Persistent Puddles In Our Farm Barnyard – 1/4/19

Here at Peeper Pond Farm, 2019 swept in on the back of strong winds ranging from about ten to thirty miles per hour.  At least the new year began on a warm note.  The high temperature of 63 degrees on New Year’s Day occurred around 1:30 AM and decreased slowly throughout the day.  Heavy clouds ruled the sky, offering only brief breaks of sunshine.  Unfortunately, the year did not begin without some rainfall.  We received 0.04 inches of rain as the warm front whisked through during the early morning hours.  We hope the fierce start to the new year will bring a decided change to all the wet weather we experienced in 2018.

After discussing the rainy, humid weather that we received last year so often in my farm website posts, I thought I should wrap it up with some final figures.  We ended the month of December with a total of 5.89 inches, which was nearly triple the 30-year average of 2.12 inches.  Since April 1, 2018 (when I began tracking rainfall in 2018), we recorded a total of 63.62 inches of rain.  The corresponding 30-year average annual rainfall for Upper Tract is 35.33 inches.  Although I did not have my rain gauge out during the first 3 months of the year (because of all the cold weather), I doubt that we received more than three additional inches of precipitation because we didn’t receive any significant snowfall until mid-March when our extended dry period began to end. Boy, did it ever end in a big way.

Although I don’t have access to any longer-term historic weather data in our immediate rural area, the City of Harrisonburg, VA (52 miles and two river valleys to our east) recorded 63.69 inches, the highest rainfall total of the year since it’s all-time high of 68.37 inches set in 1886.  In an average year, Harrisonburg experiences 117 days of rainfall.  They received 153 rainy days in 2018.  Although you have to realize that microclimates in our rugged, mountainous region create significant variations in weather over short distances, it was clearly an excessively wet year throughout our Allegheny Highlands region.  Our ground remains saturated with standing water in many areas.  We could actually benefit from all the dry weather we received over the six months immediately preceding our rainfall deluge.  We hope spring planting conditions will improve significantly before the growing season begins sometime in May.

At least 2019 is beginning on one good note.  I have been talking to our state legislative delegation about the draft bill I have written to reopen direct farm-to-consumer unprocessed milk sales in West Virginia, and one of our local Senators has expressed an interest (not necessarily a promise) in introducing the bill this coming session.  I am still speaking with state officials and our legislators to finalize the language of the draft bill to help facilitate its passage.  You can never be certain what changes will be made to any draft bill after it is introduced for consideration, so I have made extensive efforts to obtain comments from small dairy farm operators, health professionals, and other affected interests over the past year.  I am hopeful that this bill will be considered for adoption during either the 2019 or 2020 legislative sessions.  The verdict on that issue is still uncertain.  To improve the chances for introduction, I am also working on building a coalition of supporters to testify for the bill and encourage a broader legislative delegation to support it.  One of our new coalition members has offered to build a website and Facebook page for the initiative, which I hope to introduce to you within the next couple of months.  Please watch for them to be posted.

Whatever the old year gave you, I wish one and all a happier and more prosperous new year in 2019.  Thanks again for your loyal support of our farm website in 2018.