Of the Earth: Rain impacts area growers, but not Belly Bus contributions

  • Bekki Craig, who works at Oak Courts in Greenfield and is on the Franklin County Hunger Task Force, helps fill the Belly Bus€ on the Greenfield Common Friday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Kevin Rose, who is on pre-release from the Franklin County House of Correction, helps fill the Belly Bus€ on the Greenfield Common Friday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Members of the Belly Bus Community Food Drive crew seek shelter from the storm on Friday. From left to right are: Janna Tetrault, Sara Cummings, Justin Costa, Michelle Geoffrey, Alan Dallmann, Tatyanna Pirozhkov and Becky Craig. Contributed photo/Jessye Deane


For the Recorder
Published: 8/7/2018 3:11:40 PM

Got drought?

Not any more, it seems. I was taken to task by several readers for suggesting recently that drought and water management were among the most serious challenges facing area growers. Now, for the first time in many months, the U.S. Weather Service has completely lifted the mosaic of yellow and brown drought shading from its monitoring maps for this area. Check out the maps, which change weekly, at: bit.ly/2N9GpdC.

This change isn’t surprising given the torrent of biblical proportions that cut loose over the Greenfield Common on Friday afternoon just as the Franklin County Hunger Task Force and its supporters were wrapping up the 2018 Belly Bus Community Food Drive.

Earlier, no one seemed to worry much about the gathering clouds as volunteers — including folks from the homeless encampment on the common — passed boxes into waiting vehicles with a precise choreography that left a visitor expecting them to break into a Busby Berkeley number.

“After 14 years, we’re pretty-well organized,” noted Sara Cummings, director of community services and asset development for Community Action Pioneer Valley, where the Belly Bus was born.

When the rain came, it was sudden and relentless, with lightning that left everyone huddling under various tents. Fortunately, the rain had held off just long enough and didn’t impact the results of the food drive. The tally, which is continuing, included 5,650 pounds of food and $3,225 in cash as of Tuesday morning.

It was like that again on Saturday at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls, where friends and family of poet and former Montague Selectwoman Patricia Pruitt gathered to dedicate a tree planting in her memory. Pruitt died April 23. Her husband, Chris Sawyer-Laucanno, read a rain poem just minutes before another epic downpour nourished the flowering pear tree and sent everyone scrambling to the tents.

The impact of the rain on area crops is hard to generalize. It seems to depend very specifically on time and location. Clifford Hatch at Gill’s Upinngil Farm calls it “sell it or smell it” weather for produce, forcing the harvest of corn and melons. The rain flattened newly-raised strawberry beds, he said, adding “It’s not much fun working in a stew.”

Holly Spatcher at Spatcher Farm in Leyden said that as blueberry season winds down, the rain has made things difficult.

“You can’t harvest wet berries,” she said. Berry growers have said that the rain has forced an early end to the season, with Spatcher noting that sales to area stores are over for the year.

Up at Bug Hill Farm in Ashfield where Sam and Charlotte Perkins have about an acre of blueberries, in addition to currants, raspberries, black raspberries, elderberries and aronia, things are different.

“The blueberries are coming along a little more slowly,” Sam Perkins said over the weekend. The fact that the farm is at an altitude of about 1,700 feet may account for the difference.

Perhaps a rainy afternoon will be just right for this recipe, which the good folks at Bug Hill Farm have invited me to pass along.

“This recipe is a staple in my family,” Charlotte Perkins said. “I am certain that I got it from my mother-in-law and she is certain that she got it from me. No matter — it is incredibly easy and delicious. It has been the ‘birthday cake’ for our oldest son’s August birthday most of his 29 years.”

Blueberry Crunch Pie

Crumble ingredients:

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup four

1½ sticks melted butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the oatmeal, flour, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Reserve one cup. Spread the remaining crumble into a pie plate. Press down to form the crust.

Berry ingredients:

3 to 4 cups berries

2 T flour

2 T sugar (optional)

Touch of lemon rind and juice (optional)

Toss the berries with flour, sugar (optional) and lemon

Fill the pie shell. Sprinkle with remaining crumble.

Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Top it off with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and you’re in heaven.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.

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