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MARTHA SEZ: Still looking for signs in Keene Valley that winter is definitely over

June 22, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Well, I guess the verdict is in: Winter is over. Hard to tell around here.

You can't trust the planting instructions that tell you "Sow after the final frost date." We know that there is no final frost date in these parts. I have seen frost in both July and August. Were those final frost dates or first frost dates?

I asked a professional landscape gardener recently "When is it safe to plant the zinnias?"

"Never," was his instantaneous reply.

I would say that it is probably safe to plant the zinnias now, and I'm pretty sure we won't have another blizzard for another four or five months.

After all, the summer solstice brings us the longest day of the year on Thursday, June 21.

Still, you never can tell. I have observed that Adirondack weather is always unusual. It would be unusual for the weather not to be unusual. More often than not, the weather is also extreme. Some winters, snowfall is scant and the skiers don't come to town; but it may be perfect for ice climbers.

We think of those calendar photographs of the Adirondack Mountains heaped with pure white snow against a brilliant blue sky, but there are times when the front yard is a grotesque gray scape of crusted, wind-sculpted snow, like the surface of some enemy planet on "Star Wars." Sometimes it remains this way for so long that it is hard to maintain faith that the ground will ever again sprout dandelions, pansies and daffodils. Pigweed would seem like something precious. That was only a couple of months ago.

Today, instead of snow and ice, I see neighbors, bikers, babies being wheeled along in strollers and ladies inspecting the front garden, where white and purple columbine and iris flowers are in bloom. Tulips are gone, and weeds are already rampant. Pine pollen is gradually diminishing, although, after last night's rain, yellow-green pollen still rings the mud puddles. This is one of those springs that throw people's allergies into high gear.

Temperatures have been lurching back and forth between unseasonably cool and unseasonably warm. When I came to town in the spring of 1991, Keene Valley was designated gardening zone 3. It is now officially zone 4. It's thunderstorm season again.

Hard to believe there was a time, and so recently, too, when we were huddled under layers of afghans, sipping medicinal tea and adhering stoically to our New Year's resolutions. Those of us who weren't skiing stepped out only to go to work, shovel the driveway or the roof, jump the car or bring in reinforcements and supplies. And weren't we cranky!

While we have many of the same old problems in May and June that we had in February, and at least as many sins, spring and summer skies cast a new light on everything. You don't have to go outside early to start the car and scrape the windshield. If a deer runs into you on some out-of-the-way stretch of road, you don't have to battle the elements for survival until help arrives. It's easier to believe in happy outcomes.

Spring work, a friend pointed out, is different from winter work. Winter work is maintenance; you have to do it to keep even. Spring work is just as hard, but more positive. Whether you're painting, gardening or washing the lawn furniture, you can look forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor.

It hardly seems possible that a few weeks ago, as I sat here at my computer, the hush of falling snow was broken only by the sounds of the furnace kicking in, rafts of icicles shattering like glass as they fell from the eaves to the ground, and my own interminable mental monologue. In the back of my mind I was always wondering where I left my mittens and what I could shove up against the door to keep out the draft.

Now we can relax and luxuriate in our beautiful northern summer, what there is of it. Spring comes grudgingly, and summer is soon gone. With July, tourist season arrives in full force, and many of us will be so busy we'll hardly get a chance to look up until October. Then it will be high time to stack the stove cords and decide where to spend Thanksgiving. We'll be saying, "Isn't this awfully early to be seeing Christmas ads on TV?"

Enjoy it while you can, and have a good week.



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