I know I’m not the only one who is none too sad to see 2018 come to an end. As I type this, I am suffering from a miserable bout of the flu which just adds yet another reason for me to want to kiss this year goodbye. It was a year where we lost great Americans John McCain, both George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, adventurous culinary traveler Anthony Bourdain and songstress Aretha Franklin to name a few. Huge portions of California were burnt to the ground, Hurricane Florence destroyed large parts of the southeastern US. Just when it feels like we can’t take much more bad news, more gets piled on.
2018 started for Ruppert Nurseries like most other years. We began the new year, feeling hopeful. MANTS was successful, we had a strong backlog, our customers were chatting up their workloads and we felt like we were going to have more material to sell than we had in recent years past. In fact, 2018 got off to a swift bang when we had several days of 70 degree weather in February. 70’s! In February! Inconceivable! Know what happens when you get those kinds of temperatures during a period of time when it’s supposed to be in the 30’s? Buds break. Flowers emerge, sap starts to run and the phone starts to ring.
But… like most dreams ours too was crushed when March brought the return of 30’s and even some 20 degree days. (Cue the immediate breaks on digging and phone ringing). The year of the most terrible and unpredictable weather continued in April with unseasonably cold temperatures. April is typically when we start to get very busy. April 2018 shall go down in the annals of history a one of the worst. Fast forward to May. Ahhhh, May our month when we expect to do more than a quarter of our annual volume. Except this May, when it rained for 26 days straight. Hard to get a lot of work done when it rains every day.
Cue June where it didn’t rain a drop all month. One might think that a month with no rain following a month with excessive rain wouldn’t be so bad. But somehow it just doesn’t work like that. All dry and no rain makes for an early summer dig… But then came July and a return of the rain. It rained. And it rained. And it rained. And just when we thought it couldn’t rain any more… it did.
I don’t even remember August. A blip on the radar screen I guess. Maybe I don’t really remember it because the weather behaved how we might have expected it to for August. Some rain, lots of heat and humidity, the occasional thunderstorm. Oh, and excessive growth on our trees not to mention the grass, weeds and an explosion of insects. AGH!
You might ask, how can excessive growth on trees be a bad thing? There are several reasons why too much growth can be a problem. We expect our trees to grow at a certain rate giving us trees of all sizes each year. It’s part of our growth strategy. This past year’s excessive rains caused many of our younger blocks to take off and put on much more growth than usual. This resulted in too many trees at the same size which will trickle down into future years. Second, we saw 2-3 distinct flushes of new growth this year. We typically expect to see one flush in the spring. When trees begin to flush, we stop digging until they harden off and then pick back up again once hardened. Not this year… It’s tough to stay on top of pruning when the trees keep flushing over and over again!
September started with a bang, or more appropriately, a deluge. Downtown Ellicott City washed away for the second time in two years. By the end of September the Baltimore Sun was predicting that 2018 would go down as the wettest in history. On September 26th, over 53” of rain had already fallen. Many of us were left wondering when we had moved to Seattle!
Well, surely October would be better… and for the most part it was! It rained like it should but it was so incredibly warm. We saw temps in the 70’s and even a few days in the 80’s. These warm temps kept prolonging our fall digging. Each week seemed like, this would be the week when fall would arrive. The photo below was taken on October 24th. As you can see, just the beginnings of fall color. In a typical year, these trees would be in full fall color.
November arrived and many trees just gave up and dropped their leaves, forgoing any sort of fall color. But things were looking up! We had several large tree moving jobs coming up, we would finish the year strong no matter what! Until…. you guessed it, more rain. So, here we were mobilized, one crew in Buffalo, NY and one crew on the eastern shore of MD. One confronted with temperatures just above the freezing mark with near constant rain and one confronted with better temps but frequent and steady downpours. How is one to ever get anything done?!
So now it is December, the year of the worst weather will soon be over. All of the weather prognosticators say that this winter will be harsh both in snowfall amounts and temperature. The only good news to be had in that prediction is that perhaps we will be able to start the year in a more normal fashion with a proper winter which will hopefully lead into the kind of spring to which we are accustomed.
What I will offer up, as we draw 2018 to a close, is a toast. To a better 2019, more peace, more kindness, more health, more happiness and last but not least better weather!
Ronda Roemmelt, CPH
ISA Certified Arborist