As our pristine covering of snow begins to melt and give way to the next season, things begin to reappear. The other day my dog brought his favorite chewing bone into the house. He had lost it in a deep snow drift during a storm. It turned up as the drifts melted and it was like getting a brand new treat. Along our road ditches the remains of road-killed deer begin to appear from under the snow. In the fields and prairie areas last fall’s stems of native plants reappear with the seeds of future summer color.
This week the vernal equinox arrives. We will now have half day and half night. We can shut off the supplemental lighting in the greenhouses and spring can now take off on its own solar power.
Outside we also begin to experience a type of equinox as snow melts from the windswept areas of our landscape and the dark earth begins to show through on nearly half of the land. The sun is as high in the sky now as it was in mid-September and the earth is anxious to absorb the solar energy and begin the process of spring
Upon returning from the Equator, I was met by near-record low temperatures and record snowfall for February. It is quite a contrast. In fact someone told me that in Minnesota we were the coldest place on the earth for some days this winter.
I spent time in a climate where all horticultural production takes place outdoors or in unheated shade/greenhouses. As I look out of our greenhouses here, I realize that greenhouse growers in Minnesota must be the most optimistic growers on earth. With several feet of snow on the ground, three feet of ice on the lakes, and four to five feet of frost in the ground, our optimism for spring seems almost like insanity as we grow our crops to be ready for spring planting outside. Yet as the sun marches northward, the miracle of spring inevitably approaches. We have faith in a world so wonderfully designed.
During my many years in the greenhouse business, I have seen a lot of different kinds of seasons. Sometimes the winter is relatively mild, with breaks in the cold and not too much snow. Last season the winter persisted until the end of April, but fortunately didn’t really get a started until almost April. Some recent years have been short on snow but long on cold.
This winter seems to be very persistent and extremely cold, with lows threatening records set back in the 1870s. The snow just keeps piling up, with another several inches the other day. A record amount of snow in February has entered this winter in the ‘near worst’ contest.
In the greenhouses we are plugging along on a normal schedule, hoping that things will eventually average out as they seem to usually do. That breath of spring-like air as we enter the greenhouse each day, gives us hope that the frozen tundra outside will eventually give way to green rolling hills and the first burst of color as the flowers begin to bloom. Meanwhile we content ourselves with the red dogwoods that protrude from the whiteness, and the small bursts of colorful flowers in the greenhouse which we are forced to pinch off lest they get overgrown before their proper time to go outside.
Gene R. Stark
A teacher, farmer, trapper, and greenhouse grower. He writes about the outdoors and the people and culture of rural America..