Monday, September 10, 2012


Wikipedia defines phenology as:  noun, "The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, esp. in relation to climate and plant and animal life."   

                                          outdoor bathing last March

The seasonal natural phenomena around here have been out of whack for a while, but most of the time the changes have been lovely, such as 80 degree days in March, and a July and August with barely a rain day to slow us down.  
But, when something negative happens its a bit of a wake up call as to how interconnected all things truly are.  While we thankfully haven't had a devastating drought, a tsunami, or a tornado (though they've been forecast) what I discovered the other day has really put a damper on my fall.  No cranberries.  

Last year we discovered that our frogwatery marsh was chock full of wild cranberries.  This year I've been waiting and scheming up all kinds of cranberry goodness for this harvest season.  But when I walked the bog to see how they were coming along I discovered the plants were bare.  Sadness.  

So what's the deal?  I did a little research on the Cooperative Extension website (a truly underused wealth of information) and emailed with an official cranberry expert and concluded that our plants most likely flowered early (in said 80 degree March/April days) and subsequently froze during one of the normal freezing temperature nights shortly thereafter.  Another factor is that pollination of early flowers, which around here is typically done by native bumble bees, was low due to a decreased population of bumbles who rely on snow to insulate them during the winter.  A third factor in the missing berries may possibly be the overall warmer temperatures all winter long.  Cranberries, it turns out, have a particularly high chill requirement, meaning it has to be really cold for a long time in order for plants to go dormant for the winter.  

I'm easing into the idea of  a fall without berries.  We bought two extra boxes of local organic blueberries to help pull us through the winter, we've been gathering elderberries roadside, and making the most of our frozen strawberries.  Its not the same, but will have to do.  

And as much as I never thought I'd say it, I'm hoping for a long, cold, snowy winter this year.   And with any luck, a bumper crop of cranberries next fall.   

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