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Homeyer: Funny Weather

As we plowed our way into April this year, it seemed like everyone I met at the grocery store – whether a millennial or an octogenarian - was saying essentially the same thing: “Wow. This winter was like the ones we had when I was a kid - with amazing snow and cold.” And I was perfectly happy to have it so, largely because I enjoy skiing, but also because I believe it will reduce the number of pests in the garden this summer.

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Thirty Below Keeps Out the Riff-Raff” and being a gardener, I decided it was referring to bugs. I’m not an entomologist, but I know that insects like stinkbugs and wooly adelgids have been migrating up from the south. I’m optimistic that this winter’s sub-zero temperatures will have knocked back their numbers considerably. Even well established critters like the tomato hornworm may be less numerous this year, too.

A couple years back, many gardens were hit with late blight, a fungal disease that has the potential to ruin a tomato harvest. Both fruit and plants turn black, and seem to melt into a disgusting mess in just a few days. But late blight doesn’t overwinter here in the north. Each year it comes north either on plants started in the south, or as wind-borne spores. And this year even Georgia and the Carolinas have gotten freezing temperatures and deep snow. So we can hope that late blight will be less of a problem, given the widespread severity of the winter.

The winter was hard on our roads, too, cracking open the pavement like an egg in some places, with huge frost heaves that can send you flying. On one section of Route 120 in Lebanon, New Hampshire, there are no less than 11 warning signs in just over 2 miles of road. They’re orange with black lettering. Some say “Frost Heaves.” Others just say “Bump.”

But all the extreme winter weather prompted some humor, too. The other day on that infamous section of bumpy road I noticed that someone had made a very official-looking orange and black sign. It said, “Smooth Road Next 25 feet.” I laughed so hard I nearly went off the road!

Not so funny is the fact that mud season may be longer this year - thanks to this winter’s extended cold. Even after road surfaces thaw, there's still frost deeper down. That layer of frozen earth will hold water and turn many back roads into quagmires.

But it’s important to at least try to keep a sense of humor. One year, some joker hung a sap bucket on a local telephone pole. It provided me with a welcome laugh as I drove carefully along, dodging potholes and bumping through the mud.

Henry Homeyer is an author, columnist and a blogger at the
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