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When Farmers Can't Sleep

Posted 2/19/2011 11:22am by Jeanette Wilson.

What keeps people awake at night?  Barking dogs come to mind.  Neighbors who either fuss or party.  

Stress.  Hunger.  Crop rotations.  

That last one is not that common, but happens occasionally to farmers.  I try to think of this aspect of farming in terms of a puzzle.  In my mind, I am shifting crops like one of those little toys that children have with tiles that slide up and down, back and forth, until the numbers are in order or the picture is correct.  (To be honest, I don't really enjoy puzzles for the sake of passing the time, but I like ones which work your mind and accomplish something.) 

So in the middle of the night when sleep won't come, there I am, staring at the ceiling trying to recall where the tomatoes have been the last two years, and the cabbage, and the corn.  Throw in carrots and other root crops, potatoes (a close relative to tomatoes) and beans.  Get up above 30 crops, with different varieties and your eyes are wide awake!  The puzzle begins to look more like a Rubik's cube.

So why do it?  What's the big deal?  Just get a garden graph, plan it once for all, and let it be settled.

Would that it worked that way!  Farmers have to rotate crops if they want to make it more than a very few years and not ruin their soil and face an onslaught of disease and pests.  Planting the same family of crops in the same spot takes all the nutrients out of that patch of soil that are required by that plant. Bugs, fungi, etc move in to attack. ( It is really helpful to them if you will leave the same crop there year after year.  They can overwinter in the ground and get a very early start to consume your potatoes, beans, cabbage, you name it. ) Better to keep them guessing where it will be.  


About the time I get things figured out, I face one of two things: get up and write it down, or go back to sleep.   Now my head is exhausted!  I only hope I can remember what I figured out the next morning.

Well, what if we started out in the south field with lettuce early, then followed that with some winter squash in June??  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.