As I began writing this post on Friday afternoon, the outside temperature was thirty-five degrees and snow had been falling in big,
wet flakes, off and on since late Thursday night. More snow fell yesterday evening and off and
on last night. This is the latest it has ever snowed in May, here in Springfield, MO,
since they began keeping records back in the late 1880s. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in the high seventies and low eighties. Yesterday’s high finally reached thirty-eight, the coldest daytime high for May here, again, since record keeping began.
Thankfully, the nights have been several degrees above freezing, so the few vegetables I have planted so far, will probably make it as temperatures gradually warm up to mid seventies by Wednesday and maybe even hit eighty again by the end of next week.
All around the upper midwest, farmers are scratching their heads at the May snowfalls, while along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, farms are flooding and farmers wonder when and if they’ll get their crops in. Flooding is expected across the southern states this next week. Meanwhile, the drought continues for its third year in many of the southwestern states. Officials in New Mexicofight with the fracking companies for water and unusually early Santa Anna winds have brought early wildfires to California.
I do not write this to argue once again for global warmingand climate change. That ship has already sailed, as far as I’m concerned. It’s here; it’s queer; get used to it.
Yes, I know we can’t definitively blame any one unusual weather event on global warming. Yes, I know we have always had the twenty-year, fifty-year, or one hundred-year snow
storm/flood/tornado/hurricane/wildfire. However, speaking as an ordinary small gardener, I don’t know a single fellow gardener, in person or on the internet, who hasn’t had at least a small case of the willies over the string of unusual weather events in just the last few years.
Sometimes, while wandering around the yard or neighborhood, it seems the wild world, itself, holds its breath, wondering what nature has in store, next. Last year, it was the noticeable absence of bugs in the garden from late May through the heat and drought of
summer. Not even the grasshoppers, which usually take advantage of that kind of weather to munch on the drying leaves and stalks. Usually around here, the air is full of bird songs – especially the cardinals – from April on into the heat of summer. This year, I heard a cardinal a little over a month ago and had not heard nor seen one since – until I saw one, silent, in a tree next-door early this week. The
henbit finished its run across the backyard and is everywhere around the garden, but the creeping Charlie never really made it out of the gate. Now, the mouse ear, with its tiny blue blossoms, mats large portions of sunny areas along the south yard. It seems to me, it’s a month early as, last year, a type of mouse ear with yellow blooms covered those same areas in early June. The pokeweed that ran rampant on the north side of the house last year (and has popped up somewhere in my yard every year that I’ve lived here) is nowhere to be seen this year.
Perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly; perhaps nature itself is confused. And, I suppose that is the whole purpose of this meandering blog post. I’m not sure. Whether it’s the
weather, the birds, the weeds or my own garden, nothing feels certain anymore. I’m waiting here, along with a dozen or so tomato and pepper starts, to see whether this weather will settle back into its “normal” May patterns in time to get those starts into the garden along with the corn, squash, beans, cucumbers and melons.
I am only one, small-time gardener semi-dependent on what I grow right now. But, this country was known as the bread basket of the world in large part because stable weather
patterns, rich soil and dependable water supplies allowed our farmers to grow large
surpluses and a variety of crops to sell (or in disasters, to give away) around
the world year after year. With the increase of large, mono-crop farming around the world, even more dependent on stable weather, what happens to global big agriculture as that weather continues to destabilize? We lost nearly fifty percent of our corn crop
to drought last year. Russia, if I recall correctly, lost a good portion of its wheat crop to drought and a new variety of wheat rust.
It worries me so many ordinary people have lost touch with the real source of the food they consume, that they no longer have the good sense to worry about what is happening, themselves. They have lost touch with the reality of its intimate dependence on those stable weather patterns, on healthy, fertile soil, reliable water supplies and the fragile web of non-human life that feeds into and receives back from those staples of weather, water and soil.
We have “given away our souls,” as Wordsworth said, and are made the poorer for it as, in the name of infinite growth on this finite planet, we destroy the very things our lives depend on.
That thought has been a constant as I’ve wandered from the computer to the window and back over the last couple of days. It has left me with a chill that has little to do with the cold. It will follow me to the garden in the coming days as I rake back the leaves in the last two beds, lay the manure, smell the soil, plant the rest of the vegetables I hope will help feed me next winter and contemplate what might come next, in this weird start to May.