When else but spring. Where else but Minnesota. As the last vestiges of winter melted and the first signs of spring appeared, winter returned with a vengeance.
The Prairie Smoke plants by my office door had begun to green up and bud, the robins had been snowed upon twice, and the wild geese were nesting. A foot of snow driven by 60 mile per hour winds and heralded by thunder put on hold any thoughts of planting potatoes or mowing grass.
The old adage of the robins being snowed on three times before winter is over has been covered now. The only problem is that last year they were snowed on about six times. It seems we should have some real spring coming to us soon. We will see.
Being transplanted has always been a traumatic experience. It might relate to moving, immigration, or just re-evaluating our opinions. Moving is hectic and a lot of work, but can result in a better place to live or a better job. Moving to a new place entirely can cause heartache and a sense of loss, but can also open up new possibilities. Sometimes we do have to change and upgrade our opinions and this too can be hard but at the same time rewarding.
Transplanting seedlings in the greenhouse can cause some short term shock for the plants but ultimately it opens up a new and larger growing space where plants can flourish and reach their fullest potential. We are now much engaged in the transplanting process in our greenhouses. The potential seems to be huge as we race toward spring.
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.
With record amounts of old fashioned winter coming our way, the snow has become a bit overwhelming, as we shovel it, plow it, and get stuck in it. I remember some old saying about lemons and making lemonade, and realize that skiing might be a good option. Since I have skied since my youth, the ‘old dog new tricks’ thing doesn’t really seem like an appropriate old adage. But I also remember something about yellow snow. Maybe that’s where the old dog thing comes into play.
We woke up this morning to a frozen sun, with actual temperatures in the mid-thirty below zero range. We are talking actual air temperatures here, not wind chill, which was in the obscene range. Record low temperatures date back to the 1870s and 1880s. These were the temperatures that August Hertwig endured in his 1875 circuit rider ministry in western Minnesota. Read about his winter travels in the book “God in A God-Forsaken Land.”
After a week of sub-zero temperatures we woke up today with the thermometer at minus 22 degrees (that’s actual air temperature.) Predictions for this coming week have us bottoming out at around 30 degrees below zero. Being out in this cold weather has us thinking about our extremities and how to keep them from freezing. We become very conscious of what we wear on our feet. Whether we are observing or participating in hockey, thinking about taking out the trash, or just staying indoors, we need protection from conditions intent upon defeating circulation in our extremities, especially dah feet.