December 21st – the shortest day of the year is upon us – this is mother earth’s cue that we should be hibernating! Although this year, we seem to be getting mixed signals from our environment; wild oscillation in the weather are a constant reiteration of a climate that is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I dare say, symptoms of emotional instability are spreading like a virus among farmers who depend upon a predictable weather patterns to make their farms work. Even in our relatively moderate micro-climate along the Lake Erie littoral, crazy weather gyrations have caused headaches for nearly agricultural endeavor. First it was a cool, damp spring that kept us out of the fields until late May followed by some wild wind shear squalls throughout the summer and into the fall that rattled windowpanes and induced painful groans from our barn’s weary old bones. Harvest time was a state of total confusion; dry and sunny conditions lured us into the field only to be followed in rapid succession by rain, more wind, and snow. Once the weather finally relented in late November, the fields were laying in ambush ready to suck unsuspecting harvesting equipment into mud to their axles.
We are far more fortunate than those farmers who depend primarily upon the predictability of mother earth to reap their harvest from the land. Our relationship with the good earth and her climate is one of amicable bewilderment. We watch the storms roll in off the lake and take note of old trees that lose their grip on the creek bank to the raging runoff that each new storm brings. But our direct livelihood is not intimately tied to our ability to produce crops on our land. Still, time spent putting seeds in the ground and observing the progress of those crops through the seasons is a valuable vantage point from which to watch and wonder what travails lay ahead if we continue down the path of benign neglect toward our environment. Sixty years of witnessing the passing seasons in western NY is a long enough time horizon to recognize that the changes to our climate are real and eerily destabilizing. The challenge and opportunity in the year ahead is to commit to doing something about it.