One day a couple weeks ago, as I woke to the third cold, dark morning in a row, I went from, “it’s okay; we accept all seasons for what they are,” to, “I’m building a greenhouse,” by seven thirty. By eight thirty I was shopping for galvanized conduit and calling around about having it bent.
The lack of wisdom in taking on such a project this late in the season aside, a hoop house is something we’ve been considering — and limping along without — for several years. And this year, after a laid-back summer where our no-till theories began paying off, I finally felt ready to pull the trigger on a tiny-scale high tunnel.
That was until this week when the cold rains returned and I pulled up the climate prediction center’s forecast for winter only to find a drastically different picture than last time I looked. Then, just a month or so ago, the forecast was calling for a relatively mild winter. Still cold, of course. This is Michigan no matter what. But not full on frigid and promising below average precipitation. Now, with La Nina making a comeback, the outlook is much less rosy. By December the above average precipitation is supposed to slide in and start dropping thick blankets of snow across the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. By January the below average temperatures are expected to plunge in from the north, a bone-chilling companion for the mountains of white stuff we’ll have piled up around here if the meteorologists aren’t too far off base.
So now I’m manipulating the ROI in my mind as I toss around plausible dark days scenarios and try to convince myself it’s still worth it; pictures of the winter of 2007-08 and its hip-high snow perform a menacing dance inside my head all the while. What’s the going rate for a thirty-minute old bag of organic spinach on a seven-hour long day in the middle of February, anyway? Will I appreciate it more if I have to shovel my way through three feet of snow to harvest it? Will you?
I tell myself the answers to those questions are: immeasurable, yes, and a resounding of course! Because otherwise I would relent. I would allow the frosty prognostications of a few (good, I’m sure) weather men and women in a far off lab to put me off. And come March or April when the weather finally breaks once again I know I’d regret it. I’d remember this week and those maps and the moment I decided not to give cold season growing a shot, I’d know that I could be six or eight weeks ahead of the season already, and I’d mourn the early spring bounty that could have been. At least this way, when there’s nothing green in the garden when the cold spring rains arrive, I will know it’s because I’m a shoddy winter gardener, but not so much a quitter.