YOU CAN KISS YOUR APPLES GOODBYE

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(click maps to enlarge)

YOU CAN KISS YOUR APPLES GOODBYE

                        After a day that was over eighty, our hottest day so far this year, I was resting my weary bones in front of my computer, and decided to check out the WeatherBELL site.

I lifted the two above maps from that site, so the least I can do is provide them with a glowing recommendation.  It costs less than a cup of coffee a day to subscribe to the “premium” site, and is worth every penny.  Dr. Ryan Maue produces the above maps, I believe, somehow taking a hodgepodge of NOAA gobbledygook data, and turning it into easy-to-understand maps and graphs.  Then two great, old school forecasters, Joseph D’Aleo and Joe Bastardi,  explain what is happening, and what is likely to happen, and usually do much better than any other source of forecasting I have. If you go to their site, http://www.weatherbell.com/ , I think you can get a “trial week” for free, but I warn you, it is like getting free heroin, because it is addictive, if you enjoy meteorology.

Having concluded my glowing recommendation, I must confess I wasn’t too happy with them today.  The above maps show yet another cold blast coming down from Canada, only this time it is coming further east.  The last one gave snows down to Nebraska and frost down to Texas, but by the time that air swung around and came east, it had been warmed by the sun, which is only fifty days away from as high as it gets.  This time it looks like we won’t be so lucky. We’ll get a straight shot, direct from the north.

I know we shouldn’t shoot the messenger, but I’m too old and near the Pearly Gates to blame the One who created me, for the weather the Creator creates.  Therefore it is the poor weatherman who gets the blame. Why anyone would chose that occupation is beyond me.  When weathermen aren’t getting scowled at for being right, they are getting laughed at for being wrong.  (When the weather is really nice, people are enjoying it too much to even remember them.)

The above maps show the low temperatures expected on Sunday night and Monday night, (or actually the crack of dawn, on Monday and Tuesday morning.)  Wherever you see the blue shifting to pink is where frost starts to be likely.  (Even when temperatures don’t go below freezing at the “official site,” which is a box six feet above the ground, you can have frost six feet down below, or on a higher flat surface such as the hood of your car, due to radiational cooling.)

Where I am located, in the middle of the southern border of New Hampshire, it looks like we will have frost both nights.  All the budding and blooming apple trees will be withered, and the crop destroyed.  The very fruit that caused Adam and Eve to ditch Eden, and therefore caused me to have to deal with weeds, thistles and thorns, will become scarce.  If it happens, you can kiss your apples goodbye. (Does that mean we get at least a glimpse of where we’d be, without apples?)  (IE: Back in Eden?)

Of course, these maps are often wrong.  I can hope for a heavy cloud cover, or wind, which might raise the temperature just a few degrees, and make frost unlikely.  (The maps can be wrong in the other direction, but I don’t want to think about that.)

This far north, a frost in mid-May is not all that rare.  In fact the gruff old timers used to surprise me by behaving out of character. Workaholic Yankees would look downright lazy, when it came to starting their vegetable gardens.  They would plant peas on Patriots Day, but then wouldn’t bother with much else until Memorial Day.

I can only suppose that when they were young and foolish they did attempt an early garden, and saw everything frozen, and decided it wasn’t worth the bother, even if it only happened one year in ten.

The fact of the matter is that even when there isn’t a frost in mid-May, things grow very slowly when the weather is cold.  After Memorial Day everything grows in a rush.  Consequently you can hardly see the difference between a plant started on May first and a plant started on May thirty-first, by July fifteenth, and in the case of some warmth-loving plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, the plants exposed to cold seem to sulk, and to never recover. The plants started later do better.

Now that I’m an old-timer myself, there are many plants I don’t put in until Memorial Day.  However I do try to get an early start with other plants, which can handle the cold.  Peas and spinach, lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and all members of the cabbage family, (cabbage, radishes, kohlrabi, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, turnips, but not cauliflower,) can handle cold, and even a light frost.

However a heavy frost can kill, or badly damage, such plants.  So now I am faced with the prospect of extra work.  What I will do is bury all the plants in leaves and dry grass at nightfall, and only expose them again when it warms after dawn.  The leaves and grass will become mulch around the plants, which will discourage weeds. (Also a heavy watering just before nightfall seems to help.)

I have never much liked the prospect of extra work, and I like it less this year.  After all, I am not pushing sixty any more.  I am.

