The Absence of Spring

Apparently we have missed May and June here in our part of southeastern Ontario and went right to July!

Every spring planting season is unique here at Sunflower Farm. Some are too wet. Some are too dry. Some are too cold. And sometimes they are just right.

Our planting is fully underway for the CSA. Each year I get better organized and feel more in control and less frantic … as much as that is possible with my personality type. I have a number of gardens in various places as opposed to a large field, so it’s kind of cool the way planting comes together organically. I use ‘organically’ in many senses of the word.

We don’t apply any chemicals or weed killers or insecticides, so we grow ‘organically.’ But where things get planted just kind of comes together as the spring progresses. We obviously rotate things from garden to garden. Last year one garden had beans, a legume, which improves the soil, so this year it can handle a crop that is a heavy feeder.

Last year’s corn battle with the raccoons ended in a draw with them exacting heavier losses than I would have liked, even though I camped out in the patch a few nights with the dog to try and convince them to go and eat something natural, in the woods, where they belong. So this year the corn will be closer to the house, in a part of the garden that got enhanced with horse manure, and a second smaller patch will be right by the house in a spot that was part of the chicken pen, so you know it’s been well fertilized.

As exhausting as it is I do so love this time of the year. Everything is turning green and I get to spend my days in constant motion, much of it with my hands immersed in the soil.

The challenge this spring has been the weather. It’s too hot and dry, which is ironic considering we had one of the coldest winters on record. Part of my spring ritual is the gradual shedding of layers over the weeks as the temperature warms. Being surrounded by woods we go through periods of black flies, then mosquitoes, but in a typical spring this is no problem because I wear a bug hat and I don’t even notice them. But a bug hat in hot weather can be cumbersome to put it mildly.

The past week here has been 10°C above normal, which means is should be about 15°C (60°F) but it has averaged 25°C (77°F). Now I’m sure our readers in the south will laugh at me. Come on, 77°F is downright chilly in your part of the world. I get it. But I’m from Canada. The frozen north. So I don’t have the DNA to handle this heat. Or at least I am better able to handle it in July, or June, but not the first week of May. Right now my hands should be really chilled when planting peas. This week as I’ve grabbed the metal pipe pounder that I use when making fences for the peas to climb, I’ve been burning my hands on the steel handles. That’s not normal. This weekend its supposed to hit 30°C (86°F) which is a July heat wave. And it sucks.

And it’s dry. I have very sandy soil that looks wonderful and rich and dark, when it has moisture. But when it dries out, it looks like … well, sand. So I have been expending an inordinate number of calories watering after planting anything. Usually I can just plunk in the peas or onions and move on to the next thing. Now I’ve even been prewatering an area before I plant so it’s not so sandy, then planting, then watering. I’ve even had to resort to irrigation in some of the dryer parts of the garden. It’s such a pain. I am resigned to it but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

This is a conversation I have had with many people here in the north. More often than not, we don’t have a ‘spring’ anymore. We just go from winter to summer. I’m hyped to work in 30°C+ (86°C+) heat in July. That’s what’s July’s for. That’s what tomatoes need. And by then Fifth Depot Lake is warm enough for swimming, so I can push on through the heat knowing that before dinner I get to cool off in a lake. But not now. It’s just brutally hot and I’m not in a swimming mode. Oh, and the ice has only been off the lake for 2 weeks, so it’s less refreshing and more hypothermia inducing.

There are those that will say that we’ve always had warm springs. We’ve always had dry springs. You can’t infer climate change is happening because of one weather event. Agreed. On all counts. But this seems to be a trend, this absence of spring. And I don’t like it a bit. I love three seasons … fall, winter, and spring. I tolerate summer, but I am not a ‘heat’ person. I would rather it be -30° C (-22°F) below zero than + 30°C. I can always get warm by putting more wood on the fire. I can put on more layers. I can work harder outside to stay warm. But I cannot escape the heat in the summer. I have to work outside all day, so I will tolerate it, but don’t ask me to embrace it. Ain’t gonna happen.

