Farming makes us weather watchers. Particularly once springtime arrives, we pay close attention to historic trends, short- and long-term forecasts, and our on-farm weather station. Like so much of farming, this sort of observation represents a life-long learning process. And the learning is amplified when you begin gardening on the opposite side of the planet.
We left New Zealand, and our gardens there, in 2013 with our sights set on Cape Breton. While we had both farmed in Canada before, that experience was in Ontario – not in Nova Scotia. Our move to Cape Breton, and the establishment of our farm here, has challenged us to learn about its particular climate and how to work within it.
Our very best source of climate-related information: the people who live near us. Weather patterns in Cape Breton tend to be extremely localized, making our neighbours and their decades of experience in this place an invaluable resource.
We are keeping our own records too. When the first robins appear on our front lawn in spring, we take note. If 22cm of snow falls on January 30th, we write it down. If we dig up the parsnips on April 15th, we record it. We’re still refining our recording systems, but its the practice of observation that we feel is most important in teaching us about the place we live and making us better farmers.
In practical terms, our understanding of the climate we live in helps us to make decisions about what to do (and when) in our gardens. What grows best here? When should we plant it? How long will it take to grow? Are there ways to extend the season? How can we store what we produce? Every year, our timing gets better. But every year is different too. Farming keeps us on our toes and teaches us to maintain flexibility and to guard ourselves against unforeseen weather events.
On a planet with a changing climate, we believe that these sorts of observations are important for everyone to be making, in their own ways. In our case, weather patterns have very direct implications for our day-to-day lives – and our livelihood.
So on we go, learning from our neighbours, other farmers, and our notebooks. Working to grow the best food we can in this Cape Breton climate.