When I was younger aching muscles told me I was getting in shape, and might be more attractive to the young babes.  Now, if there was a young babe foolish enough to be attracted to a mad and nearly penniless poet, (not all that likely, in my experience,) she would likely fixate on some grandfatherly attribute, such as my white beard, rather than my biceps.

Furthermore, I seem to get stiff and sore with amazing speed.  When I was young I might go through a grueling workout, (seldom through working, and more likely to involve throwing and running after a football or Frisbee,) and barely notice my muscles were sore the next day.  As a general rule, my muscles were most sore on the second day.  Now it is more like the second hour.  In fact, if a friend drops by as I’m gardening, and I take a welcome break to sit in a lawn chair and chat, when the friend departs I arise from the lawn chair with a grunt and a groan, and am somewhat amazed that I have already stiffened up.

Therefore I am always finding ways to do what I deeply enjoy, (namely garden,) that involves less work.  You may have noticed I prefer mulch to weeding. One trick I am developing is to mulch an entire row, so nothing can grow, and to only seed a short and exposed section of the row.  That way I only need to weed the short and exposed section, until the seeds pop up.  I then transplant them to the rest of the row, removing the mulch as need be.

Because I don’t like extra work, it should be obvious I don’t like the extra work involved in the promise of a future frost.  However there is one thing I do like about such a threat.

It might seem odd, but what I like is the sense I am not in control.  I do my best, but like all farmers I am at the mercy of things beyond my control.  Floods, droughts, bugs, fungi, woodchucks, deer, my own goats, the children at my childcare, or even a hired hand who mistakes parsnips as “weeds,” can decimate a thriving crop. A late frost or freeze is just one of a multitude of potential disasters every farmer faces, even if they are, like me, rather spiritual for a bumpkin, and deserve better.

It is good to be reminded we are not in control.  The fat ego needs to be humbled, and to be reminded we have never been in control of our destiny: Were we were in control of our mother, as she labored to give birth to us?

There are fat-cat leaders of big-shot corporations who actually think they are in control.  They make decisions that hire and fire thousands, and occasionally millions. It goes to their heads. Because, with a click of the mouse on their computer, a multitude could go hungry, they feel they are in charge of our daily bread, and even of the level our world’s population.

In actual fact, however, they are just farmers.  They may have chanced into a bigger spread and more acres than the rest of us, but the same human frailties that affect me on my fifteen acres affect them in their big shot, fat-cat, multi-billion dollar corporations. They simply haven’t realized it, because they haven’t been humbled yet.

I can’t speak for them.  I can only state what has humbled me.  And what has humbled me is the awareness, (they might call it “the delusion,”) that just because I am not in control of creation is not proof the Creator has lost control.  If fact, although my existence is a microcosm smaller than a mote of dust compared to planet of seven billion humans, (not to mention a galaxy of billions of stars in a universe of billions of galaxies,) I have felt the huge fingerprint of Control enter times of my life so out-of-my-control I should have died, and rescue me. (Tales for another evening.)

In any case, should a hailstorm destroy my entire garden, I won’t promice not to cuss.  However, after spending an appropriate amount of time kicking the dirt and ripping out my remaining hair, ( in the same manner it is appropriate to grieve, when someone you care for dies,) I will come to my senses. I will remember I am not in control.  I wasn’t on the day of my birth, and I won’t be on the day I die.  However the One who created me was in control, is in control, and will be in control. Lastly, He is Love.

The bigshots who control vast billions of dollars, huge industries, and the lives of countless peons, don’t like to admit they could have a heart attack in ten seconds, drop dead, and be out of control. They also could be out of control for other, less dramatic reasons.  In fact, even right now, they are out of control. However they are unlikely to be humble, and admit it.

Because they are not humble, they are like a bad neighbor, whose farm makes an unholy reek, and their stench affects our lives.  They may believe they are “in control,” and we are not a neighbor, but rather a “peon” they are “in control” of.  They may be cruel,  unaware they themselves are the peon. All their big shot power and status is just a tool used by the Creator to be a frost and hailstorm in our lives, (or perhaps just a stink.)

I pity them, for a day will come when they are humbled, and they will get a mighty big dose of humbling, all at once.  I myself prefer to get much smaller doses, on a daily basis.

My only concern is that, should we get a bad freeze here next Monday morning, I’ll waste too much time cussing and kicking my garden’s dirt, and too little time thanking my lucky stars. After all, at least I have a garden; some people don’t even have a garden.

Maybe you need to lose your apples to glimpse Eden.

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