It’s the day after Christmas. My belly is full of my mother’s baked goodies – date-nut bars, fudge bars, caramel corn and pecan tossies. My legs are sore from skiing. We have a living room full of books, movies, toys (yes, even the Syma X1 4 Channel 2.4G RC Quad Copter), artwork, an empty aquarium (yes, to be filled in 2014 with Elena’s hermit crabs) and stray tinsel that seems to have lost a little of its luster.
But it’s also the season for end-of-the-year lists: best movies, top holiday beers (seriously) and the best one yet, “10 great songs by the worst bands of all time.” Personally, I always enjoy writing about the challenges and opportunities of gardening at 6,500 feet in elevation.
This year began with what seems to be a reoccurring theme of a really cold January and February accompanied by very little snow. There was a stretch in January – the 11th through the 16th – when the low temperatures were -11, -18, -19, -13, -21 and -12, respectively. Those six days could drive anyone to Phoenix in search of T-shirt weather.
February, March and April were typical in terms of temperature, but they also were very dry. With only 1.54 inches of precipitation recorded at the Durango-La Plata County Airport during that three month stretch, our worries quickly turned to irrigation ditches turning off early, fire danger increasing and the Animas River turning into the Animas Creek.
The dry weather continued through May and June. Once again June gave us cause for melancholy, as it continually stands its ground as the hottest and driest month of the year – not the best conditions for our hopeful gardens. Eight days of temperatures above 90 degrees quickly turned those lovely tomato transplants into a withering mess. Even the invasive lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) that was taking over my herb garden was tempered.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the water restrictions: The monsoons started. July saw just more than 2 inches of rain; August almost 2½ inches. And while afternoon storms wreaked havoc with lawn moving, the twilight round of golf or the after-work float down the Animas, they helped restore some of the lost soil moisture and elevated the creek back to river status.
September continued this trend of afternoon rain showers until monsoons turned torrential. Localized storms produced quarter-sized hail, some areas had more than 2 inches of rain in a matter of hours and the wind gusted to more than 60 mph. And as many of you witnessed, your garden or farm just couldn’t withstand the elements. Large-leafed plants were shredded, fruiting crops looked like they had been shot with pellets (or worse) and tree fruit was pelted, dinged and bruised.
That, my friends, is Mother Nature. Sometimes she brings us challenges, while other times, like this week, we are blessed with glorious skies, lovely days and more than 100 inches of snow in the mountains.
I hope the rest of 2013 treats you well and that you are able to enjoy what makes Southwest Colorado so amazing. When your days get tough, or long, peek your head outside and look around. Ask for a “personal day” from work and take some turns on the mountain, find a trail or toss a fly in the water. We live in a special, special place.
email@example.com or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.