The Black Wave

"Woooohoo!  Who's ready to surf the waaaaaave?!?"  

We've run the rainwater off to the side, straightened the sheet out, spread out to each corner, and it's time.  The Black Wave comes to life just a few times in the spring: when the sky's dry but the fields are still mucky, and the sun plans to stay out for at least a few days.  It's a joyous time of year.  The rains are abetting and we'll be able to get the tractor rolling soon, there's a team of people sprinting up and down the 150-foot-long fields, and the sun is bound to be shining.  We spread out more plastic just a couple weeks ago over the onion field, and the plan seems to have worked.  With no rain in the extended forecast, we can remove all the plastic on the farm, let things dry out until next week, and then start another push to get swaths of land ready for planting.  (This is all such a big deal because tilling when the soil's too wetcreates hard chunks that aren't porous for water, air, and roots, and tilling when it's too dry pulverizes it to dust, which destroys the tiny aggregates that support soil ecology and therefore plant health.  We care about plant health because of course we want abundant crop harvests, so tilling under the right moisture conditions is no joke.  It all starts with healthy soil.  Just sayin'.)

For now, we just get to ride the Wave.  

Watching from the far corner that's on the receiving end of the plastic, it reminds me of a cartoon demon.  Billowing in the breeze and flying straight at me.  Often it dips under its own weight after twenty or thirty feet, and the folding edge becomes a giant bulge creeping along the field.  The runners that are clinging to the corners hand them to the receivers, we pass the torch, and now I'm hopping through decaying cover crop to find the folded end.  We run with one more wave, then fold it again, and again, and another time, and one last heavy heave, then tidy it up to end up on a pallet on the side of the field.  This folding system allows us to move the plastic around easily in five clear sets, and unfold it with one easy jog down the field.  The sets combined cover twenty beds, or about a quarter acre, enough for our first plantings of onions, potatoes, brassicas, peas, and some other greens and carrots.  

This year, it looks like we might get lucky and not have to race the rains for our next plantings.  Although it's a lot of work to lay them out, secure them with sandbags or shovelfuls of mud, and undo it all once the rains cease, I wouldn't mind another round.  It'd just mean we'd get to ride the Black Wave one more time before next spring rolls around.