Farm Happenings at Fiddlehead Farm
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Drought. We've been here before, and while it's a slog at least we have water!

Posted on July 4th, 2020 by Heather Coffey

It was really easy to pick which story to share with you this week! When we started our farm in 2012, we thought it was a dry year. We started without an irrigation system, then bought parts to try to pump water from a cistern which a truck from town could fill. The next year we were able to build an irrigation pond, which fills each spring so we can supplement the rains. In 2016 we had a record drought, and while we pushed pipe back to the swamp to recharge our irrigation pond even that wasn't enough. That was the year I learnt Ontario can see a drop of up to three feet in water levels due to evaporation alone in a summer! The back of our property is part of a 300 acre gorgeous swamp, but since it's only 2-3ft deep in water some years it just goes dry. Over the course of June we got only 6mm of rain total here at the farm, and in my dream world our farm would get 20mm of rain once a week.

After a few years, we've learnt how much of a difference regular watering makes not just for survival but for production of our crops. We're constantly learning, but even just last summer we were shown that even potatoes need water! Our patch showed a beautiful increase in production as we went down the hill towards the wetter ground unlike other years where we've seen clear productivity patterns by variety. So we built sprinkler lines to water them this year.

We now watch the water levels around us very closely and knew the warning signs - we noticed our swamp was drying up a couple weeks ago. So we ordered more pipe, and the day came this week to push to Fish Lake. It's about 750m or 2,500 ft to get from our irrigation pond to Fish Lake and permission from a very generous neighbour, but it saves our farm. It's the Canadian jungle adventure obstacle course, which inevitably must be tackled in a heat wave. It took Steph two days to set up the pipe, then we all helped Thursday evening to take the pump, gas and some boards to the edge of the lake. We all had boots full of swamp (there's knee deep mud holes if you don't watch your step), a million bug bites through our sweat drenched clothes... and huge smiles by the time we reached the lake with our supplies. When you've watched veggies wilting in the fields, and run the swamp gauntlet, you get a very real appreciation for water. This year we're using more mulch than ever before (helps keep the water in the soil) so fingers crossed every precious drop can be carefully used to help grow your veggies!