About August last year – that is the stressful part of peach season – I started dreaming about snow days. The idea of a forced day off at home with my family seemed a nice change from the sweat of summer and the stress of harvesting peaches. Our new home is high on a hill, far back a quiet road, nestled against a deep forest. It is the kind of place you want to get snowed in.
So here it is! The snow is falling, the roads are impassable, the kids are out of school, and we are stuck. I love it. The children are playing nicely together. There is a slow fire in the fireplace, the dog is curled at my feet, and there are plans for an afternoon of baking with all those wonderful fruits we saved from the growing season.
The only sign of discord is in my head, as an ancient Protestant work ethic reminds me of the predicted accomplishments in those summer dreams. Our home is wonderful – pretty much exactly what we were looking for – but it still has a few loose ends. The deck is mostly finished now… but mostly isn’t completely, and completion isn’t really possible today. I tried to work on a paver walkway in December, but only got the excavation done before the weather got too bad to continue. I’m working on an office, but I badly injured a finger yesterday and I don’t really want to go back to the table saw today.
The other thing to worry about is the weather. Believe it or not, fruit growers need to worry about weather even in the winter. To be sure, we worry a little less. But this isn’t a normal winter. You have probably noticed that we have seen the coldest temperatures since the early 90’s. When temperatures get below 10, we start worrying about strawberries. The cold snap during the first week of January took us down to 0, and because there was no snow on the ground, there is a good chance the strawberry buds were damaged. Only time will tell, and there is absolutely nothing to be done about it now – though in retrospect perhaps I should have mulched them with straw in December. (On the other hand, is it worth that expense to save 1 crop in 20?)
The other crop that is at risk in cold weather is peaches. We are pretty near the northern limit of commercial peach production and these extreme temperatures are the reason for that. I remember as a kid watching the thermometer head south of 0 and wondering whether the peaches would pull through. Some years they wouldn’t – and with nearly 25 years since a big winter-kill, we are overdue for a loss. Especially concerning is the huge temperature swings we’ve seen this month. Just before Christmas, we saw a day up to nearly 70 – it melted all the early season snow and exposed those strawberry buds. It was still 50 at New Year’s, but then that “Arctic Vortex” dropped us 50 degrees in just a day. Trees don’t like those kinds of extremes.
But todays’ snow should help insulate against the forecasted bitter temperatures this week. And I know I really can’t work on these house construction projects. So maybe today I’ll just dedicate myself to my family “project.”
After all, that is our most important and rewarding priority.