Storm Cleanup is Finished

Ashes from the Brush Pile

Ashes from the Brush Pile

LAKE MACBRIDE— Embers of the brush pile marked the final cleanup after the Sept. 19 storm. Uneven spots remain where the tree fell, but the lilac bushes retained a nice shape and appearance after trimming the damaged branches. Next order of business is to mow the lawn, which is still partly brown after the drought, and collect the grass clippings to use as mulch where the burn pile is now. It’s been two months since the lawn was mowed.

The season’s canning is mostly done, and I posted this to Facebook yesterday,

All the canning jars in the house have something in them, more than 30 dozen. Tomatoes, applesauce, hot peppers, soup stock, sauerkraut, dill pickles and hot pepper sauce. There is apple butter, pear butter, peach, raspberry and black raspberry preserves, and grape jelly. The freezer’s full too. Plenty of potatoes and onions. We will have the beginnings of plenty of winter meals. All was grown locally and organically. Think I’m done for this canning season.

Herbs are drying in trays in the dining room, and a lot of produce remains in the garden. The counters and bins in the house are full of tomatoes, winter squash, apples, onions and potatoes. By Monday we should have a hard frost which will end most of the growing season. The historical first hard frost is around Oct. 7, so the growing season extended by about two weeks this year. It’s not clear what weather history means any more, except to point out how different things are getting.

A farmer was talking about the weather last night, commenting that it has recently been extreme, with nothing in between. He was referring to the early snowstorm that killed an estimated 100,000 cattle in South Dakota earlier this week. What we want is a steady, soaking rain for about 48 hours to bring up the moisture level in the ground. It hasn’t happened, and we are left with heavy downpours, flooding and fires in the great plains and upper Midwest.

For some farmers, the soybeans are in. While they had the potential for a big crop, the average yield was about 40 bushels per acre. The pods formed but didn’t fill for want of rain. The corn crop is still coming in, so if it rains, nature could wait until the rest is in. The variation in yield is between 40 and 200 bushels per acre. There aren’t many places producing the high end of the range and average is coming in around 140. There is some hesitancy to say until it is all in, but yield will be better than last year during the record drought.

Everywhere in the farming community, people are concerned about the extreme weather. Weather is always a concern for farmers, but this is different. People seem worried like they haven’t been before. There has been no mention of climate change in these conversations, and I don’t bring it up. No need to assert my views when the connection between extreme weather and climate change will become obvious with the persistence of trouble, and the expansion of knowledge.

While our cleanup is finished, the extreme weather seems like it is only just beginning. We use the same language, developed over generations, to discuss farming. But there is a sense, a resonance of worry, unlike what has been present before. It will nag at people and hopefully result in action to mitigate the causes of climate change before it is too late.

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