30Aug2011

Sixth Flood 2011

Well, here we are. We didn’t think we would ever be saying that not only did we have five floods in the spring, but after a solid 3 months (!) of working non-stop to make up for a lost early season, we have experienced the third worst flood in state history.  That means that the flood peaked at 22.19 feet, a solid 5 feet higher than the worst spring flood this year. With Hurricane Irene garnering much of the week’s press, on Friday, we started preparing for high winds and epic rainfall, by venting the Haygrove as high as we could push up the plastic, putting everything on wagons and as high up as possible.  With the forecast for damage in Vermont to be largely due to high winds, we spent a lot of time making sure our hoophouses could weather that storm.  In addition, my brother’s wedding was on Cape Cod on Saturday evening, so we had plans to drive down there, participate in festivities, and then head back to Vermont ahead of the storm, getting us back in the Green Mountain State with very little time to harvest any crops before the storm set in, which is exactly what happened. We harvested all of our eggplants, padrone peppers, romano beans and all the mini lettuce heads we could on Friday before focusing on the venting.  While we made the 6 hour trek to Cape Cod, our intrepid workers, Alyssa and Chris hammered out the heirloom tomato harvest – we are so grateful to them for their dedication!  So, 6 hours to Cape Cod, where we helped to celebrate a charmed marriage, then promptly left the Cape at 11 pm, driving through the night, getting home on Sunday morning at 4:30am – just ahead of the storm.  We hunkered down at home all day Sunday, watching the whipping winds, and lashing rains, and wondering how bad it would be.  By late Sunday afternoon, it was clear that we would be busy on Monday morning.  We sent out a call to our regular help on Sunday night to meet us Monday morning at 7, and we set to harvesting the remaining crops that we could; cherry tomatoes, some remaining heirlooms, sweet peppers, and a couple bushels of anaheims, including my prize gorditas (ripe ones with seeds to save for next year!).  While we were madly harvesting sweet peppers, we kept glancing at the area that normally floods first on our farm – no water creeping up yet, so feeling like we still had time, we kept harvesting.  Instead of the normal 12 hour window that we normally have when Montpelier floods, it was greatly reduced and unexpected; around 9:30 am, Spencer looked behind him, and said, “We are out of time!” The water was filling our swale field faster than we’ve ever seen it, coming from a completely different direction than ever before, underscoring the fact that this was not a normal flood after all, but a flash flood.

Spencer drove back to the barn complex with the van, returning with a tractor and wagon to ferry out us and all of our volunteers.  As we drove out of our field, we could see that we had indeed run out of time – our road was rapidly eroding with the rushing water, and the height of the water was rising faster than I imagined it could.  By the time we reached the barn, the water was significantly up the tractor tires.

We were greeted by Intervale Center staff that made the refrigerated truck available to the farmers to move produce from our collective cooler, which was in danger of getting flooded as well.  We bucket-brigaded all our produce from the cooler to the truck, then helped other farmers do the same with their produce to other cooler storage at the Calkins house.  With all of our produce safely in cool storage, there was nothing to do but watch the water rise and speculate.

There were dozens of volunteers that came out to help the collective farm saving effort.  We cannot thank enough Alyssa, Aaron, Kendra and Asa who came out to help us early in the morning to help us on our farm on this troubling day.  THANK YOU!

So.  What now? We still are unable to reach our farm fields, as the water is still feet deep in most areas, though it is receding and we are sure that we will be able to get out there tomorrow, even though it will probably be on foot due to severe road erosion.  As far as our season, we are hopeful as always. We may still have enough weeks of decent daylight to replant crops like arugula, salad, radishes, etc. Perhaps some crops will pull through after all…. perhaps the season is effectively over?  It is so hard to say at this point. We are really hoping to fulfill our responsibilities to our Food Club members (17 families) and our Senior Farm Share members (66 seniors) for their remaining weeks in their respective programs.  Of course our chefs, caterers and grocer are at the top of our minds at all times as well.  We will do our very best to continue to serve you to the best of our abilities, and hopefully, we’ll have a long autumn after this challenging and ever-shocking season!

We’ll keep posting updates here, so check back often. We will be at Farmers’ Market in the New North End on Thursday, and at the Burlington Farmers’ Market in City Hall Park on Saturday.  Come on down and stock up! We’d love to see you!

P.S. As we have had little time to prepare for this flood, I have been remiss in taking photos.  The placeholder photo on this blog post is from earlier floods in the season – not this flood.  I’m hoping to take pictures from the field tomorrow.

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