The propensity of Cascadians to complain about the weather is the stuff of legends. We generally stay right smack in the middle of the weather spectrum compared to the rest of the country, but when conditions get too far out of bounds, you’re gonna hear about it. Cliff Mass shared this 1855 ‘weather report’ from Honest John Tompkins of Steilacoom:
“Well, March went out, April came in, and with it, cold, wet, disagreeable weather, and a universal spirit of discontent, and a disposition to “growl””
“Throughout the entire month, and even up to this, the last day of May, it has been precisely the same, and some amongst us profess to be so thoroughly disgusted with the weather …. that they threaten to leave the Territory altogether.”
For most of my nearly 5 decades in the Pacific Northwest Junuary has been a part of the natural weather cycle. January often brings abnormally warm temperatures, including records highs in 2015. Bonus! you might think, but a run of 60 degree weather in late winter can really mess up farm and garden plants that are just starting to get ready for the growing season. They can leaf out or blossom too soon, and be damaged by dropping temps. Early bloom also throws off the pollination calendar, which is catastrophic for food production. Not only do trees and berries fail to set fruit, the birds, bees and other pollinators lose out on critical nectar supplies.
The flip side of the Junuary coin comes in June, when we typically have a long dank stretch of chilly, rainy, grey weather. Really annoying when tomato and other warm weather veggie starts are ready to be planted out, or when you’ve had to put off tilling in the first place due to wet soil. Salad greens do well in this weather, but so do slugs. Still, we’ve come to accept it, and even count on it for garden planning.
But this year Junuary failed to follow through on the June part of the deal. Not only have we had record maximum average temperatures for the May 1 to June 30 period, we’ve only gotten .81″ of rain in that time. This is the driest since record-keeping started at Sea-Tac in 1945, the previous being 1.26″ in 1992. The local weather office says:
To put this record warm June in perspective…the current average
maximum temperature of 78.6 degrees would be the 12th warmest July on
record and the 9th warmest August on record.
Which means Seven Trees Farm is experiencing a ‘water emergency’. All the research we’ve done over the years on sustainable water use is coming in handy now that the rains have failed, but it’s a non-stop scramble to keep up with crops that were planted with rainy summers in mind.
We’ll post more as we get up to speed with our raised rows and bucket/barrel drip watering systems. Hopefully once we aren’t performing emergency hydration to 4000 square feet of growing areas, we’ll have more time to share what is working and what isn’t. This will be our 10th year (11th summer) at STF, and all the trial and error should finally start to pay off. Though I could easily use another 10 years to continue experimenting, it looks like Mother Nature is stepping up her game.
You can check out our sustainability brainstorming pinboard here – https://www.pinterest.com/hallberaox/seven-trees-sustainability/ and our gloom & doom fire/weather/news twitter feed aggregator here – http://stormcrow.seventreesfarm.com