Sunday, 24 April 2016

Signs of life

In my last post, I said winter was over. But it had only just begun. Now in April, we've had brilliant sunshine but frost almost daily. 

Our experimental grape vines seem to have survived the winter.  They have not leafed but are budding strongly.  Hope!

The weather has been very strange. The winter was mild but very wet and stormy. Then the cold snap came just before most things started budding.  A few garden plants didn't survive but I am hopeful that the cold was enough to harden the grape vines. They need a bit of cold weather to shock them into action.The last week has been blissfully sunny with no rain at all. How very strange. We went from 3 degrees C to 18.5 degrees centigrade overnight. Now it's back down to 3 degrees again as we cycle within a huge anticyclone and the winds clock between northerly and southerly.

The fruit trees are laden with flower buds ready to burst open, but there is no sign of the honey bees. The hive appears to be dead. How sad, how very very sad. Especially after reading the astonishing novel called The Bees. I couldn't wait to watch them this year having studied their behaviour and read this profoundly influential story. But only bumble bees have appeared in our garden. What will we do?  There is word of hives having collapsed all over the country, thought to be the aftermath of an extraordinarily wet and cool summer that never came last year.

Meanwhile the climate change reports indicate that globally March was once again the hottest month on record (not here!) and the 11th consecutive month of increasing temperatures. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the average global temperatures were 1.07 °C (1.9°F) above the average in March since records began in 1891. Data released by NASA shows that March was 1.65°C (3.0°F) warmer than the averages between 1951 and 1980.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the primary keeper of such data in the U.S., reported even more dire news. "The average global temperature across land surfaces was 2.33°C (4.19°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F), the highest March temperature on record, surpassing the previous March record set in 2008 by 0.43°C (0.77°F) and surpassing the all-time single-month record set last month by 0.02°C (0.04°F). The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for March 2016 was the highest for this month in the 1880–2016 record, at 1.22°C (2.20°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F)."

So according to NOAA's figures, we've already surpassed the 2 degree mark. Anomalies are occurring all over the world.

Meanwhile, last month we visited the Chiltern Valley Winery & Brewery near Henley in England and learned all about small winery viticulture in the UK. They had just pulled up all their grapes and replanted with new varieties. Their wines are quite interesting but they produce mainly with other growers' fruit. We learned principally that it takes a fair bit of investment to get a little operation going and so it's best to produce small quantities of liqueurs. We also learned that we planted the vines in the wrong orientation (up and down the hill instead of across the hill facing the sun).  It was great fun, the guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining, and fun was had by all.

Now let's get back to growing grapes.