Spring’s fast run through April all but stopped two weeks ago when an inch of cold, November-like rain took most of a Saturday to fall. A noon survey of the backyard that dreary day showed nothing moving save two Canada geese grazing in the gray drizzle like two Jersey cows in sunlit clover.
Another stumble came four evenings later when weather forecasters called for a “light” freeze.
What’s a “light” freeze? I wondered. Any freeze, regardless of its weight or shade, would turn my eight, just-transplanted tomato plants into dead dishrags. (Yes, I was pushing the May planting season in an effort to pull the tomato season into June. I have a three-letter defense, though: BLT. Innocent, right?)
The tomatoes made it because the freeze didn’t. Each of the following days, however, refused to warm—even “lightly”—to the previous week’s shirtsleeve temperatures and a cool northwest breeze kept suggesting that winter might yet have something to say. I kept an ear turned in that direction, just in case.
Between the always grazing geese and the stretch of cool weather, the lawn (such that a never-fertilized, dandelion-decorated, uneven stand of bluegrass, ladino clover, and creeping red fescue can be called a lawn) went back to sleep for another week or so. That was a good thing. No mowing meant more time to, well, bum.
Good things, however, rarely last when it comes to lawn care. The momentary retreat of the grass inspired the dandelions to seize the high, low, and middle ground and, in a matter of days, the yellow army stood in total triumph. The nearby daffodils, out-gunned and out-yellowed, surrendered three days later.
The cool weather encouraged our many flowering trees to remain in bloom for what has to be a record three weeks. Even today the crabapples continue to be fluffy pink, red and cream-colored bows that tie the blue sky to surrounding carpets of ivy and grass.
In the front of the house, a tidy line of four apple trees stands just in front of an untidy line of uncountable redbud trees. Both have held the edge of a nearby woods in pink and white gloves since Easter, an astonishingly long time.
In fact, I cannot ever recall seeing apple trees and redbud trees in bloom for weeks and weeks. Each time I pass the colorful line on my way to the toolshed I think that same thought. Then, each time I walk from the toolshed back past the line, I think: You will never see this again.
Indeed, last Saturday, while on another slow trip to the shed, I got lost in the color of the trees and stopped to stare at the soft, lovely haze. How long I stood there I can’t say. I can say, however, that afterwards I wondered if anyone had seen me.
The maple trees and morels have been delayed by the delayed spring. Both need warmer nights, I reckon, before either will risk a daylight appearance. That’s two good reasons to look forward to a renewed run at warmth.
The farmers, too, slowed corn planting a couple of days after Mother Nature slowed spring. Oh, they flew at their big task the same week I planted my tomatoes but they, like me, knew it was plenty early to go full throttle.
Several days at idle, including another slow Saturday filled with cold drizzle, restored their zeal, though, and earlier this week all attacked again. Officially, government bean counters claim corn planting is but 38 percent complete. An unofficial windsheild report puts it closer to completely complete.
That means May is upon us and soon, too, will be warm June and heat-soaked July. Until then, I’ll be on the porch watching this almost eternal spring slip its perfect coolness and lingering color because, Lord knows, I may never see it again.
The Farm and Food File is published weekly through the U.S. and Canada. Source material, past columns and contact info are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com.