Fickle and Friendly Weather

– Posted in: Weather
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Monday morning was almost a weather catastrophe. I say almost because it did frost Monday morning, but the frost was spotty in such a way that not too much damage was done to important plant life.

Late season frosts are a far too common occurrence in this area. The last two years’ apple harvests were destroyed in this manner, not to mention strawberries, and lilac blossoms. This May was not very warm, but with all the rain, and the continual cloudiness, the night time temperatures were stabilized and refrained from dipping below the freezing mark. Until this Monday.

I didn’t want to believe it had frosted, but when I stepped outside and stooped to examine the grass there was no doubt. A thick crust of ice was on every stem. My first pained thought was for my grapevines. The late frost of last year had already dealt them a blow, and it sickened my heart to think that all the tiny grapelets would end up destroyed. There was no choice but to go and see, so I walked up toward the garden, looking for some hopeful sign that the frost was not so bad.

Mercifully, a closer inspection indicated the frost was not so severe as my first grass inspection made me fear. There was no frost under the apple trees and there was no frost on the apple trees. Also, I noted with a surge of hope, there was no frost on the Concord grape vines. These vines were not the ones I invested good money in purchasing–they were already on the property when we moved in–but in looking at the Concord vines I was pretty sure the frost had only touched things which were lying directly on the ground. Everything else had escaped. I checked my vines up at the garden I found that it was indeed true. My vigorous vine, which had grown up to some height, was fine. My other struggling vines . . . well, they were frosted. Drat for that, but I was so relieved my best vine has escaped turning into a withered heap that I couldn’t help but feel relief.

A frost on June 2nd feels outrageous. Issues of outrage and injustice aside, considering the lateness of the frost we escaped well. The lilacs were already in full bloom and suffered no damage. In previous years we experienced a very hard frost late in the spring, and that frost ravaged the buds of the lilac bushes.

This year was the first truly gorgeous lilac bloom in several years.

The apple trees, most thankfully, also did not suffer from the frost. Their blossoms were gone, the fruit beginning to grow. I think my grape vines were the only important plants that suffered. We scraped by the catastrophe quite well indeed.

Flowers Brighten The Heart

As a child I think I was somewhat indifferent to flowers. Pretty flowers were all nice enough, but I have no strong memory of any flowers, or of any strong reaction. Flowers were simply a thing that was.

This attitude has changed as I’ve aged. There are some flowers I dislike, and some I am indifferent too, but I am surprised by how much other flowers affect me in a positive way. Certain flowers brighten my heart and put a smile on my face in a way that labels them as a powerful mood modifier.

Apple blossoms and lilac blossoms are two flowers that effect me powerfully in this way. I don’t know if it is the time of year they blossom, their appearance, profusion, smell, or perhaps something else I’ve not considered–but there is something about them.

The blooming of the apple trees this year was wonderful. I would walk around the trees with their profusion of white flowers and find myself smiling. Why? Because the flowers were so beautiful. They made everything seem alive, beautiful, and vigorous. I could go outside in a down mood, walk around looking at the apple trees, and then come back to the house feeling happy.

The lilacs added their special fragrance and beauty. With fat bunches of flowers in pure white or dark purple they looked like explosions of color–flower fireworks. Instead of a bang they released a fragrance. Walking outside with these flowers in bloom was like walking through a painting of vibrant colors. Things weren’t flat. They weren’t dull.

There is a certain sadness that comes with watching flowers fade. They are so beautiful, but it is such a short time. They come in glory, then they fade, shrivel, and pass away, a whole year to go before they come again. The apple trees leave behind a bit of compensation in the form of growing fruit. I recently looked at the apple trees and saw, much to my excitement, the first swellings of the growing fruit from where the blossoms had fallen away.

I have all summer to wait for the growing, ripening fruit. I can already imagine the crisp tang of the apples, and the wonderful taste of fresh applesauce.

Paranoia of Various Sorts

We escaped a horrible outcome from a late frost, but my mind has found other things to pick at.

–I planted my squash and cucumbers some time ago, but as far as I can tell only one plant has sprouted. What does this mean? Were the rest killed by the cold, eaten by some animal, or simply didn’t sprout? It looks like I will have to sow a fresh planting, and this means everything will ripen late.

–This spring has turned out to be very wet. This means all good things are growing well, but it means a lot of bad things are doing well also. I’m afraid this will be a stellar year for pests, mildew, and other such bad things. I don’t know if I’ve simply grown more observant, or it is truly worse, but I’m noticing blotches on some apple leaves, and I don’t like the maggots I’ve found chewing and bedding in other leaves.

I still haven’t burned the apple wood that had the shothole borer infestation, and I am terrified that those little creatures will come crawling out of the old wood and come flying over to my trees and re-infest them. A nightmare. However, being very wet limits the days when I can burn. If, on one of the few good days, I simply gave up writing I could do the burning. But I hate to give up writing so I really only have weekends and . . . well, I better do the burning soon. I hope it isn’t too late. I don’t want to think about that.

–The corn must be planted very soon. In fact, it could have been planted today, if I wasn’t spending my time writing. (Funny how that is.) If we’re on the subject of ought, I also ought to weed the blueberry bushes, but that is very low on my “I’m feeling guilty list.”

In case you’re wondering after reading this long list, I don’t intend to farm for a living. It is supposed to be one of those little things I do on my odd spare hours to keep my mind expanded and relaxed while at the same time giving my body some work. But sometimes I joke that I do a half job at farming and a half job at writing so I won’t get paid for either.

About the Author

At age fifteen, Rundy decided he wanted to write for his living. He is currently working on a novel, although it is not the novel he started at fifteen. When not working on the novel, he might be riding his bike, feeding his chickens, helping his neighbors, messing around with web design and computers in general, or writing on his blog, which discusses other topics in addition to gardening. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: fruits, vegetables, major landscaping, chickens and other poultry

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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jacob May 26, 2004, 1:15 pm

Great site! Keep it running!

jacob