Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Canadian Conversation

My article in The Chautauqua from the 16 March - 

I'm writing this looking out over the freshly white fields, as more snow falls, happy that I don't have to drive anywhere today and even happier to see some moisture hitting the ground.

It wasn't until I lived in Singapore – 1 degree north of the equator – that I realized how much we Canadians talk about the weather. When you live somewhere that has very little fluctuation in temperature, there suddenly seems to be very little to talk about in the elevator. Now I am not only living in Canada, where the weather provides an easy conversation to 'break-the-ice' but I am back on the farm. That means the weather is a factor in almost every decision you make: what work you do today depends on today's weather, tomorrow's forecast and the almanac's prediction for the year ahead.

After Christmas we took our honeymoon in Nicaragua and visited a few farms there. They were talking about the fact that there dry season was (at that time) about a month and a half late. They were pleased because in the same way we stockpile feed (for us and the animals) over the winter, they stockpile to get through the dry season. It made us start to think about the year ahead of us, back home. So there we were – overlooking Lake Nicaragua, eating our breakfast of rice and beans – checking weather back home, reviewing the moisture falls from the very dry fall and winter (so far) and thinking about what we need to do this spring. Despite the rainfalls we received in 2010 and 2011, the dry fall and little snow this winter had us thinking about moisture.

Last summer we covered the garden in mulch: a variety of cardboards, black plastic, wood chips and straw mean that there is not a bare patch of ground, so any moisture that was there before the dry winds came was protected and the spring melt should be held in. (Thank goodness for this snow – there might actually BE a spring melt). We are trying to grow our garden with minimal tilling and we are still figuring out ways to work through the mulch we've already laid – but if that work upfront means less watering and less weeding later on, I am up for it.

We also have the materials for a water catchment system off the quonset. That was one of last year's projects that didn't seem to make the priority list. It's on the priority list for this year, though. If the rains come and we don't need to water the garden, I am sure the ducks and geese will appreciate the bigger pond to swim in.

While the weather is something we can feel at the mercy of in Canada (no ones figured out how to control it yet, although I am sure Monsanto is trying...) the changing seasons and the variation is a constant reminder of the ecosystems that we are a small part in and connects us to the natural cycles that abound. Plus it gives you an easy topic to use to fill in the time while you wait for your coffee.

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