• Erin Lair

Weathering the Weather

Winter weather in Eastern Oregon typically comes in hard, earlier than expected. This whirlwind entrance quickly fades with a renewed appreciation for the last days of fall. The season then does finally settle in, with children wishing and hoping for a white Christmas, but is often a day or two late. We then get a tantalizing tease of springtime in late January or early February, that we know is fleeting but we hold to nonetheless. And year after year, we get hammered in February with bitter cold and snow. We are often too fatigued by the short days and gray skies to enjoy the late arrival of the white tranquility we wished so fervently for just weeks before.

Having 23,000 cherry trees out our window adds a layer of ire toward the February slight of hand. The "false spring" causes a collective holding of breath hoping temperatures do not rise enough for long enough to purge the landscape of dormancy. When the temperatures drop, our breath is released, only to be recaptured in a gasp as those temperatures continue to plummet and inches (or feet) of white blanket the ground. Our first late winter storm is showing off in the worst of ways; however, we feel quite grateful that we aren't farther west to the Gorge area orchards where inches of ice are encasing trees and reeking havoc across neighborhoods and farms alike.

Our wall calendar showed February 4 as the traditional pruning kick off. The trees are still comfortably tucked in their dormant state at that point, with most of the hard freeze behind us. Not this year. Valentine's Day has come and gone and not one tree has been pruned. It appears that the temperatures are going to climb and mostly stay above freezing, but plenty of precipitation is here to stay through the end of the month. Feet of snow blanketing the orchard does not overly affect the ability to prune- it mostly just makes it a pain to move around. You do not want a bunch of wet snow or rain, though, that sits at your cuts and slows or prevents the tree from healing. So, although not ideal, we will likely start pruning trees when the weather hasn't yet cleared completely of moisture. We will hold the hope and optimism that often runs alongside naivete that all will be well and these trees will thrive this summer.

I am continuing to gather stories of the early years of the orchard as we wait and worry over the weather. And as I look out the window to a striking blue break in the clouds, it's timely that I read new words in my email from my dear family friend:

Erin...I trust the weather picture won’t adversely affect the cherry blossoms. Your concern is warranted of course.

Her part of the orchard story will be featured in my next post. I know many of you are waiting.

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