Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bittersweet Day

August 29. Bittersweet Day. What would have been my dear Mum’s 89th birthday. The ginkgo tree planted in her memory in our garden has had to endure a challenging summer of extreme dryness and heat, but is bearing up.

As Hurricane Isaac bears down on New Orleans to torment once more, farmers in wide swathes of North America scratch their heads and ponder the consequences of months of agonizing almost total lack of rain. In this neck of the woods we have had sporadic cloudbursts passing by to the north and south, but no soaking sustenance here on our fields. The extreme aridity made weeding of sub-sized carrots and beets impossible, so grasses and weeds filled in mercilessly. The hard-baked soil is presently too dusty to till. Harvests are down, planting is down, but still we continue to water most plants every two to three days, keeping them going, if not thriving. The remarkably resilient lettuce in the field and the mixed salad greens under row covers have fared fairly well.

Yesterday’s airing of Beethoven’s glorious Pastoral Symphony was a timely reminder that the fierce raging storm is followed by calm and sweet serenity. The fourth movement depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from just a few drops of rain to a great climax with thunder, lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance.  The rapturous music makes the listener feel the tense disposition that captures man helplessly facing the state of nature. When the storm is over, all living creatures come to the surface, taking their place in the natural cycle.

September sees the return of cool nights, more moderate temperatures, moisture in the air, activity in the soil, and energy in the plants. Or at least, we can only hope so, in this season of testing extremes. An eerily dry and exceptionally mild winter was followed by March’s early heat setting plants off to precocious growth, and by April’s late frosts nipping fruits in the bud. A delightful May was the last moderation in weather conditions that we witnessed in this summer hard on farmers, fit only for sun seekers and desert lovers.