Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rainy Days, Peaches, Strawberries and Oranges

Today is one of those days when it is best to put off all outside plans and stay inside. For the first time in weeks we are getting some measurable rain, over an inch since last night. While I feel like I should complain because it is raining on a weekend, I’m not complaining because we really need the rain.

This has been a strange winter in my neck of the woods and apparently, almost anywhere in the USA. So far this has been the second warmest winter on record in my city. I heard on the news the other day that they are not worrying about flooding in the upper Midwest this year because there is almost no snow to melt and flood the rivers. The dry weather is not so welcome down here in the Southeast because we have been facing hot dry summers for some time now. The farmers down here are worrying about the continuing near drought conditions. Add to that, the lack of enough nights where the temperature was below freezing has the peach farmers worried. It seems that we need 30 or more freezing nights to make the peach trees bud and the crop sweet and bountiful. By the way, if you are a peach lover, you should know that South Carolina produces more peaches than any other state, including Georgia, the Peach State.

I say all this while “knocking on wood” because I know that Mother Nature has a way of evening things out a little. One of the worst winter storms ever to hit town came in early March so we are far from being out of the woods now. It just seems a little strange to me that after a couple of years where we had some nice snow including one that almost gave us our very first White Christmas, this year there has not even been a little chance for snow. Well, Punxsutawney Phil says we still have a few more weeks of winter, we’ll see if they are interesting weeks or not.

I mentioned that cold weather is necessary for the peach crops but we don’t want that weather to come after the peach blossoms bud on the trees. That can really cut the crop back. Peach growers are not the only farmers that walk the fine line between too little and too much cold. Too little cold makes the strawberries and oranges tart. Too much damages the crop. You want the weather to hit the sweet spot.

In northern Florida, where I grew up, there are a lot of strawberry farmers. I can remember driving past strawberry fields on freezing mornings wondering why they had the irrigation system on full blast. I would have thought that would make the berries colder, but as I found out later, the covering of ice prevents the berries from getting even colder in the early morning air. Down farther south, the orange farmers put out “smudge” pots that filled the early morning air with soot and kept the orange blossoms from being damaged.

So, here’s hoping that we get a little more cold weather sooner, rather than later. That will make the strawberries better, the cantaloupes nicer and my morning orange juice just a little bit sweeter. Oh MY!

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