There is a pattern developing in the weather!
Although the forecasters are predicting a drier than normal autumn and winter (which I would rather not have!), for the moment the weather seems mostly to have settled in to a comfortable rhythm. What puzzles me at the moment is that, most years, the bigleaf maples are glowing with bright yellow leaves (unless it has been raining a lot in which case they are rust-colored).
This year, the maples and willows are only just beginning to turn yellow. Driving toward town today I found myself wondering if our deciduous trees, rather than adapting to the length of daylight as a trigger for hibernation, have adapted to a “total lumens” trigger. I wonder if, since we normally have overcast, if not actually rainy, skies from mid-September through mid-October whether the trees interpreted the consistently sunny days of the previous six weeks as being still too early to turn?
And did they interpret the last week, of mostly rainy and gray skies, as the beginning of autumn (which actually occurred about four weeks ago)?
If so, I wonder if the other plants are experiencing the same confusion? Certainly the apple tree and the medlar had blossoms developing as recently as a couple weeks ago. And today in the garden I spied a bloom on the more vigorous Hubbard squash though most of the plants are clearly “done” or nearly so. Only a week ago, on a sunny day, the Himalaya blackberries were delivering a few sweet and juicy berries still (very unusual this late in the year).
The quince are late to ripen, too — in this case I suspect they require the start of hibernation to begin ripening! I hope to have enough to harvest tomorrow to take to the local apple festival to sell and share.
By the way, if you care to join us, the Apple Affair is at Rignall Hall on the Steamboat Island peninsula this year. It starts at noon and goes to about four. There are going to be dozens of varieties of apples, some are heirlooms that are hard to find, and a few locally grown items such as squash as well.
The other day, driving home in the late afternoon, as the mist/fog was trying to rise the rain was coming down at a steady pace (usually it’s either fog or rain, not both).
Today, it was stormy at 8:30 in the morning and by nine-thirty we could see no clouds at all from our yard. By noon it was gloomy again, and at three once again sunny! Unsettled weather, it is called, weather that can’t make up its mind. Spring-like, rather than autumnal.
As a teacher, I will happily take any (week)day that allows the children to run around outside in relatively dry, sunny conditions. They need the light and the exercise! As a gardener, however, I wonder whether my plants are getting the right amounts of light and water. I worry a little bit about their ability to adapt and survive in years that are consistently off-kilter.
Our region, specifically the Southern end of the Salish Sea, used to have a fairly regular pattern of “dry” years and “wet” years. Some years (very few) were wet almost all the way through. Some years (very few) were extremely dry and gardens needed watering beginning in March. Most years the rain fell consistently from the middle or end of September through the middle or end of April, and sporadically the rest of the year, with an almost-dry August and September.
Most years, planting potatoes in March was futile because the soil was too wet! Most years, harvesting early apples in September was easy because it was still dry. Most years, there was enough sun starting in May and June that stone fruit ripened well by mid-July and were done by early or mid-August. Most years… The truly aberrant years were once a decade or less frequent.
But the last few years it has been anyone’s guess as to when or whether plants would have the conditions they need to grow well and produce edible fruit. In the last couple of years, the deer seem to have expanded their diets to include plants that once were “safe.” And in the last decade it has felt as if all of the years are unusual in their weather in at least one way or another.
I am ready for a “normal” winter where it rains steadily but slowly in the lowlands, snows a lot in the mountains, and the rivers rise slowly from spring melt. I am looking forward to a year when the birds have enough to eat, the deer find their native forage palatable and abundant, and the salmon have the right amount of water in the rivers at the right times to migrate and spawn.
Mostly, I am looking forward to pumpkin pie!