The forecast for Wednesday was for a SW wind, around 15 miles per hour, with gusts up to 38 miles per hour. On our list for Wednesday: covering our late fall salad greens with row cover, and raising the Harvest Festival tent. In other words, two jobs involving handling giant white pieces of fabric. We didn’t want to re-enact the time that a half-acre piece of row cover was caught by the wind and ended up over at the UMass Police station, so what were we going to do? A closer look at the forecast revealed that the wind would hold off until around 1, so we figured we’d better just try and get it done in the morning
Covering crops with row cover is a job that with teamwork and organization can go very smoothly, but that can easily take twice as long and raise tempers to the boiling point when it doesn’t go well. It also reflects on previous crews, since finding the right piece of row cover that was rolled up nicely is half the battle. I had previously scoped out the barn and found three pieces that looked nicely rolled, and were labelled “50′ X 300′, good condition.” We only needed two of those to cover our lettuce, spinach, radishes, salad mix, and arugula that we hope to harvest until Thanksgiving or early December, so that we can hold off on our supply of greens in the greenhouses as long as possible The first step is putting wire hoops over the crops so that the row cover doesn’t abrade the tender greens when it flaps around in the wind. Simultaneously, we drive around the perimeter with the tractor carrying sandbags on a pallet and place them around the edge to weigh things down. We don’t want to start unfurling the fabric until the sandbags are all in place. Once all of that was done, we rolled out the first piece of row cover and started stretching it over the hoops. It didn’t take long to realize that in spite of its label, it was a narrower 30′ X 300′ sheet that wouldn’t reach over the area we wanted to cover. First setback of the day; our appreciation of the spring field crew who so neatly rolled up and labelled the row cover dropped a couple of notches as I went back to the barn to get the third piece. Fortunately, both the second and third pieces were more accurately labelled. We got the fabric stretched over the crops and were ready to go to our next giant piece of fabric by 10:00.
Isaiah lays out the last of the sandbags while the rest of the crew starts pulling the row cover; pulling row cover requires a strong but delicate touch since it is heavy but also rips easily; the proud crew poses by the cozily covered crops.
The Harvest Festival tent was bought by the North Amherst Community Farm in the early years of our existence on the farm to be used in hosting the Harvest Festival, an annual celebration of the community spirit that preserved our farm property. We haven’t done a Harvest Festival since 2012 or so, but we are excited to be reviving the tradition. Our tent raising was supervised by retired architect and NACF Board president Bruce Coldham, who developed quite an understanding of the process of the earlier series of Festivals.
The tent was up by noon, and we even had time to dig some sweet potatoes. And the wind did howl. We were glad to have all of our fabric affixed and stable by then!