Adapting to excessive heat
You may have noticed that it's been hot lately. Very hot. For significant periods of time, it's been too hot to safely work in the field for any length of time. Below we'll share a little bit about how we navigate this type of challenge while still accomplishing our goals (like getting our CSA members their share).
The first step in solving any problem is collecting information. The more information that can be gathered (assuming it's credible information) the better calibrated our decision making can be. Since a typical day would have us outside for at least 10 hours, the outdoor conditions are of the utmost importance. If there's going to be high wind, we need to close our tunnels and and secure netting and loose material. If the UV index is going to be high, we need to dress appropriately and be vigilant about reapplying sunscreen. If there's going to be rain, we need to buy champagne in order to be prepared to celebrate, because boy do we need it.
Around here we're constantly checking the weather forecast. Constantly. It's the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. At the beginning of this week we knew we would face troubling heat throughout the week. Sure, it might be possible to work outside if the situation were dire, but the point is we should do everything we can to avoid such a circumstance and mitigate that health risk.
We started the week by recognizing that our big harvest day, Friday, will be an early one. In order to avoid the worst of the heat, we aimed to be up and out in the field harvesting by 6 a.m. at the latest. It turned out to be the right move, as we were reading 30C and 90% humidity by around 10 a.m on our weather station. Our weather station records temperature, humidity, UV index, wind, incoming solar radiation, rainfall, and barometric pressure. While forecasts from established weather institutions help us with shorter term decision making, logging weather data right at our farm is done so we can better understand our local conditions over time. When we take a broader view of time, if we see that rain is less frequent, or high heat is more common, these are factors that inform our decision making.
Below is a graph of the outdoor temperature at our weather station from Monday, July 6, to Friday, July 10th (at 10:40 a.m.). You can see that each day we're reliably reading temperatures over 30C, made more punishing by the relatively high humidity.
Here's a graph of the UV index over that same time period.
And here's a graph of the temperature over the course of Wednesday, July 8th. You can see that prior to noon, the temperature remains below 30C, but it's not until nearly 9:00pm before it goes below 30C again.
And as a point of informal comparison, here's a graph of the temperature for July 2019 (last year).
Aside from the health implications, high heat can have a negative impact on our crops. Last week, one of our spinach crops bolted before we were able to harvest it. Fortunately, we tend to hedge our bets and we had also planted a variety of spinach with a high tolerance for heat, so everyone still got spinach. High heat can stress other plants, like greens and lettuces, while plants like tomatoes don't mind one bit.
As the climate continues to change, we have to keep a close eye on this kind of information and plan and adapt accordingly. Gone are the days where timeless nuggets of season wisdom could be used without any doubt.
Crops that start with a trickle
There are some crops that we plant and are harvested all at once. A bed of radish or lettuce are good examples of this. Then there are crops that start with a trickle. The plants are those that bear fruit for a longer period of time and start to produce gradually. These include cucumbers, beans, peas, okra, and tomatoes.
We're often faced with having an initial week or two of production where there's not quite enough to give all our CSA members a taste. Rather than trying to eat it all ourselves, we're just going to spin this as a feature instead of a bug: it's a Trickle Crop.
When crops start with a trickle, we'll call it out in the weekly update, and give as many members as we can a first taste. We'll keep track of which members receive what and rotate to ensure fairness.
This week's trickle crop is Okra.
Preparation Ideas: Okra
Cornmeal breaded okra is a simple way to prepare okra that maintains it's firm texture and unique taste. Here's the idea:
Crack and beat an egg (or two) into a bowl.
Add cornmeal to a paper bag.
Slice the okra into half inch wide pieces.
Dip the okra slices into the egg wash and then place them in the paper bag.
Close the top of the bag and shake!
Once your okra is coated, fry in a pan or deep fryer.
If you'd rather bake than fry, you might care to check out the following recipe for a seasoned, over roasted okra:
This Week's Share
Oakleaf & Sweet Crisp Lettuce
Microgreen Mix - Pea shoots, Wasabi mustard sprouts, Brocoli Raab sprouts
Okra* - Trickle crop
Food Bank Support
We continue to make a weekly delivery to the Kawartha Lakes Food Source in Lindsay, but we've also started giving a weekly bin directly to the Salvation Army food bank in Fenelon Falls.