Summer Heat

All through May and June it rained.  Biblical rains last 40 days and 40 nights; ours lasted 60.  The roof leaked, the basement flooded, the dry side of the basement flooded.  By the end, it wasn’t just me with seasonal affective disorder.

May and June 2013 was the wettest 60-day period in Vermont in 100-plus years of record keeping.  Farmers couldn’t get some fields planted on time, other fields not at all.  No way was corn knee-high by the Fourth of July around here.  Hay crop is all but ruined.

“When will it end?  How much more can we take?” we asked.  Those who pray, prayed.  They may have recruited new volunteers.

Just after the Fourth, the rains ended.  Sort of.  The all-day rains ended, the all-night rains ended.  The daily torrential downpours that sent curbstones and hunks of macadam skidding down our street ended.

So it still rains, but now it’s steaming hot between showers, a certified heat wave (defined around here as three consecutive days with temperatures over 90 degrees).  We’ve run enough rainless days together to allow the farmers out to salvage what hay they can.  They tell me round bale technology helps.  (Round bale tech results in those things that look like big marshmallows in the fields.)

My brief (but just long enough, thanks!) experience haying involved the manual heaving of hundreds of 60 pound bales.  Each had to be thrown three times between the filed and the haymow, always in the hottest July weather.  I’d wake the next day and have to grope for the washbasin, as my eyes were glued shut with chaff.

Compared to that, this ain’t so bad, sitting in a hot little room, pecking at a keyboard.  I did get a bit hot under the collar last week when my Washington-based colleagues laughed at my lack of air conditioning during a videoconference.  (MF PO’ed as DC mocks lack of VT AC during VC.)

As the temperature differential between polar and equatorial regions decreases (both are getting warmer, but poles getting warmer faster), then pressure systems moving west to east over North America slow or stall, which led to last summer’s crippling drought in the middle of the continent and this summer’s on-going east coast schvitz.

Last Saturday was the seventh anniversary of James Hansen’s New York Review of Books “Threat to the Planet” essay in which he 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.”

It’s not all bad.  It’s great weather for insects.  My bees make honey faster than I can extract it.  Mosquitoes… well, I’m usually the last one bitten.  (Guess it pays to be a cranky old man.)  Young people: consider a career involving bugs; there will be many, many more very soon.

Tuesday evening I cut out a hornet’s nest for a neighbor.  My way of relaxing after a long, hot day.  Second one this year.  I have mixed feelings about dispossessing wild creatures of any kind, but humans are not easy to live with, so I know either I do it or it’s chemical warfare.  Besides, I like the challenge.  I have so few vices anymore.

The rain and slugs wiped out what had looked like a promising strawberry crop, but the blueberries have come in strong and the best thing I’ve had this summer was an illicit late-afternoon raid on my neighbor Margaret’s raspberry patch.  In 95-degree heat, a dark red raspberry falls off in your fingers, staining them en route to your mouth as the ripe skin breaks.  Warm juice squirts when you crush the berry between your tongue and hard palate.

© Mark Floegel, 2013

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