WOSTER: To cover the plants or not to cover?Many of us also have been wondering at idle moments if we were in for a rude awakening sometime before the heat of summer arrives in earnest.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I live in a small city, but I’m a Lyman County farm boy. I listen to the weather reports.
(Now, farm boy I may be, but I wouldn’t trade the static of old radio for the marvels of The Weather Channel for keeping abreast of cold fronts and storm warnings, high-wind advisories and heat waves.) The forecast the other evening called for a drop in temperatures, maybe lows in the 20s, quite possibly a freeze warning.
Well, who’d have thought it? It’s been a while since the temperature fell below freezing here in the Pierre area. I gather it’s the same for much of South Dakota. While most of us have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather of late winter and early spring, many of us also have been wondering at idle moments if we were in for a rude awakening sometime before the heat of summer arrives in earnest.
Perhaps not. I’m the most optimistic pessimist I know, so while I anticipated temperatures in the 20s sometime this week, I worked on the theory that there’d be enough breeze to keep a real, killing frost from settling over the land.
By “over the land,” of course I mean my corner of Washington and Capitol. That’s about all the land I own these days, and with my bum shoulder and all, I had to hire it raked this spring. It doesn’t seem like so very much land now that it’s raked clean, but I guess it’s all in your perspective.
I recall years ago when a guy named Jim Carrier showed up in South Dakota as the new correspondent with The Associated Press in Sioux Falls. He and the AP’s Minneapolis chief of bureau stopped at my place for supper during their visit, and Jim and I wandered into my back yard after the meal.
He was from back east originally, and we were kind of feeling each other out, seeing as we’d be working together for the next few years.
As we headed out the kitchen door, he asked me something like, “Do you have any property?”
I gathered later as we walked in the grass that he meant the yard and so on. At the time he asked, I immediately thought in terms of sections of crop land and thousands of acres of pasture and other Lyman County images, and I think I told him I did not — even as we stood in a pretty decent-sized back yard.
Ah, well, we grew comfortable with each other over the years, in spite of that initial misunderstanding. I confess I never did learn to do a decent harmony when we were picking guitar and banjo and he started singing “Fox on the Run.”
I’ve lost some of my land to development — an addition to the house, a garage off the alley. There isn’t as much to walk around in, but we compensated by planting shrubs and flowering plants and small trees whose names I can never remember.
A few weeks ago in this unseasonably warm late winter-early spring, I saw shoots emerging from the dead leaves and stalks of last year’s flower bed.
We were talking with some friends, and I said we had spent a little time pulling the dead stuff from the emerging green shoots. Too early, they said.
We shouldn’t be growing things until the end of April or beginning of May, because there could still be a heavy frost, even a hard freeze, they said.
How does the property owner tell the plants not to grow yet?
Anyway, with frost warnings, Nancy said if it came to freezing, we could cover the plants and shrubs with tarps. I considered it, but I couldn’t remember ever going out in Lyman County and covering the corn or wheat when a frost was expected. (I recalled briefly an interview in which a Colorado woman who opposed coyote hunting suggested ranchers “take their sheep in at nights.” Hmm)
OK, you’re right. A wheat field is more land than a flower bed. But it’s the same principle, and that’s good enough for me.
I’ll let you know how my stand on principle turns out after the freeze hits.