|By Russ Richardson, Forester|
2018 will probably going down as one of the wettest years we have ever endured in West Virginia.
We haven't had the disastrous floods of the Carolinas or Texas but, we have had rain and a lot of it. Locally, nearly everyone has lost track of which time this year they saw the highest water at their house.
It would take less than the fingers on one hand to count all the days during the last month when it actually got dry enough to raise a dust cloud on a dirt road.
For those of us who work outside, especially in the woods logging, pipeline construction and farmers, the pain of lost work time this past summer is really starting to pile up.
During the entire spring and summer of 2018, it never stopped raining long enough for the soil to dry out as it normally does during the growing season.
For those occupations, spring to fall are the most productive times of the year when work days are longest and everyone tries to bank money for the lean winter months ahead.
In a normal winter, the freezing and thawing of the soil in the woods and fields aerates the saturated soil somewhat giving it a soft loftiness that is nearly always noticeable in early spring.
During the early part of the growing season when the days are longest and the intensity of the sunshine is at its' greatest, rapid plant and tree growth removes incredible amounts of water from the soil. The softness to the ground is normally gone by mid-May and usually a distant memory by late June.
2018 has been completely different from "normal".
The rains have been so continuous and evenly spread throughout the year that the soil never dried. This year, being able to walk or drive through the woods or operate equipment with any type of predictability in terms of performance, ground disturbance or safety has become a dream as just about any natural surface in the woods stayed slippery, unstable and muddy all summer.
At the end of Labor Day week, in early September, there were three consecutive days when the soil in the woods was starting to take on a normal summer feel. Thursday and Friday of that week were one of the first times all year when a person could walk straight down a steep slope in the Calhoun woods without slipping and falling and it was the week when the most second cut hay was put up all summer.
Cabin fever is an uneasy, restless and trapped feeling combined with an overwhelming desire to get outside and do SOMETHING.
Cabin fever usually occurs in late winter and develops after months of being trapped indoors by cold, snowy, wet weather. Besides developing a strong urge to get outside and do something, cabin fever is often cured by feeling warm sunshine on your face, smelling fresh, dry air and seeing a cloudless blue sky on a perfect weather day.
During the warmer months of the year people rarely catch cabin fever because they are normally gardening, working outdoors and more active. Often, during the summer something as simple as a few minutes spent watching a colorful sunset with the sound of a gentle breeze rustling through the leaves of the trees will recharge your batteries.
Unfortunately, for most of 2018 the opportunities to enjoy front porch sunsets have been in very short supply.
As the stress created by mountains of undone and incomplete projects on our summertime "fair weather" bucket lists grow, it might be a good time to hit "pause" on the Cabin Fever button for a few hours and take advantage of the abundant sunshine predicted for Saturday and visit the Molasses Festival in Arnoldsburg.
It could be a good chance to find out how many of your neighbors have sprouted gills and be able to shared failed garden stories with old friends…and eat some molasses cookies.