January 26, 2020

Hope Springs Eternal

Janine Pineo Illustration

Janine Pineo Illustration

• By John F. Chisholm •

Last month we had a stretch of four days where the highest temperature, day or night, was -9 degrees Fahrenheit.  Of course the low temperatures were far more frigid than that.  We have a recording thermometer on our front porch.  It’s sheltered so that the reported lows tend to be conservative while the highs are exaggerated.  As a result, I tend to believe the reported low of -23 degrees while wondering if the temperatures ever truly reached anything as warm as -9 degrees.

I am sure of one thing:  It was cold.

Perhaps, in isolated south-facing areas, the snow received earlier sublimated but it certainly didn’t melt.  No.

What a contrast with the next week.  For seven days, we saw record highs.  It was 49 degrees in Bangor one day and raining hard.

The inevitable results of these two weeks together ― icing, melting and flooding ― have been horrific.  My wife and I took our dogs on an inspection tour of the farm during one day of sunshine.

Wow!  The snow ― we had almost two feet of it ― was largely gone.  In its place, ice sheathed our fields, turning a dark, ominous green where water still cascades.  The rills, drainage ditches and brooks were raging, bank full.  Piper Brook, normally a step across in July, was at least one hundred feet wide.  The twin, 60-inch diameter culverts installed to support our woods road were within inches of being over-topped

A great many trees, primarily birches, arched the flood, their tops broken by ice.  Other trees, spruce and fir lie completely uprooted, laid flat by the wind.  It will be a lot of work to clean up the mess, no doubt about that.

Looking around, it’s tough to believe that spring will ever come, despite today’s mild temperatures.  More to the point, how is nature ever going to overgrow everything that was lost?  Nevertheless, largely for my wife’s benefit, I rub my chin and proclaim sagely, “Time will fix it.”

Like farmers everywhere, I never know whether I’m a fool or a prophet.

That’s because farming, almost by definition, is trust in the redeeming power of life in the very face of natural disasters.  It’s faith ― no other word for it ― that another spring is coming, just when the snow, ice and melt-water are at their highest.

In fact, if hope springs eternal then, you bet, farmers will be there to plant it.