Late summer on the farm is a time of increasing harvest and lots of weeding. The rains we have gotten have helped with the scarce water supply, though we have been modifying our irrigation and planting practices over the last few years as we become more concerned with the flow of the river, the ditches and the spotty monsoon season.
Fields once flooded with acequia water are now on drip irrigation with water supplied from wells. Some fields are unplanted or planted with cover crops to conserve water, and to let the soil rest and regenerate. We contemplate our future field plans as we navigate the changing weather patterns.
But still, herbs are flush in the fields; the basil is bursting with fragrance and bloom. Thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage thrive in the summer heat. Winter savory and parsley add to the aromas in the air as the adjacent lavender fields awash with waves of purple flowers, are buzzing with bees from our hives. Assorted pollinators, native bees, butterflies, wasps, hummingbirds and more skip, flutter and zoom about in search of nectar and pollen.
Tomatoes ripen on the vines, and okra forms its pointed pods. Succulent grapes begin to assert themselves and elderberries turn dark and juicy awaiting harvest. Peppers, eggplant, carrots and bulbing fennel, all rooted in good earth share the bounty of the season as the farmers see the results of months of hard work coming to fruition.
The destructive late frosts of early summer are nearly forgotten as the yields of the fields increase day by day, week by week. Farming in the desert is a challenge at the best of times, and more so as a changing climate throws one setback after another at the people who work the land. But the farmers adapt and persist, and the rewards of the hard work are there to share.
There is nothing like the flavor of a ripe heirloom tomato, freshly plucked from the vine, to make one give thanks to the earth and to appreciate the effort of the farmer as they offer the gifts of the land to feed and nurture us as we move forward from season to season. As summer wanes and autumn approaches, the fields will continue to offer abundance while thoughts of frost to come only stimulate the excitement of planning for another season on the farm.
- Wes Brittenham, Director of Horticulture
Photo credit Elizabeth Wells Photography.