Sunday, April 1, 2012

Signs of Summer

[ I have not written here for over a year. Farming solo AND renovating AND working full-time off the farm has taken their toll on a lot of things. I think I'm back now.]

Back in late February or early March, I stepped outside one day, and Nature shrieked at me: IT's THE MIDDLE OF APRIL!!!!" Something in the robins' song; some smell in the air; the first mosquito seeking my arm; a hundred little clues added up to only one possible conclusion: Spring was in full tilt, at least a month early.

Before that moment, we had been chugging along at the farm feeling very content with the work we were doing, cleaning up several year's worth of neglect. This year, finally, I have enough help and good help at that (another post). In fact, it seemed like we were ahead of the calendar with both training and action. But in that moment, I realized that we were suddenly a month behind.

In the past few days, I've seen dragonflies flying, fireflies hatching from their nymphs to light up the night, hot weather plants breaking dormancy. All the spring perennials have bloomed, and we're starting to see irises and soon peonies around town. All the fruit frees bloomed during March, when usually the trees are still bare and some late pruning can be done. The garter snakes have been active for weeks; scarcely a day goes by without seeing one in the garden or pasture. The praying mantis egg cases I'd intended to sell at Farmer's Market (still 2 weeks away) are time I'll store them in the fridge. Some growers are harvesting asparagus already, weeks early. Morels, that May delight, are thronging in the woods.

Off the farm, I've seen pond turtles sunning, bullfrogs in the slough, herons fishing along the banks. One diligent farmer has his soybeans in, standing several inches tall now.

It's wrong. It's scary. What will summer be, if March is in the high 80s? Alternatively, if we get the least frost now, the magnitude of devastation will be unimaginable and will last for years.

The losses caused by this unseasonable weather are already mounting. Spring greens are our mainstay at Farmer's Market from April to early June. It's too hot to plant them, plus we're busy putting in hot weather crops now in case summer brings even hotter temperatures and drought. So we're missing an entire growing season this spring. The greens we have are growing too fast for us to harvest, even if we could market them.

Traditions are at risk. If peonies normally are the "Memorial Day flower", how barren the graves will be two months from now! My usual birthday treats, roses and asparagus, will have come and gone. Etc.

Keeping a record of this unusual season is a good reason for me to start blogging here again.