Knee High (?)

“Corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July,” is an agricultural adage applied to various states, but in the northern US where I’ve spent most of my life, it’s generally been a true and good metric for the kind of a summer we’re having in any given year.

Cornfields are never far away in Vermont and I’ve spent more time in the country this year than recent others so I can testify that a good deal of our corn is waist-high and beyond.

That’s good, I guess.  It’s been hot here.  (This sentence will elicit groans from readers, I know.  It’s been hot everywhere.)  Ninety-degree weather in June is not typical for Vermont.  We’ve had a good mix of sun and rain, however, which means the barns are bursting with hay and some crops are doing well.

The apple crop, on the other hand, got hammered.  The early warmth of March followed by cool spells in April and May knocked down the projected crop by half.  The same early warmth also took the legs out from under the maple syrup crop and any year in which we have poor syrup and apples crops is bad news for Vermont agriculture.

My grapes, which had me so worried during an early May cold snap, are coming through like champs, but then the arbor itself (semi) collapsed during a violent evening thunderstorm on the Fourth.  Talk about fireworks.

So we have winners and losers.  Corn, hay and grapes – winners, for now.  Syrup, apples and arbors – losers, this year.  The mix of sun and rain has not been what it once was.  It will be dry for 10 days or two weeks, to the point where everything is parched and wilting.  The strawberries came in strong and sweet, but the individual berries got smaller and tarter the longer we went without rain.  Then we’ll have three or four days of intense storms with punishing winds, downed trees and flash floods.  As I’ve noted before, this is the kind of thing computer models predict for this area in an era of global warming.

A week from tomorrow is HD6 – Hansen Day Six – the six-year anniversary of the New York Review of Books essay in which NASA scientist James Hansen wrote, “…we have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions. Our previous decade of inaction has made the task more difficult, since emissions in the developing world are accelerating.”

The effort to slow global warming got help in 2008 from an unexpected ally – George W. Bush.  By trashing the economy with the attendant reduction in manufacturing, transportation of goods, travel, etc., Mr. Bush and his Wall Street pals inadvertently reduced emissions of greenhouse gases for a time.  We all want to stop global warming, but not on the backs of average Joes and Janes.

For now it’s humid, the late afternoon sun ripens the day’s take of raspberries on the neighborhood bushes and residents of what we call “the farm” come out in the cool of the evening, working our way from yard to yard with bowls, picking and chatting.  It’s high summer.  I hope you’re enjoying yours.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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