The Season Formerly Known As Spring

Was it Dennis Miller on Saturday Night Live who started the whole rant thing? Lewis Black does great rants on The Daily Show. And in Canada, Rick Mercer does excellent political rants on his show.

Well I’m going to rant about the weather … and what I believe is its rapid change because of too much carbon in the atmosphere. Everyone complains about the weather, right? (I know some of my readers like rants, and some don’t. If you fall into the latter category, feel free to skip this post. I promise to write something positive next time!)

I remember the concept of “spring” from my childhood. This was a time of cool temperatures, and lots of rain. It was a time when trees gradually broke bud and became green. It was a time when tulips and daffodils emerged slowly and provided color in otherwise empty gardens. I used to start planting my garden in the spring. It would often be chilly. My hands would get cold working in the soil.

We don’t seem to experience spring anymore. We have winter, we have summer, with a few days in between. We had ice pellets the 3rd week of April. And then in early May we had a spell of summer-like weather. The temperature was about 26° or 27° C (80°C) each day. We had no precipitation and my sandy soil was drying out already. This usually happens partway through June or in July. Not this year. The drought started in April when “April showers” are supposed to bring May flowers. But our weather this May has been all over the place. In fact on Mother’s Day (May 12) the weather had turned cold again and at one point as I tried to work outside the skies opened up and little white chunks of snow/hail fell. It didn’t last long and didn’t make a dent in the dry conditions. Climatologists are warning that last summer’s record drought isn’t over for much of North America. Today it’s 22°C but feels like 28°C with the humidity. Thankfully we also received some rain in the last day or two.

I used to love spring. I could accomplish so much because it was cool. I could work all day. And I didn’t have to start first thing in the morning. I could ramp up after breakfast and then go all day. I can’t work as well in the heat, and our early taste of summer was too hot for this frost-bitten Canadian boy. So I started getting up at 5:30, doing some stretching to try and get my old body moving, and then heading out to try and beat the heat. In April!

But this is where it gets scary. I can’t really beat the heat, because it wasn’t cooling off at night. In my growing zone early in May I should expect it to really cool off at night. If I have seedlings outside in the sun during the day I have to remember to bring them inside at night. But not this year. Nope, during our little heat wave it just stayed warm at night. So that by the time I come in for breakfast at 9 am I’m already really sweaty. In May? Really? Yup. It sucks.

I watch the weather forecasts at night and you can tell that most weather forecasters don’t grow their own food, because they think early hot weather is awesome. “Get out on the patios and enjoy this heat,” they say. After 3 weeks without rain they might eventually say, “We could use some rain … for the lawns … and flowers …” Really? Where do you think the food comes from that you’re eating on the patio? Don’t you think the food crops could use a little rain? It’s kind of a big deal you know.

So we had a couple of weeks of summer heat, and then we had ice pellets and brutally cold temperatures. We even got a killing frost. The peas and onions and spinach could handle it, but I lost a field of buckwheat. After all of the heat we had experienced I was thinking I was safe to get this green manure planted, but I was wrong.

I realize the weather changes. Temperatures go up. Temperatures come down. But the wonky stuff that’s going on now does not bode well for farmers.

And then Michelle pointed out a news report that the earth hit 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere. It didn’t seem to receive the amount of media coverage that something like this should warrant.

There are many scientists who feel that we need to throttle it back to 350 ppm to avoid some pretty nasty effects. I’m on their side. I’m starting to think I notice these changes more than most people because I’m trying to grow food on a larger scale. I consider myself a “Cam-ary in a coal mine” and I’m sending out the “Mayday! Mayday!” warning. Of course with what just hit Oklahoma, I guess I can’t complain about a bit of wonky weather!

Meanwhile maybe I should head off to a patio restaurant to watch sports on a bigscreen TV and learn to enjoy the endless days of sunshine and heat. Let someone else worry about growing food in this changing climate!

* * * * * * *

Michelle’s Addition: On a more positive note, it’s been a great year for both daffodils and lilacs. Enjoy! I just wish we had “smell-o-vision” so you could also appreciate the amazing aroma!

lovely lilacs



8 Responses to “The Season Formerly Known As Spring”

  • Gerrit:

    Cam, you sure are right about the weather; things just keep getting more extreme. On a personal note; we walked away from our property purchase because the owner played silly buggers about the survey. So it’s back to the search; but the earthship blueprints are coming along and we keep looking.

    I’d like to say hi to Chris from the South African high veld; I’m originally from the south coast. Cheers mate.

  • Chris Parsonson:

    Hi from the South African highveldt. We’re just going into winter in what used to be called a ‘summer rainfall’ area. It seems to be rain all the year round now. Our temperature ranges aren’t as extreme as yours. Last month I put in our winter crops, broad beans, carrots, turnips, swiss chard, and beetroot – at the moment we only have a tiny garden. I love the thought of your snow and ice, seen from inside a cosy living room with a glass of ‘vin brulee’ in my hand. The good thing about the human species is that we can adapt and cope. I don’t see us ever going extinct.
    Love your website, Look forward to your posts.

  • Here in the Seattle area it was colder today than Kodiak, Alaska. Several weeks ago it was as hot as Phoenix, Arizona. With climate change, kiss “normal” goodbye.

  • Linda Proudlove:

    Up until this year I’ve been complaining about my husband’s “mosquito-breeding ground”, aka his pond. However, we have not had any rain this month in central Alberta either, so have been using it to water the food-bearing perennials – fruit trees, strawberries, asparagus, garlic, and the few seeds/seedlings that I’ve dared to put in already. We’re even pumping it into our 1000L tanks to save it from all evaporating. But the great thing about this, is that the pump is running on energy supplied by our solar panels, which are producing way more these days than we can use.

  • John Wensley:

    Hey Cam & Michelle
    Suzie and I live in the Beaver Valley, apple growing country. Last week I was speaking to one of the local apple farmers. He said something that really made this weather change really clear to me. The local apple blossom festivals in the 80’s was the first of June, now the apple blossoms are out the first of May. When I thought about this, my first thought was… Why the hell are people not seeing this. I guess they are sitting on patio’s, worrying about what to order to eat. Boy are they going to be in for a big surprise.

  • Melanie Ann MacKenzie:

    Since we have been in touch a few times already you know that we are in the process of moving to our straw bale home in the country. We were there this last weekend after a three week break. My asparagus looks like it has dried up and shrunken. It should be only just starting and it is already way to big and weird to think about cutting. We missed the peach and plum trees flowering and then of course there was that nice bit of freezing weather so there will be no peaches or plums this year. Thank goodness the apples are only blooming now. I have the same kind of sandy soil you have and my garlic is stunted and I am already dreading the thought of hauling water again this year. Our garden is about 1/2 an acre and I truly do not know if I will be able to cope with the drought again this year. I am seriously thinking of just covering up a section of it with a tarp and only planting out a smaller section this year. God help all of us.

  • Rick:

    Cam, you’re right! The weather isn’t what it use to be, and it’s not good for anyone, especially farmers.

    Climate change is real. And will have a better impact on this planet then Peak Oil, etc.

  • ellen horak:

    Have to say I feel much the same way – I don’t even bother trying to get in spinach or radishes or early lettuce anymore because with snow then heat they either freeze or bolt before anything is produced. I have some peas in and have started planting them in partial shade in order to have a decent crop. Lettuces now grow under shade cloth. We have already had to water our garlic crop a couple of times whereas 3-4 years ago we did not have to water it at all through the whole season!. Scary times indeed! I hated all the heat and watering necessary last year – takes the fun out of producing your food for sure! Hang in there – cooler temps are supposed to be coming this weekend.

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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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