Tom Clyde: Is it too early to plant the garden?
It’s never going to snow again. That’s not just my assessment of the situation. I’ve combed the internet looking for long-range forecasts that take us through the end of ski season, and they are all the same: Warmer and drier than normal. There might be a flurry here and there, but when it comes to real snowstorms, don’t bet on it. Meanwhile it is warming up to nearly 50 degrees, and things are beginning to melt.
Most winters, I try to maintain a layer of permafrost on the road into my house for as long as I can. It’s easier to plow the snow if I’m not picking up gravel. There is a chance of keeping the car clean if there is a cap of ice over the dirt road. This year, the road never really froze. These little storms have been just enough to keep it soggy. The propane truck came in and really chundered it. I’ve now got a sacrificial pair of dog walking shoes that are caked with mud. Walking out to the mailbox requires a change of clothes. There’s no way to keep the dog clean. He goes out and splashes around in the mud puddles, getting his fur loaded up like a paintbrush. He comes in and spreads it all through the house. I’m used to that in April. It never occurred to me that mud season could last for six months.
Despite it all, the skiing has been pretty good. Day after day on the groomers is as unexciting as a warmed over tuna casserole, but as tuna casserole goes, it’s been just fine. The groomed runs still have adequate coverage thanks to heroic snow-making efforts. The grooming is done to perfection, and there hasn’t been a lot of traffic on the mountain. So for a couple of hours, bombing the groomers is fine.
There have been days when the bowls are OK, but coverage is fading fast. Moguls are getting big and the troughs are getting rocky. Some of the traverses require jumping over logs and an occasional dry-land portage. So the ski season appears to be between 9 a.m. and noon, and then the idea of working on my taxes begins to seem like a reasonable alternative. I could start the spring fence-mending any time now.
The visitors I’ve talked to on the lifts are having a good time. Forty degrees and sunny makes for a more pleasant vacation than sub-zero and blizzard conditions. I don’t know if bookings are falling off or not. It’s not like anybody else has snow, either. There have been times when Alabama had a deeper base than we did. I suppose if you are looking at spending what it takes to get here for a vacation, the lack of snow can’t be encouraging. Maybe snorkeling is a better option this year. For the time being, though, conditions for a vacation would be fine.
The big question is how long it will last. The days are getting longer, and these 45 degree afternoons will begin to do some damage. Both resorts have finite water rights for snowmaking, so even if it turns cold again, they can’t make a whole lot more snow. We’d best get what there is while we can.
I’m starting to get seed catalogs in the mail. Usually it seems like a cruel joke to be getting catalogs about bounteous summer vegetables in deepest, darkest, February. Spring is months away. I’m not much of a gardener, and our climate isn’t very conducive to raising much anyway. What the critters don’t eat will freeze with some random storm in July. But this year, sitting on my porch, basking in the heat of a February afternoon, the idea of growing some vegetables begins to seem interesting.
They have a hybrid sweet corn that is supposed to mature in 68 days. If I wait until the mid-June freeze, I might be able to get some corn in time for the first frost in September. My raspberry patch has died out. I’m not sure who was eating the bushes — thorns and all — but just about the time there were berries big enough to eat, something would come through in the night and munch the bushes off at ground level. The patch was in the wrong place anyway; too shady and difficult to water.
So while riding up the lift the other day, I started planning out a garden, with a substantial fence around it, and a sprinkler plumbed into it. 68-day corn, some sweet peas, raspberries—might even try pumpkins. It all seems quite plausible when it’s nearly 50 degrees in February.
Of course I’ve been here long enough to know that it always averages out. We could get five feet of snow in May.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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