Drought is Not Our Friend

Reader Contribution by Amanda Wunderlich
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Here in Northwest Arkansas, as well as a lot of the United States, we are experiencing an unprecedented drought that makes our job as vegetable farmers a lot more difficult.  The high heat has stunted and killed a lot of our plants, and the lack of moisture from the clouds makes watering with drip lines a must, but futile.  A few years ago, we were able to get by not watering and heavily mulching our crops, but there were occasional showers in these parts.  The last few summers have been brutal, so brutal that we are considering taking a six week vacation during the hot part of the summer next year.  There, I said it out loud…it will happen.  We will still have crops in the ground, but those that seem to do ok in the heat, such as basil and peppers, things that can be watered once a week and still produce.  We will probably hire someone to take on this task.  It’s hard to predict the future, but I have a hunch it’s not cooling off any time soon.  

Because of the drought, the work load outside has somewhat dried up as well.  We are harvesting hardly anything, only basil and eggs, and the occasional cucumber.  We run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which has upwards of sixty members this season.  The duration is twenty-four weeks, which we are half way through.  We had to send out a letter last week letting people know how the drought has affected our farm, but to know that there are specialty items coming to them in the forthcoming weeks. 

Though the drought has dried up the outside work, there is no shortage of inside work, preserving the harvest, to which we will share with our CSA members.  Lately we have been canning blackberry, peach and blueberry jam, pickled jalapeños and apple butter.  This is the first year I’ve ever made apple butter, and now know why it’s so expensive at those cute roadside stands, it’s not easy.  The apple trees here on this property usually drop their apples months before they are ripe, but this year there are apples in abundance!  Aside from canning them, we have been juicing them, along with some carrots from the garden.  The fresh juice has been a welcomed treat by all who come and help.  Now that we are in the early stages of August, it gives me hope that this heat is only around for a few more weeks…did I mention I don’t have air conditioning?!  I’m earning my homesteading stripes for sure!

This was how hot it was in my house the other day.  Luckily the humidity was low.  With fans blowing it was like a convection oven!

When dealing with these fruits, DON’T FORGET YOUR GLOVES!!!!  And preferably the blue nitrile gloves, you will be sorely upset if you only use latex gloves.

Lots of hands make the work go faster…thanks ladies!

What we did to can these peppers was, to start off slicing them and de-seeding MOST of them.  Once sliced, you dry pack them into the jars, we used half-pints.  We added a half teaspoon of canning salt to the half pint jar, and filled it with a mixture of half white vinegar and half water.  We processed the jars in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

These are the finished jars.

If you are interested in reading more about my gripes and groans about the weather, or canning apple butter, or other farm-related gossip you can visit me, Amanda Wunderlich, at: