Come November, I traditionally write the “end of the year” or “season in review” column. I lament on the dry winter, the cold spring, the brutally hot summer and even the sneaky end-of-the-season fall freeze.
But 2016 has been different. And amazingly enough, with only three weeks until Thanksgiving, there are still places in the county where the nighttime low temperature has yet to dip below 30 degrees. Seriously.
Thinking back to last winter, my fading memory drifts to a short vacation the kids and I took to Phoenix right before Christmas. Whenever I go to southern Arizona during the winter break, I’m guaranteed to run smack into some crazy snowstorm as I climb toward Flagstaff. I feel like I am flinging my spacecraft through celestial beings at warp speed (just like Luke Skywalker), even though I’m going 45 mph, while all the other crazy drivers zip past going 70.
When the kids and I returned to Durango on Christmas Eve, all I can remember is feet upon feet of snow left unplowed and a snowy Christmas morning where Santa left me with a busted furnace. We survived this plight, as we were only 1.5 miles from civilization.
After the holiday storms, winter felt “normal”: 14 days of subzero temperatures in January followed by four in February followed by a warming trend in March and April. The cold temperatures allowed us to keep all that snow on the ground, but other than some decent storms that lingered into the first week of January, we weren’t really graced with any additional “major” storms for the rest of the winter.
Our last spring freeze, in most places around the area, occurred around the last week of May, although a dip in temperatures the nights of June 14-16 had some gardeners and farmers praying to the tomato gods that the mercury didn’t dip any farther. But the big spring news, and I alluded to this a couple of months ago, was the lack of a fruit-bud killing frost in late March or April. Perhaps someone felt bad for us (consecutive years of little to no tree fruit) because 2016 was rare in that we had bumper crops of the early fruit (cherries, peaches and apricots), the late summer-ripening crops (plums and pears) and then our apples came on perfectly, with tree branches breaking from the weight of the fruit.
June was June: hot and dry. Barely a quarter of an inch of rain fell and 10 consecutive days over 90 degrees had me longing for fall – or at least a cold Mexican Logger. July felt hotter than usual, but we also got 1.5 inches of rain, so for plants, conditions were close to ideal. The afternoon rains of August were consistent, bringing the powdery mildew and early blight to some of our susceptible vegetable crops along with it.
And now it’s fall. And it’s been glorious and warm, and we’ve had numerous days of soaking rain.
Perhaps some greater being was telling us to get outside; to enjoy our backyards, our parks, our gardens and our farms; to forget about mudslinging, politics and polls and take a hike, go hunting or grab the bike or the dog or the kids and just go.
And, of course, it’s also time to get excited that the 2017 seed catalogs are on their way.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter