Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adirondack Rain Brings Little Reflief From Drought

As I sit here this morning contemplating my Wednesday post, the rain seems to be at a temporary lull. During the night I awoke to the steady beat of the rain and even as I let the dog out (and later toweled him off), I smiled: we need this rain and it is very welcome.

Rain has always been something we took for granted here in the Northeast. Some years might have been rainier than others, but overall, our rain could be considered moderate. We had no really bad floods and no real droughts.

Until lately.

Since I’ve been living in the Adirondacks (I moved here in 2000), we have been in drought conditions. According to the government hydrologist person who came through the VIC a couple years ago, we’d been in a drought since the late 1990s. Hard to believe! But looking at the precipitation numbers this year, the reality is there to see.

This winter we had an average amount of snow, but it was below average in the amount of moisture in it. As a matter of fact, three of the last four months had the lowest liquid levels in the six years we’ve been a National Weather Service Co-op Station. May seems to be making up for it (closing in on six inches for the month), but one month of rain does not make up for an entire winter’s deficit.

Feast or famine – that’s the phrase that seems to describe the precipitation patterns these days. When it does rain, it often comes in buckets, sometimes up to several inches at a time. And while some people think this signals an end to droughty conditions, in fact it is usually very little help. This is because sudden heavy rains tend to become runoff – the dry ground cannot absorb it and it all heads downhill, filling ditches, streams, ponds, lakes. Flooding happens. Even my hometown, which has NEVER had a flood, found itself 1-2 feet under water a couple years ago – the flood of the century. People were fishing in the streets. Amazing.

So when we get gentle soaking rain, like last night (over half an inch), it is something to rejoice. I spent the last three days working in my vegetable garden and conditions were dry. Even with my dripper lines on four times a day, fifteen minutes at a time, the soil was rather dusty. With all my newly planted seeds, rain was needed, and it arrived just in time.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saving Fruit Trees from the Frost

The forecast says the low temperature tonight in Saranac Lake will be 22 degrees. The apple tree we share with a neighbor decided to bloom yesterday. What to do?

Since the tree has thrived at an elevation of about 2,000 feet for longer than anyone living in this neighborhood can remember, it must be a pretty cold-hardy variety. But a deep freeze at blossom time really threatens to thin the crop. So we called Bob Rulf, who owns Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru. He said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to light charcoal in a couple of grills beneath the tree (this is a pretty big tree) and keep the smoke rising. Between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the coldest part of the night, Rulf said.

The temperature is only supposed to get down to about 29 degrees in Peru, the more-temperate apple basket of the Adirondacks. Cornell Cooperative Extension advises that when an apple blossom is tight and in the pink it can stand 30 degrees F for an hour; when it’s wide-open white it can stand 28 degrees for an hour, which seems counterintuitive, Rulf said.

His orchard is not equipped with wind machines or any large-scale equipment for dealing with frosts, so he’ll take his chances with the apples. However Rulf does plan to tow a furnace around the strawberry patch tonight with helpers riding along to blow hot air on that crop.

Photograph: Our apple tree in bloom


Kid next to water
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adirondack Gardening Dilemma: Timing Seed Planting

This spring has many of us North Country gardeners in a quandary: do I put in my peas yet or not? The rule of thumb here in Newcomb is not to plant before Memorial Day Weekend, but this year the weather has been so balmy so early that we are itching to get those early veggies started.

Seed packets come with instructions like “Plant after all danger of frost has passed,” or “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” The latter applies to peas. And with the scorching weather at the end of April, it was really really hard NOT to plant – I had to keep telling myself, “It’s still April.” And even though peas and spinach are cool weather plants, killer frosts and even snow are not out of the question.

I ran into a neighbor that last weekend in April and we immediately started talking peas. He said that if he could get his tiller going that day, he’d plant his; I heard the tiller rumbling the rest of the morning. And I hear that the doctor over in Long Lake put his peas in, too. I decided to spend the day prepping my veg beds instead, getting ALL of them ready for planting a little later in the season.

Last Sunday, as the weeding continued, I uncovered a whole bowlful of leftover potatoes in one of the beds! Mmmm – fresh potatoes in May! I even have undug onions and last year’s leeks resprouting! We’ll see if they grow into edible bulbs.

Meanwhile, every day the tomatoes are getting a bit taller in the kitchen, and the squashes I started are, eh, doing so-so (I was a bit over-anxious and started them a wee bit too soon). The flower seeds I started a week or so ago are sprouting now, too.

So, we wait and practice patience. Still, there is something appealing in being able to plant the garden BEFORE the blackflies come out!


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith



Kid next to water

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