Tough Winter, Rough Spring

We opened the retail greenhouse season last week. We never expect much business, usually just a few regulars stop by to say hello and pick up some pansies in bloom, or  just to enjoy the peaty, damp fragrance that greenhouses have in the late winter and early spring.  Most everybody has thus far mentioned how much they hated the winter; how brutally cold and long it was. I was fine with it for most of the duration.  But our wood  supply  that I was so proud of in November  had  vanished  by the middle of March.  Around the farm we struggled with the fuel jelling in the diesel motors an although our poor little skid steer has an engine heater, the hydraulic oil in the motors that drive his tracks got so thick from sitting outside in the extremely cold winter nights that his servo motors cried in pain when we tried to first move him. There are still a few water lines frozen in the driveway and here it is, almost the first of May and no crocuses or daffodils.

The odd thing is that it might  just be a blessing in disguise. Last year we had a very cold spring and slow start to summer. Not only was that a plus for our strawberry crop, the blossoms on the strawberries were delayed until the chance of frost was gone at the very end of May. That made 2014 the first year since 1975 that we never had to irrigate at night for frost in the strawberries while they were in bloom. I can’t begin to tell you how much money we save when we don’t have to  push water around to protect the strawberry blooms.  And we value the fact that we get an uninterrupted night’s sleep probably even more. 

The cold late spring coupled with the lack of frost contributed to the profitability of the strawberries, without a doubt.

 Looking forward to seeing this berry blossom once we are frost free... 

Looking forward to seeing this berry blossom once we are frost free... 

So we Fieldies (those  of us here on the farm involved in growing and harvesting of the fruit and vegetables) have gone from grousing about the cold spring to rooting for it to continue, that we might  once again get lucky enough to grease by Mother Nature’s frost season.  The possibility  of not having to  keep  an eye on the weather and cold temps as opposed to getting a good nights rest, the pleasure of trading a warm bed for getting soaked while trying to unclog a sprinkler tip, the choice between  taking a shower to  wake up as opposed to taking a shower to  clean off the diesel fuel that  you dribbled onto your clothes while trying to refuel a tractor at 4:30 AM…..those are easy choices.  You can easily see why some of us have not been complaining too loudly about the continued cold. 

As far as the  growing season being late….it may well be so.  Many things are done here on a chronological clock…such as the seeding and greenhouse work . Even some of the field preparation gets done as soon as the soil dries out enough to be prepared for planting.  But the planting itself is done on a meterological clock…such as the field transplants or field seeding. For example, last year at this time we had seeded spinach and carrots on our driest and warmest ground, whereas this year it will be almost 10 days later because of the  cold soil temperature.  Seeding early this time of year can be a gamble because the seeds can sometimes germinate and emerge,  but just as easily they can rot in the ground.  

In looking at the weather forecast  for the next week it looks to be warmer, and priorities will be  rearranged around trying to get things planted. Having wished for warmer weather and gotten it, we will begin to look for other favors from Mother  Nature…like some timely and adequate rainfall. We farmers are partners and dependent  on Mother Nature. We don’t always get it our way…