MAINE TALES. COMING TO CONCLUSIONS. BRIDGEWATER, MAINE. Circa 1994.
Farmer understanding mostly comes from experience. And worthwhile experience doesn’t just land bundled up in your lap. The road towards experience has to start somewhere and it’s a long one.
Humans have become pretty good at discerning patterns based on observation and experience. But only in hindsight does it become clear whether enough observational data points have been collected for a conclusion to fly and stand the test of time.
One Climate Change scientist with an Ag background and perspective has cautioned cause for concern lies ahead. One farmer lifetime contains sixty crops, more or less. Farmers draw from their experience of weather anomalies which have confronted past crops in order to chart their course of action for another year with an out-of-the-ordinary weather variation. This researcher predicts that Climate-Change-driven weather anomalies will become so extreme that they will at some point exceed the capacity of accumulated farmer-lifetime experiential know-how.
Now, a place like the State of Maine has a long history of getting a lot of snow. Since life needs to carry on in the Winter, as near normal as possible, that snow must get moved out of the way so cars and trucks and people can get from here to there.
After a snowstorm deposits new snow, snow plows attached to trucks tackle the job of pushing snow far off into piles on the edges of roads, driveways and yards. Here on Wood Prairie Family Farm it takes us about six hours of work to open things back up after a half-foot snowfall. Since Northern Maine normally receives 100-120 inches of snow each Winter, simple math will corroborate that Mainers spend a whole lot of time moving snow. During stretches when we get two or three snowstorms per week, snowplowing is like having a second job.
The first half of March is when we will have accumulated our deepest snowpack. The snows keep coming and the temperatures continue to remain enough below freezing that not much melting ever takes place.
There was one March when our oldest boy, Peter, was a little over three-years-old. Over the duration of that Winter, Peter would sit by the window and watch his father plow snow over-and-over with an old angled eight-foot-wide snowplow attached to an old no-cab Oliver gas tractor with tire chains.
Of course, there were Potatoes to grade. All Winter-long, with Peter near at hand we’d grade Seed Potatoes, bag them up and and ship them out to distant places already experiencing Spring. While we worked, we discussed and conjured up plans about what crops we’d be planting in the Spring. Invariably, Potato work would get interrupted by yet another snowstorm. After we plowed that snowfall away we’d switch back to shipping out Potatoes.
One day that March we sensed that young Peter was fretting about something. Eventually, we were able to draw out of him the reason for his worry. After observing the considerable effort put into plowing out our yard and driveway so that trucks could get in and out, he had been doing some calculating. He worried that at the rate we were going we’d never get all our fields plowed free of snow in time to plant our Spring crops in May.
Didn’t it come as a huge relief to Peter when we explained that come April, as the sun got higher in the sky, it would start to warm up enough that the snowpack would begin to melt. We assured him that by the time we needed to plant our crops in May, that old snow would have miraculously disappeared all on its own.
We do the best we can with what we know. Thankfully, life gets easier and experience will accumulate effortlessly while we go about and do our work.
Caleb, Megan & Jim