High Tide

Is there anything more fascinating than the movement of water on a farm?

Yes, there is. Lots of things I’m sure. Nonetheless, watching water move is interesting enough to capture my attention during our growing season.

There’s very obvious places to watch water move. Like watching the changing water levels in ponds or even puddles. Or watching the slick spots while slip sliding through the path in the woods and knowing exactly how to drive on the path to avoid getting stuck in the muck on the way to the veg field. Or in a dry year I like to watch where the water is missing, as I kick up dust everywhere I walk, feeling a little like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown.

But what interests me the most is watching the water move day to day within the plants and the soil. It’s the subtle movement of water, the daily tides around the farm, that I’ve been noticing more this season. For instance, on hot sunny dry days the fields look bone dry in the afternoon. But the next morning, early, I’ve noticed that moisture has moved up from deeper in the earth and is back near the surface again. Not the dew on the surface, but the moisture just within. This high tide on an otherwise dry day is a perfect time to get tractor work done, when it’s not too dry and not too wet. Even far away from the ocean, water pushes and pulls in the earth and in everything that grows from it.

And on a year like this, water gives us a few big surprises out in the field, too. Like this area of the tomato field that I came upon yesterday morning.

High Tide at the end of our tomato field.

High Tide at the end of our tomato field.

Ok, that is high tide in the field, I thought when I saw it. Maybe we’ll be swapping out tractors for kayaks if we get any more rain this week. The Tuesday morning storm dumped more water than parts of our fields could process, and we had areas of standing water like this one in our tomatoes, our fourth sweet corn planting, and our third bean planting. Most other areas handled the rain well enough, shedding it into the low spots on the edges of each bed and into the clover cover crop on either side of the veggie beds. Hooray for cover crops helping mitigate moisture!

The good news is the standing water is just in a small percentage of our crops. And already it is receding deep into the earth, and our plant roots are following it.