Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I've always been a bit of a weather nerd.  Okay, a bit is exaggerating.  I loved it, still do.  For a long time when I was little I wanted to be a meteorologist.  I checked out weather books in the library, especially about tornadoes. I was obsessed.  I think part of what drew me was that if I knew everything I could, I could protect myself from them.  I could help my family get to safety.  I would know what to do.  Whenever they predict us having bad storms and the like I'm glued to my computer, checking out my favorite websites and animating radars, trying to predict where the storms are going to go.  I go outside and look at the clouds and see how they're moving.  I always thought it would be the big storms that posed the greatest threat.  I never thought a calm clear night would really be my biggest worry.

It's on those cold clear nights when that dreaded enemy creeps up on you.  It's been lurking in our minds all year.  All spring it's been nice and warm and misleading.  We knew the shoe was going to drop sometime, but we hoped it wouldn't.  These last two nights it did.  These last two night the beautiful weather betrayed us.  These last two nights, it frosted.  (Insert ominous dum, dum, dum).

We started working on this Sunday.  We had everything planned out.  The Husband set up the overheard irrigation.  He and I put out row covers at the end that the water didn't reach well (yeah, that was fun.  The middles were full of water from Sat. night's rain and what was dry was slippery shoe sucking mud.  I have no balance, and I'm trying to pull cumbersome wet row covers over these plants without punching holes in the plastic or stomping on a berry plant accidentally, all while The Boy is whining because his hands are cold and The Husband is whining because I'm slow.  I told him he'd rather me be out here and slow than covered in mud and leaving when I fall down.  He shut up.) We stayed up late waiting to watch the weather (well it was late for him, and for me incidentally since Sat. night we were celebrating Lynette Howell's 21st birthday :)).  Of course all they could talk about was snow near the border.  All day I was on the net, checking out forecasts.  We subscribe to a service called Berry Alerts (through strawberryweather.com for any grower happening to read this) that sends us information about the weather and frosts and where they think it will.  From everything we gathered, no frost.  It was going to be cloudy which of course keeps temps up because the air is trapped under the clouds, and windy which wouldn't allow the frost to settle anyway.

Night One.  We set the alarm for two.  No change.  We set the alarm for four.  Big change.  It was clear and a low of 33 with 31 in some places and a north wind of 2.  The Husband gets up to check out the field and cut on the pump.  There was frost on some of the irrigation lines and a little light frost on some leaves.  I get on the Internet and monitor the temps.  The clouds roll back in around five thirty and we decide after looking at the forecasts it probably won't get colder and stop the irrigation.  The water is not freezing on the plants, so we take that as a good sign.  Yesterday I spend my afternoon slipping and sliding and sinking in six inch deep mud ditching out the middles (fun times!).

Shoe sucking mud

The Husband's solution to shoe sucking mud.
Cutoff waders.
Night Two.  Tonight, we have our game faces on, they're predicting 29 at the NWS, it's going to frost.  I make The Husband get a nap while I stay up to monitor conditions.  At eleven I see it's down to thirty six.  This is the magic number.  So I suit up and walk the field looking for signs of frost.  There's frost on the grass in the middles, but due to the black plastic we've planted the strawberries in the dew on their leaves has not yet frozen.  If I could have cranked the irrigation pump I would have, however, since I cannot, I have to leave the task coating the berry plants with ice to The Husband.  We start at 12 and after some minor issues (at one point he comes in soaking wet because he had to change a nozzle.  I have to try real hard not to laugh at that mental image) ice starts forming around four.  By six thirty when the sun begins to rise and things begin to warm the plants are coated in ice, making the field a winter wonderland.  I have a feeling I'll be ditching more today.

We're crossing our fingers for no more cold weather like last night for the rest of the season, but you can never be sure.  I remember once when I was younger it snowing in April.  The Husband doesn't like me to mention that.  We're thinking right now that we were able to save most of the blooms and berries we have on the plant now, and as far as I know we're still hoping to have berries in 2 1/2 - 3 weeks.  Hopefully.  

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