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Spring 2013 Review 04/06/2013

Posted by zoidion in Climate, herbalism, permaculture, urban agriculture, Weather.

Twin Cities ephemera: The past four days have been catch-up time in the garden and yard. Everything, except the young vegetables, grew extravagantly during the time I was on the road.

The dandelions were tall and profuse and going to seed, much to the dismay, I think, of my next-door neighbor with the green-carpet lawn. Actually, he was probably more perturbed by the look of our place than by the prospect of any volunteers sprouting in the midst of his monoculture: He’s a “Tru-Green” guy. Hah! As for me, I was sorry to have missed gathering and eating a lot of young dandelion greens before the plants entered reproduction mode.

I was pleased, though, to see how much the young elderberry bushes had grown out; I could even see tiny incipient flower heads beginning to form. Oh joy! The three black currants already have tiny green fruits. The small cherry tree had already bloomed—darn!—and had little green cherries dangling from little stems. But the hops—whoa! Several stems had grown at least six to eight feet in my absence.

The herbs did fine—no visible growth but they’re still green, so presumably they’ve been getting themselves rooted in. Now they have some company: anise hyssop, tarragon, and lovage, acquired from a longtime gardener who put out the word that he had a cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) to give away; actually, he had two, which I installed next to the utility pole where only a low stump shows where the silver maple used to stand. They won’t get to full height (eight to ten feet) this year, but they’ll add some welcome tall foliage, intriguing form and blooms to a spot that otherwise would be somewhat desolate.

I was impressed with that fellow’s compost pile, and a bit envious of his situation: He said he has more compost than he can use. I never thought I’d hear such words from a back yard gardener, but then his food production areas are not extensive.

Late this afternoon, with the Moon into the early degrees of earthy, fertile Taurus, and before the latest round of showers rolled in, I put seeds of Mandan Bride corn into one hill; the kernels, ranging from yellow to red to blue, are often striped. Used for flour (or for displays—nah), it’s an heirloom variety from Seed Savers and native to this region, so I figure it has the genetic instructions to fare well enough through the cool summer I expect.

The only sizable crop so far this season—other than dandelion seed-stalks—has been rhubarb. It doesn’t need sun or heat to grow profusely, so even though I yanked and tossed a number of too-big leaves and stalks, I still got a fair amount of the rosy stalks. I’m gonna try making some rhubarb lemonade, using agave sweetener (maybe next year I’ll try growing some stevia), ginger, lemon, and orange. Sound good?

This is an awkward interval—these first three weeks of June, before the summer solstice. By the cosmic clock, spring is still the season, but this period belongs to meteorological summer.

Not this year, not here anyway. There’s no sign of summer showing up at all—the weather pattern remains cool, cloudy, rainy. Today, for example, the temperature failed to climb beyond about sixty degrees (seventy-five is the average).

(A summary of the season—March through May—is on the Minnesota Climatology Working Group’s web site.)

The cool conditions have accorded with expectations voiced in these pages, while the wetness has been considerably greater—the astronomical indication duly noted (cool, dry air sign Gemini on the lower meridian, the lord planet, Mercury, in water sign Pisces).

Around here, we’ve been rather fortunate: The soil moisture deficits resulting from last year’s heat and drought have been erased remarkably quickly. Those who have paid close attention have been shaking their heads in disbelief.

Just a few degrees of longitude latitude south, however, it’s been a different story: Rivers are at or above flood stage. As Paul Douglas reports:

The soaking rains of recent weeks (some 20″+ amounts in a few counties) have left streams and rivers out of their banks from eastern Iowa into western Illinois, with moderate to major flooding in the St. Louis area on the Mississippi (the city’s protective levees should hold). An interactive map of flooding details is here.

Take a look at this graphic:


That area has been in the astronomical cross-hairs this season (also forecast in these pages). The chart for the season shows nearly the same degree on the lower meridian as the chart for the Twin Cities, but the crucial astronomical indicator is flood symbol Neptune in water sign Pisces exactly on the Ascendant.


The only real heat spike in this area came exactly on schedule (see previous post), on May fourteenth. A new record for the date, ninety-eight degrees, was set. (The Minnesota Climatology Working Group has a summary.)  But it was a strange one-day phenomenon: The previous day’s high temperature was seventy-two, the following day’s seventy-nine.

The second expected heat surge, on the twenty-third, didn’t happen. Far from it: The temperature topped out at sixty-five.

This forecasting thing is tricky.

<- zoidion ->

Across town, my friends Peter and Leslie are doing some interesting urban ag and community-building projects, and reporting about the process. They say: Think of it as an adventure. Check ’em out here.



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