Snow and Consequences

Inch Strand

Inch Strand (Photo credit: Tooi Ake)

February 23, 2013

Well, we had a winter storm, such as it was here in Springfield, late Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon.  It amounted to about two inches of snow-sleet mix (light on the snow and heavy on the sleet) covered by a quarter inch of freezing rain.  Kansas City got 12-14 inches of snow; we got the winter mix; northwest Arkansas, up to ¾ of an inch of ice and various parts of southwest Arkansas, several inches of rain before the storm moved on eastward.

I bring this up because in last year’s drought, Missouri farmers lost nearly 50% of their corn crop and home gardeners, a good deal of their late spring gardens.  So, we have all become sky watchers this winter to one degree or another.  Our snowfall here over the years averaged seventeen inches. The local weather forecasters had predicted fourteen this winter.  With less than a month to go before spring is officially here, that’s looking fairly unlikely.  We’ve had only a few inches worth so far and, even with the few inches of collective rain this winter, here in Springfield, at least, we’ve not made up the fourteen inches we were behind last fall.

We do have a storm coming in on Monday and possibly another toward the end of the week, but it takes five to ten inches of snow – depending on whether it’s heavy and wet or powdery and dry – to provide an inch of water.  And if it melts too fast, as snows sometimes do around here, much of it becomes run-off instead of soaking into the ground.

I remember seeing one of those climate change maps of the United States several years ago, showing the middle of the country – including southwest Missouri – being in permanent drought by the end of this century and thinking, No.  Not here, where the average yearly rainfall is forty inches. At Christmas time in 2000, Springfield was digging out from a storm that dumped two feet of snow on us and a year or two later, we had a snowfall of eighteen inches in early March.  Now, I wonder if we’ll make it to mid century before that climate change map becomes reality.

We’ve had a seemingly steady decrease in winter snowfalls here (and in spring rains) over the last decade.  Of course, that’s not a long enough period of time to make definitive statements, but it does leave me with a good case of the willies when I think about that map.  And with our seemingly endless capacity to kid ourselves about burning every last ounce of retrievable fossil fuel without repercussions, I am increasingly pessimistic about the future we are leaving our children and grandchildren.

Still, I started seeds this week for spinach, beets and cabbage – more cabbage than ever, in fact, since I found out it can be blanched and frozen for winter.   I’m not at all fond of canned cabbage, though I did find several promising recipes for canned cole slaw that use a water bath.  (Here is one, in case you’re interested. )  And, I will augment the starts with more seeds once they are planted, as I will with all my other vegetables this year, in hopes of having a better growing season in what promises to be another dry year.

I really don’t know what else to do except keep trying.  I love gardening.  I’ve never been one to just sit down and say, “Well, it’s no use.”  But I don’t kid myself that, somehow, what we’re bringing on ourselves will have a happy ending – whether it’s the ramping up of climate change, the increasing failure of the perpetual growth meme, or the fact that, with all our touted hundred years of unconventional oil and gas, overall, the world economy is barely keeping up with the decreases in cheaper conventional oil around the world.

The complex and intertwined nature of these three does not bode well for solutions by governments fixated on finding politically palatable answers while maintaining business as usual and a people more interested in who they can blame for their decreasing quality of life as things fall apart.

It’s sunny here today and with a promised high of thirty-eight, the melting has begun.  What’s left will freeze over, but melt tomorrow as the temperature climbs into the fifties – just in time for Monday’s storm.  I will watch the sky and the earth for hints of what will come this spring.  Though your signs will differ from mine, I suspect those of you who farm or garden, and are aware of the changings, (how could you not be?)will do the same where you live.

The snow will continue to fall too little or too much or in places where it’s not fallen at all in the records we keep of such things.  The politicians will continue their search for easy, politically palatable solutions to our complex, intertwined problems.  Those who cannot or choose not to see the signs will pull their coat collars up against a growing unease and look for the next group to blame for our problems.  And the consequences of our collective folly will grow until they can no longer be ignored – or dealt with.

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4 Responses to Snow and Consequences

  1. graveday says:

    Damn, Linda, that was the sweetest epitaph I have ever read.
    Here, in upstate California, I can echo the woe and feel the same willies, the goose bump goose is cooked ones, as well as the ‘willies’ that get one gardening. Taking care of a patch of the earth is an act of hope, as well as an act of desperation, because if you don’t you might get hungry.

    • theozarker says:

      Thanks grave. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a patient whose doctor thinks the only cure is to add more leeches to the body. And I like your assertion that gardening is an act of both hope and desperation.

  2. Nadia says:

    Hi Linda: Greetings from the very cold and white Minnesota winters I so remember from my upbringing. I so enjoy your writing. so lyrical. I feel I’m working right along side you in the garden(s) of my future! Alas, I have other challenges and fights to battle at the moment.

    My mother is recovering. A beautiful, tall woman of 86 who never drove a car, had a wonderful foreign born lover/husband of 60 years – my mom is coming up to the surface. It is a daunting tangle of webs (medicare) but we have a wonderful social worker and my background in healthcare/HR is helping me navigate very troubled waters. It’s in the words not said and the actions unobserved. We must not think EVER that we will be receiving quality care – those days are gone and were, probably, short lived. Everything right now is “pinched” and the people who deliver care are beyond burned out – as they are short staffed and constantly confused. Most are foreign born (East/West/ Africa) care givers. Supervisors are burned out by the stress. I practice “kind-outreach” as I feel that my observed concerns are best dealt with by questions delivered with persistent “kindness” and the practice of “being a friend to have a friend”. The lapses in communication take my breath away. I spent 15+ years as an HR Sr.Mgr in Health care and the industry today is vastly diminished from my time in the 80’s. No money anywhere. Low staff to patient ratios. Families running around to get staff to administer to very sick people, etc.

    My mother benefits from a healthy lifetime and good habits. She has despair but is naturally not a depressed person and takes it as it comes. She has proven, in this experience, an extraordinary example of grace and strength under fire.

    I will be up here in a cold hinterland for a long time, I expect. On hold are the plans for the farm in Gerald and the gardens we had hoped to start. Oh well, the manure will just age some more.

    I very much look forward to your post(s). They are comfort reading for me. I appreciate you so very much. Take care and thank you for your good and kind wishes!

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Nadia. So glad to hear from you. I was thinking about you and your mom the other day. She sounds spunky and spunky is good. I’m glad she’s on the mend, though I know it seems like a slow slog sometimes. I hope you and your sis are getting some rest amidst the battles. 🙂
      I worked in hospitals from 1958 to about 1982, so I saw the dramatic changes in medical care on the way up. But those changes were based on cheap energy, of course, so I’m not surprised that the changes are just as dramatic as we go back down.
      I hope it will not be too long before you’re back working on your farm. Sending a virtual hug and good wishes to you and your sis and one for your mom. Keep us posted.

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