One of the reasons I’m glad to have cut the satellite TV is so that I don’t have to watch those obnoxious weather people waxing poetic about how awesome this heat is! You know, the ones in the suits in the air-conditioned studios who drive to work in air-conditioned cars and go home to air conditioned homes and buy their food in air-conditioned stores. Oh but this weather is awesome to have a drink outside on the patio at their favorite restaurant! Ah the bliss of urbane living.

So I miss the spring. I miss the gradual transition. I miss the way it used to be.

And so when our federal election is called this fall, I will work diligently to get the Green Party message to the masses. Climate change is real. It’s happening now. It’s causing extreme weather ‘elsewhere’, and it’s screwing up our weather here. I suppose a spring like this for a farmer is an extreme weather event. If we don’t get some rain soon, crops will suffer. So this is no longer an existential, distant, sometime in the future, happen to someone else kind of thing. This isn’t our grandchildren’s problem. This isn’t our children’s problem. It’s our problem. Vote Green. Support Spring.

10 Responses to “The Absence of Spring”

  • Chris:

    I’ve just planted peas and it’s just starting winter here. Does that mean that Canadian summers are normally like South African winters

  • Linda Proudlove:

    No spring in AB either – still winter but cold and dry. Freezing nearly every night. Still wearing layers and a toque till mid-morning. Granted Iive close to the mountains at 1000 m but it’s unusually dry. Didn’t get a lot of snow either so pond level very low

  • The record high for this day is 23 C back in 1979. I just checked the temp today and it is 29C in the shade! ~Michelle~

  • I cannot agree more with all that you have said in this post. I live about an hour west of Ottawa and it is brutally hot here also. I am putting in a brand new strawberry patch this summer. For the last few days I have been out there on my hands and knees, in this heat, digging out couch grass! I refuse to be beaten by this weather or that blasted grass that really does not want me to remove it. I work for about an hour them come into the house, stick my head under the tap of the laundry tub and pour on ice cold well water to lower my body temperature, drink about a gallon of water and then go back out and keep at it.
    I really do not like summer, at all. I hate the heat and I hate the bugs. Thankfully here it is so hot by about 9:00 in the morning that I can take off the bug shirt which is stuck to me like glue by that time. I cannot wait for the autumn! Cheers.

  • tiffany:

    I am with you. this 80 degrees here in Mitchell, On is too much for this early. I have been up at 6 out cleaning up and getting ready to plant then I have to waste time indoors where its a bit cooler to wait for the evening and then fight the bugs trying to get things finished. just not right

  • I’m directly below you….by a degree or two? And I notice the same. It seems drought like and I’ve been getting my beds ready by doing the same thing, drowning each bed with water. I mulched with straw though, hoping that will help keep some of the moisture in. It feels like summer for sure, my face is burned, I already have a farmer’s tan, and it’s supposed to be almost 90 degrees today! Noooooooooo! Spring is my favorite time of year, and I feel the same…where did it go? I miss it.

  • I’m with you Cam. I am not a summer person although normally it doesn’t get here in the Pacific Northwest until July 5th. LOL This weekend is expected to be in the 70’s and rain has been mostly absent so that I am having to water the garden also. I planted potatoes at the end of January! Usually by August I am more than ready for September.

  • Connie Murray:

    Although we may be 100s of miles apart, the lack of Spring hit us at the Jersey Shore too! We plunged from the worst winter in memory straight into broiling summer — what happened to spring? I didn’t bother planting pansies or peas as they would simply burn up. My tulips looked great for a solid week before they dried up in the heat. Whatever happened to moderation? So we’ve lost spring — will autumn be MIA too?

  • pat nobbs:

    Cam, I have been awaiting Absence of Spring message for days now!! I too look at sandy soil that looks like sand right now. I covered a prepared for planting bed yesterday hoping for it not to DRY out completely before the next rain comes – who knows when! If we do not have rain real soon fire ban will be imposed again this year for the May holiday weekend coming up and we live in Land of Lakes CAMPGROUNDS where campfires are the #l reason for going camping – that is my personal opinion mind you.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – yes, and summer in May is downright exhausting.

  • bunkie:

    Here Here Cam!

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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