Today I want to take a break from the regularly scheduled programming you’ve come to know and love here at The Leek & The Carrot. A break from my generally sunny disposition of knowing and accepting that farming is hard but being grateful anyways because I’m gifted with tremendous food, a career on my own terms, a life spent building something meaningful with my partner and daily life lessons that shape me into a better person. Today I want to take a break from my positivity and propensity to always see my glass as half full. Today I would like to ignore silver linings and talk about the days that just fucking suck.
Because believe it or not, no matter your career path or your dream or your journey, there are always going to be days that beat you down to your core and try to get you to give up. No matter your strength, there will be days that utterly defeat you. Today is one of those days.
In fact, if we’re being completely honest, this season has been a series of those days. They were broken up by glimmers of glory and sunshine and good old-fashioned optimism and problem solving, but overall, this season has been our test. This year has been a brutal beast screaming in our faces as we worked diligently and methodically to refine and perfect this craft called farming, yelling, “You think you are successful because you made it five years in a profession where most people can’t even spend a week. I’ll show you what farming is capable of.”
But I digress.
Today isn’t about all the struggles of this season. It’s not about the fact that our water pressure somehow decreased despite our expensive decision to double the capacity of our well. Today isn’t about the blizzard in April or the 90+ degree stretch of days in June. Today isn’t about the missed baby shower, the neglected friendships or the pack shed we’re making loan payments on that is still many steps away from being finished. It’s not about the broccoli or cabbage that rotted in the spring, the hail damage or the expensive-to-replace row cover. It’s not about the miscalculation of our labor needs or the worker share who bailed on us three weeks into the season or the broken tailgate on our trusty farm truck. It’s not about any of that. We’ve found solutions or in the process of finding solutions to all of these things that have made year six a vicious roller coaster of emotion and struggle.
It’s about something simple. It’s about rain. Excessive rain to be more specific. Excessive rain that fell and fell on fields that were already soaked, already saturated, already begging for a chance to dry out a little.
If I sound like a broken record it’s because the weather patterns are shifting. Storms are getting more extreme in nature. Rain falls of 5+ inches just aren’t that rare anymore and that’s changing the game here in Wisconsin. That’s changing what type of farming is possible here.
This much rain at this point in the season is terrifying. 99% of what we will grow this year is in the ground or has already been harvested. There isn’t enough time left to redo things that get lost due to weeds (because excessive rain leads to excessive weed growth) or disease (because excessive rain and moisture also leads to excessive spreading of disease) or just plain old rotting (because excessive rain will also cause things to rot).
I’m already writing off the Brussels sprouts which showed signs of rot after the last torrential rainfall. I obviously hope I’m wrong. Our beautiful zucchini crop that was still going strong literally melted in these last storms and that’s several weeks of lost profits. Our tomatoes are literally bursting. Just as we reached peak harvest of this most lucrative crop, the rains caused them to swell and split rendering beautiful fruits totally useless.
I’m praying the winter squash, the best winter squash stand we’ve had since 2014, can weather the storms. I’m thanking my lucky stars that all of the onions and shallots are safe and sound in the greenhouse curing happily. I’m of course grateful for the most tremendous cucumber and melon year we’ve ever had, but if I’m being real I would take 50% less cucumbers and melons if it meant missing out on just a few of these monsoon downpours.
So in addition to the split tomatoes, which make us sad because we don’t want to disappoint our members and know that a short tomato season will certain disappoint them to some extent, my Carrot also had to work 12 hours in the rain yesterday which is miserable in of itself. Compounded on the sadness of a crap tomato season and working while soaking wet, there this is also the severe financial stress of not really knowing how the rest of the crops will turn out after a late summer deluge.
This farm life is hard. We knew that going in. The things that matter always are. I’m not going to spin anything. I’m not going to look for the ray of hope in these days filled with too much rain. I’m going to cry and be sad for a moment while still searching for solutions. I’m going to laugh with my CSA harvest crew. I’m going to play with our new cat Walter. I’m going to ask my CSA members for come out and help with weeding if we need it. And I’m going to eat cantaloupe gazpacho. Because when it rains, it pours, but at least we always have good food.
In all my sopping wet glory,
I never thought I could like gazpacho. A cold soup of puréed veggies? It sounded absolutely terrible to me. Then I had gazpacho with melon. Those who attended my farm dinners in 2015 may remember that transformative moment. It was a watermelon gazpacho I made for a four-course dinner at the farm. It was sweet, savory, bright and flavorful. It wasn’t just pureed vegetables. It was wonderful. This cantaloupe gazpacho is equally interesting and even more simple. This is the kind of dish you can throw together quickly after a long day filled with rain and sadness, and still feel refreshed. It’s the kind of meal perfect for peak summer days that totally suck.
Takes 50 minutes
1/2 head cantaloupe, seeds removed
1 large cucumber, seeds removed
1 large red pepper, seeds removed
2 pounds extra ripe tomatoes, cored
1 large shallot (or 1/2 large yellow onion)
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Halved and quartered cherry tomatoes, for garnish
- Roughly chop cantaloupe (I just removed pieces with a spoon in odd shapes), cucumber, red pepper, tomatoes, shallot and jalapeno. Place in a large bowl or stock pot along with salt and vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Add olive oil and process until 90% smooth. You can do this several ways: blender, food processor, immersion blender. I mashed it with a potato masher first and then used an immersion blender.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve chilled with a garnish of cherry tomatoes and more sherry vinegar and/or salt to taste.