Farm To Farm

by Spec MacQuayde, March 21, 2012

Dramatic climate change never seemed like a debatable topic to me, having walked with bare feet on its direct effects as a child. I can peer out my windows to the west, south, and east, and view ridges of forested hills, all the direct effects of the last Ice Age. This is precisely where the glaciers stopped, after plowing like a one mile high bulldozer blade from the frozen north country. These sand dunes would have been beaches for millenia as the stone age people basked like movie stars in the French Riviera, no doubt, as the glaciers retreated, the wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers with them.

My neighbors were already mowing lawns in early March of 2012, having only parked their zero-turn radius mowers in the shed in December. To say we in the Ohio valley experienced no winter would be an understatement. And while I don't like to argue about weather forecasts, or climate change, I do check out the average high and low for our climate every day. Today, Sunday the eleventh, we are breaking a heat record, smoking the old record, which was from 2007, by seven degrees. I think it's been a month since the date on the heat record has been prior to the year 2000. The forecast for tomorrow is to be warmer, yet, and all next week is supposed to be in the mid-to-upper 70's, smashing daily record highs. The birds are singing like it's April. Mosquitoes were biting most of the winter. The trees are all budding and leafing out.

Last week I received numerous texts and phone calls from family and friends all over the country, wondering if Craig and I were okay after the killer tornadoes.

"Killer tornadoes?" I asked, at first. We don't watch TV, though we had been aware that some strong storms were blasting through. I'd started stretching up plastic for the greenhouse that morning, felt the temperature rise from 48F to 70 in about forty-five seconds like I'd just walked from winter into a heated building, heard thunder and seen lightning flash from dark, ominous clouds to the southwest, and decided to roll up the plastic and try again later. "This is early March. We don't get tornadoes until spring."

"Dude, didn't you hear about the baby who was sucked out of the trailer and dropped in some pasture, and was still alive?"

"No."

I decided maybe it was time to make a trip through the river bottoms, over the bridge to town, partially because I needed to stock up on beer. Huh, I thought, only going about twenty on the gravel roads, gazing at the multitudes of sandhill cranes that winter here. The previous year's cornfields were now dotted with charred stalks, possibly evidence of thousands of lightning strikes that lined up like connect-the-dots somewhat parallel with the river, which flows to the southwest. My son had informed me that a friend's home had been fried in the path of that monster, and I had to imagine a funnel cloud full of static, some natural phenomenon hitherto unknown to science, sort of a Yosemite Sam thunderhead armed with an automatic firearm. Maybe Thor had visited Indiana in the flesh, signed a few autographs. I mean the evidence of the strikes, the blackened ground, were only maybe thirty feet apart, and here this was the river bottoms, not some ridge where lightning normally strikes.

Down at the Bluebird tavern, both the televisions and everyone seated at the bar were going off about the half-mile wide twister that had leveled Henryville, a mere ten or fifteen miles to the south, nothing to joke about in Verona, where many residents shack up in old trailers and nobody has basements or storm cellars to hide in due to their close proximity to the river. We were all rooting for that baby to survive.

Returning home, I opted for the round-about route past my buddy, Mort's, grandma's farm where the rivers merge, still wondering about the charred corn stubble in the river bottoms, and happened to spot my neighbor, Paul Hill, stacking five gallon buckets of honey on his loading ramp, so I backed into his drive.

"What can I do for you, Spec?"

As we toted buckets of honey that some hillbilly was going to haul down to the Amish communities, I inquired about renting a couple hives for bees--one for our homestead, and another for the seven acre piece up the road about four miles. Sixty bucks per hive per season, he said. Paul's bees were actually out in California at the time, pollinating almonds near Fresno.

Naturally, the subject came around to the weather, and I mentioned the charred cornstalks in the river bottoms. "Must have been some natural phenomenon hitherto unknown to science," I hypothesized.

"Oh," said Paul, whose family farms thousands of acres in the Verona bottoms, "that wasn't lightning. They torched off all the piles of corn stubble left by the floods. We have to do that every year. It's a pain in the ass."

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