Last weekend, Alan and I worked out butts off to convert the bare ground left by the skip which I had sat in our front garden for the past three years into what I call our @HomeCrazzyHome Medicine Cabinet. A bed filled with medicinal herbs and flowers. We finished it and clearing out the re-purposed baby bath and dog bed that I converted into strawberry planters last year. Just in time for…
Yes, on Monday morning as soon as it began to get light enough for me to see out my window, I noticed something. Something white. It was the 5th of April. And it snowed in Swansea, Wales – just ten minutes from the beach and not a particularly high elevation. In fact, it continued to snow throughout the day. More than we had all winter long.
Of course, weather has been the frienemy of farmers and gardeners since we began to domestic wild plants. Sudden hail storms, unseasonal snow, flooding, heavy rains could destroy whole crops bringing famine and death. Nothing new there, right? But in the five years that I have lived in Wales, I have witnessed a marked rise in what they call ‘severe weather.’ This area has always been wet and windy.
Last year, I lost my first crop of beans to wind damage that burned and stripped the leaves from the plants. My tomatoes succumbed to blight following two ten-day plus periods of torrential rains.
When people hear about greenhouse gasses their first thoughts are global warming. But beyond that is an increase in the frequency and intensity of ‘severe weather.’ Growing up in the American South, I was always aware of hurricanes and tornadoes. But those were rare and relatively mild events, with some notable exceptions. I cannot remember more than one or two category 5 ones. Few people died and things were quickly rebuilt.
These days, hardly a season goes by without at least one Category 5 storm. And those storms are maintaining their intensity for longer. Often skirting the US coast, then traveling across the Atlantic. More than one has hit us in Swansea at least with tropical storm strength.
So, as we are battling to build sustainable, local food sovereignty and security, how to small urban gardeners, farmers, and homesteaders manage the issue of ‘severe weather?’
From cloches to greenhouses to LED lamps to hydroponics, we have technology and options today that did not exist in the past. But how and when to use those options are not always simple or easy. Most of those things cost money and/or time. And sometimes the return on that investment is just not worth it.
I have two greenhouses and have kidnapped the conservatory that used to be @PanKwake’s art room. They are all full already. And I have plants all over our @HomeCrazzyHome. But what is too much? At what point is the cost in $ £ and time not worth it?
This is a very personal decision, of course. But it is one that needs to be kept in mind at all times. The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth. It is virtually impossible for any family to be completely self-sufficient. Even most communities would struggle to do so. Trade grew up among our ancestors for this reason. So, remembering that when you make those plans and choices is important.
Even if your primary motivation is food security and/or sovereignty, there is power in community. My blog Eggs, Onions, and Farts tells the story of how my great-grandmother and her neighbor banded together during an especially hard winter in the Great Depression to feed both their families. Better than either could have alone. That’s what friendship and community are all about.
I have talked so often about the great Mater Blight of 2020 that ya’ll are probably tried of listening to my stupidity. So let me give you another example of it. My fruit trees…
I bought lemon and orange trees last summer/fall. I planted them in huge containers homed in our family room. But over the winter, due to the shorter days this far north, they lost most of their leaves. The one in the conservatory is doing well. One of the ones in the family room is recovering, but the other remains almost completely bare. I have bought an LED bulb for the lamp to hopefully save it. On the other hand, my apple and pear trees that were left outside all winter are doing great. And I did absolutely nothing to them. Because they are native to this climate. Likewise, my lettuce, kale, cabbage, and peas always do well.
Seed Selection and Saving
Okay, I lied; back to the great Mater Blight of 2020. Those plants were common varieties, the kind you pick up at any shop. Mostly Money Maker and Gardener’s Delight. But those types have been breed for greenhouses and warmer, drier climates. The only ones I managed to save were the dwarf Tumbling Toms that I brought inside.
This year in addition to more of those indoor, dwarf varieties, I am experimenting with those heritage/heirloom varieties I talked about last week. Specifically, with Black Russians which were breed for colder and shorter growing seasons. I’ll let you know how that goes.
But the other thing to remember is plants acclimatize to local areas. Not just to regions but even down to your specific garden. So if you save your seeds for a few generations then those will be more resistant to the pest and weather in your area.
Humans like those plants continue to grow and evolve. Our species has survived famine, war, and pestilence. And like those vegetables in my garden, we do that by adapting to new and changing conditions. I think that is the most important thing to take away from this. As individuals, communities, and societies, if we work together and with the environment, learning from our mistakes, taking the best of our past, and always being innovative and cautiously optimistic with our technology, we can do this. We can once more beat the odds. Survive and thrive as species. Not as the ‘dominate’ species but as good stewards of this wonderful planet we have been given.
Just like our @HomeCrazzyHome Medicine Cabinet with its native plants survived that unseasonal snow…
P.S. Before I finished posting this…it started to snow again – while the sun was shining brightly.