Unexpected weather keeps us on our toes

?A year passed: winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed back into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn?.? ??Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Normally, sane people don?t equate Monty Python with anything close to reality. This year, it sounds fitting. As we all know, it?s been dry when it was supposed to be rainy, rainy when it was supposed to be dry, and the temperature seems to have a mind of its own.

When we bought this place, we did so with the full knowledge of its climate control strategy. A woodburning furnace combined with passive solar and a heat sink kept the house warm in winter.

Luckily, the previous owners had been kind enough to leave us with a healthy supply of firewood. I?m pretty sure that we used twice the amount we really needed…but since the monster of a furnace in the basement takes some time to get to know?and didn?t come accompanied by anything as mundane as an instruction manual)?we chalked it up to a learning curve.

That first spring and summer came on time, and we wasted no time stockpiling firewood for the next winter. Some women think they can?t have enough pairs of shoes or fancy handbags. I?m firmly convinced that there is no such thing as too much firewood.

As the sun moved to the other side of the house in warmer months, we were extra grateful for the grand old trees in the yard that kept that side of the house shaded and cool. Ish. Open windows let in the breeze, the rustling of leaves, and the symphonies of cricket song as the days got longer. They also let in quite a bit of rain if we?d been foolish enough to forget to check the weather on a night with possible thunderstorms.

Then it got hot. The shaded rooms were still the coolest parts of the house, but it was remarkably easy to break into a sweat if engaged in strenuous activity, like sleeping. The soft spring breezes had long since died, replaced by a stagnant pall of humidity and dust. Tempers ran short. Showers ran cold. And it still wasn?t enough.

We joked that we must be famous, since we had so many fans. Box fans ran nonstop in every room. Ceiling fans were installed. The attic fan became our nighttime companion. Still we sweltered. Then we got the electric bill.

Battling gamely to preserve our sanity and pocketbook while using less electricity, we stumbled upon the answer: zone heat pumps. After a few glitches, the pumps were turned on, and the angels sang. At last, we could sleep without waking up in puddles of sweat.

Finally, we dared to eat actual food cooked on the stove and served hot. And by then, it was fall. Time to clean up the garden and try for just a little more firewood, just in case.

Ah, the garden. Every new year brings a new kind of drama. It always begins in January when the seed catalogs arrive. We?re filled with grandiose plans of all the new heirlooms we want to try, which berry bushes to put in, and if we might not just need to start a few extra fruit trees this year.

Darling hubby is the one who puts the garden plan together, making adjustments here and there until he?s ready to present his masterpiece. But are we sure that 20 tomato plants will be enough? I?m low on pickles and want to do extras this year?shouldn?t we have five more hills of cukes or zucchini? What? You didn?t plan for melons?

Finally, some switch kicks on in his head, and he just knows it?s time to start seeds. The shelving we had here last year didn?t work, some of them got too cold. No, we can?t put those there. Oh honey, I went ahead and ordered those seed mats. No, the top of the deep freeze is not a good place to put grow trays.

Then comes the magical day when the seedlings get to go meet their destinies in the garden. What will this year bring? A late frost? Beautiful foliage just before a flood? Gorgeous sweet potato tops that have been excellent mole food underground? A hailstorm? Or a plague of short, two legged locusts (aka kids) that just found out that the tomatoes are starting?

I suppose it would be reassuring, in a way, to know exactly what the weather would be on any given day. Boring is often mistaken for reassuring, and vice versa. Maybe it?s good that we have to keep guessing, so that we live each day for what it is, instead of ?giving it a miss? and missing out while we hurry to the next milestone.