hay. Which is why I give riding lessons – to help pay for the hay. wow.

11 Felix June 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Thanks for this superb post. We have had very different weather here in the UK, but the point about buying yarn and food from local producers remains just as relevant here as in the US.

At Woolfest this weekend the whole party of knitters I was with decided to buy mostly UK wool from rarebreed sheep and smallscale producers because meeting with farmers – like this great post you have written – shows us urban-based knitters how we can invest directly in local farming practises and economies by giving local producers our business.

Knitting comes from the land and your blog is always amazing for showing this connection…

…but this sad post got the point across more poignantly than usual. Well said.

I hope the rains stop already.

12 Jan June 28, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Hi Susan,
This is a GREAT post and I hope that those who read it take it to heart about the need to support our local family farms…or we will be buying all our food from overseas and how secure is that? The weather has been screwy here in Idaho too. I had planned to turn my flock out on the new spring grass around the first of April this year. I bred my ewes for a May First lambing, that would come after a month of eating the rich, spring grass. This spring, though, there was 5 inches of snow on the ground on April First. Talk about a terrible April Fools joke! No grass for my girls! I had to find some more hay to feed– me and all the other folks who were running low on feed for their animals. I also decided to bite the bullet and send off some wool to be processed into yarn. The bill for that will arrive at the same time that I need to be buying *next* winter’s hay. I hope that knitters will prefer my yarn from my own sheep to the mass produced, commercial yarn or I will be borrowing money to feed my flock this next winter. I know that life and finances are rough on everyone right now. But if you buy yarn (or vegetables, or fruit etc.) from a local farmer, the taxes they pay goes back to support the local economy, the feed they buy allows another farmer to support the local economy and the mill workers in the small custom wool mill have a livable wage and safe working conditions, ditto, the local hardware store, the veterinarian etc. So our economy grows, literally, like the grass, from the ground up. You may save a few bucks buying a mass produced, factory product, but the money you spend supporting a small farmer will pay back a lot more in the long run. Sorry for the long post, but you struck a cord.

13 gesikah June 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Half of one, six dozen of the other.

Here in the Gulf area, we’ve been suffering through near record-breaking heat and abnormally dry conditions.

If only they could figure out a way to ship sunshine and rain.

14 Annie July 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Thanks for the timely and important reminder. I’m going to try and be mindful about cutting back in some areas so that I can spend a little more at farmer’s markets this summer.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: