Living against the wind

In the art of small talk, it’s good to start with something you agree on. We all share the weather. Jesus recognized that when He said, “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

It’s safe to open a conversation with, “Cold enough for you?” Or “When’s the last time we saw the sun?” Both those lines have been useful this spring. None more so than, “Geez, it’s windy out.”

As I begin writing this, we are in a wind advisory. It might save the National Weather Service time to let us know when fierce winds aren’t blowing unsecured objects to the next township. Issue a “Calm Advisory” and just assume the rest of the time it’s blowing like heck.

I heard a meteorologist say they have tools to measure historic precipitation and temperatures, not so for wind velocity. He agreed though this spring has been the windiest of his career.

March and April are typically windy months. There is nothing so pleasant as those first warm southern breezes. We feel spring arriving, literally melting winter away. I’ve often planted corn in high winds. That means coming in at night with a face darkened by graphite I shake on the seed to lube the planter. The black powder swirls in the wind and always flies up at me.

This spring, there haven’t been many warm breezes. A lot more howling winds from the north. It’s as if Old Man Winter won’t relinquish control. The few days the wind has been out of the south, it gusted frantically as if trying to catch up with the delayed season. The bitter winds made it hard to stay outside. I’m two weeks behind in my work, which about matches everything in nature.

One day I was working on a tractor in the yard and looked up to see our 14-foot trampoline rolling by on its side. I keep it in a spot where it is sheltered from north and south winds, but that day there was crazy east wind. It might have continued to Springfield if not for hitting the old cattle fence.

All the wind meant branch-picking-up made regular appearances on my to-do list. Trees are amazing in their ability to withstand wind. But they sacrifice branches to natural pruning. There’s nothing like hours of bending for branches to remind me how soft I’ve become after the long winter.

Winds have been a prominent theme around here lately. Last August 28, a storm did substantial wind damage to corn fields over a wide area, ours included. Stalks weakened by drought were susceptible to leaning or breaking. It made harvest a lot less fun. It’s depressing this spring to see the yellow ears sticking out of the tilled ground that the combine couldn’t gather. It’s a good year to be a field mouse.

Then before Christmas, our farm was on the north edge of this phenomenon: “On December 15, a rapidly-deepening low-pressure area contributed to a historic expanse of inclement weather across the Great Plains and Midwest, resulting in an unprecedented derecho and tornado outbreak across the Northern United States.”

A record number of December tornadoes spun out of the sky from Kansas to Wisconsin. I’m not sure exactly what sort of winds we had. But the west side of a steel building was blown apart and scattered hundreds of feet into a field. The way wood and steel were twisted and bent, it’s as if a bomb went off.

Every crop is a gamble and faces multiple risks. But this year, excessive wind has moved to the top of things I worry about, ahead of hail, drought, flooding, insects, weeds, diseases, not to mention spiraling costs. Phew. No wonder I can’t sleep.

Corn plants must stand from “knee high by the Fourth of July” until October harvest. That’s four months where howling winds from the Canadian prairie or the Gulf of Mexico can wreak havoc on the stalks. I’ve added extra wind and hail insurance on my crops because of recent weather.

Our grove had damage in both those storms. Wind out of south in August and north in December knocked down large trees that had survived sixty or seventy years of prairie winds. That tells me this isn’t normal. It causes one to wonder what’s going on. Is there something we’re seeing on my farm that’s part of something larger?

All weather is the result of troughs and waves of air pushing and sliding around our globe. There is no way to assign any single moment’s weather in a single place to climate change. But as the impact from man-caused atmospheric warming grows, it becomes likelier that the wind harassing my crops and trees is a piece of that. Things like the historic drought in the west and melting of the polar ice caps are easier to assign to global climate shifts.

Regardless, there is no more doubt that global warming and our species culpability for it are real and worsening. We need to quit arguing and let the smart people find solutions. They are. The question is whether it will be in time to avoid an apocalyptic future for our grandchildren.

We all know someone who has a video that proves that manmade climate change is a fraud, that these thousands of scientists are lying to us. Do we want to take our chances with this giant majority of the world’s climate experts with vast consensus? Or uncle Bob’s YouTube video?

Global climate change is the round Earth of our time. Flat Earthers will believe what they will, and God bless them. But the rest of us need to get to work making things better. It helps if we all push in one direction. Or at least get out of the way.

As I finish writing this, we’ve just had back-to-back evenings of severe weather with thunderstorm and tornado warnings racing across the Midwest. Weirdly duplicative one night to the next, it was a game of Russian roulette where you hope and pray the eighty mile per hour winds miss you. Then the next morning, you cringe and offer prayers for those who weren’t lucky as the destruction appears in the morning light.

Again, there is no way to know if this is just the Earth being the Earth. Or if we are seeing consequences from human impact on our planet-home. But the combination of Aug. 28, Dec. 15, and May 11-12 look suspicious to me.


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