A Weird Start to May

May 4, 2013Snow Cat (Photo credit: clickclique)

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.

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12 Responses to A Weird Start to May

  1. Gail Zawacki says:

    The weather is insane. But that’s not the only, or even the major, reason that plants are disappearing. I went to a nursery a few days ago, where they are busy stocking the yards with shrubs and flats of vegetables and flowers, and trees to sell for the spring planting season. They all look terrible. It doesn’t matter if they are tropical ornamentals grown as annuals that have been sheltered, so it’s not heat or the lack of. Even the aquatic plants inside the greenhouse that are grown in tubs of water destined for ponds have brown, necrotic leaves. So it’s not drought. The only thing all these plants share in common with each other and with wild vegetation in the ground is the pollution in the atmosphere. Tropospheric ozone is toxic to all forms of life, including insects and mammals. Heck, it eats away at stone.

  2. graveday says:

    The willies, that’s perfect. Just about every facet of life I look at gives me the willies, even my beloved garden. The wild parts around here, the boonies if you will, no longer abound with the wild life they used to shelter.
    As John Gorka put it, the old future’s gone. And to borrow from Yeats, something else is slouching hither. And it’s not just climate chaos.

    • theozarker says:

      Indeed, grave. It’s been a eerily quiet spring around here as far as the birds are concerned. I see some of them, but except for around four o’clock in the morning, I don’t hear them. And it may be a little early yet, but I haven’t smelled my old nemesis, the skunk, yet this year, either.

      If you really want to get a good case of the willies, read this article from Salon:

      • Gail Zawacki says:

        This spring for the first time (due to the demise of the barn cats) I put up a bird feeder and have attracted so many birds, it has been a joy. I can sit out on my porch and play songs on my laptop and they answer back. If you go to this site: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search.aspx you can type in the “Find” box whatever kind of bird you might think is around, and click sound on their page, and then play the songs. Yesterday I had a towee getting all excited and then I thought, since I had heard a wood thrush the other morning, I’d try that and instantly one answered. It is sooooo cool! But yeah…there aren’t nearly as many as there used to be. They used to make such a racket in the morning it was impossible to sleep in.

      • theozarker says:

        Hey, thanks for the link, Gail. I hope I’ve got some birds left to see what they are!

  3. graveday says:

    I read that link you provided, Linda. Gee, you’re just a bucket of fun. I’m wondering what island that is off the coast of Washington. I bet it is actually an island in Puget Sound, but I want to check that out. An island with abundant fresh water sounds attractive. My city gets its water from five hundred foot deep wells and will soon also tap the already overtaxed Sacramento river. This is why I wanted to move to nearby Lake County which seems to also have abundant fresh water, but the real estate crash kiboshed that and many of the streams that used to be year round now dry up or become trickles.
    Rainwater harvesting on a big scale now looks like a necessity. Heh, of course that requires rain.

    • theozarker says:

      Looks like bucket of fun time is over and bucket of you know what time is about to hit the fan, doesn’t it. Good to know the Wall Street boys have found creative ways to make money off of it. Hope they buy plenty of food with that money. Computer bit funny money doesn’t make for a very nourishing dinner. Sigh. What a bunch of Dilberts.

  4. expedeherculem says:

    No need to worry. There will literally be no topsoil in North America at the end of the century at current pace. So, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Herc, at 72, I’ve got anywhere from the next hour to 25 years, at most. I can’t stop any of the biggies. All I can do is try to keep my own yard fertile and productive for whatever time I have left. Whether whoever owns this house when I’m gone has the good sense to do the same is entirely up to them. So, I got ’em and I’m smoking ’em. 😀

  5. graveday says:

    Linda, I hope this doesn’t crash your computer, but old Greg Brown just about nails what it is all about here.

    • theozarker says:

      Thanks, grave. I clicked it over to youtube to see if I could load it. Got the first 28 seconds before it stalled out. 😀 Didn’t crash the computer, but when it stalls out like that, I know it’s time to quit. Loved his voice; hope other readers will give it a listen.

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