First, a confession: I have no credentials as a meteorologist. However, as an observer of weather and a desire to be out in it for most of my eight decades, I feel totally qualified to state this is the strangest weather I have ever experienced … anywhere.

For example: After a somewhat snowless winter, who expected snow on May 21? Earth dwelling bumblebees appeared on schedule in late May to work around the violets. Then they disappeared. Sudden cold? The pollinator garden bloomed like mad because it is hard to discourage annual larkspur and nigella. It attracted tiny flies … but where were the bees? The butterflies were a no show but the flea beetles appeared right on schedule. So much for spring.

The calendar kept turning. I planted beans twice with no result. Our two acorn squash, planted lovingly in the compost pile, are producing leaves large enough to shelter a family of four but the fruit is smaller than my thumbnail, and it is certain that no lovely acorn squash from our garden will appear with butter and brown sugar on our table this fall. Our plum trees and the cherry bushes had fruit in early June. Hard wind and pounding rain removed it all.

So this is summer? The roses are celebrating and floriferous because they think they are in England. The tomatoes are happy and beginning to ripen. Do they simply not know better? Our zucchini is producing small fruits. What do these plants know that the rest of us need to learn? A friend reported two adult monarch butterflies in her yard along with two monarch caterpillars and sent photos to prove it. This is good, but why are we not seeing the monarchs on the ample milkweed growing in the barrow pits along the roads?

All of this brings to mind the infamous “Year Without Summer,” 1816, when Tambora, a volcano on Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago, erupted (in 1815) hurling enough mass into the air to cause a “volcanic winter.” That event was the largest eruption in 1,300 years, according to authorities. That fascinating fact meant nothing to the farmers of the American Atlantic coast when snow fell on June 6. What mattered was that their crops failed, there were food shortages and people died.

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Tragically, the Tambora volcano-caused weather aberrations also caused havoc in northern Europe and parts of Asia.

As we scratch our heads in honest confusion about this year, others around the world are dying of exceptional heat.

I am one who believes that climate changes slowly and over time. I also believe the science that states that there are cycles within cycles. The strange weather and changing climate over the last decade, at least, convinces me that significant climate change is happening. Are the activities of man/civilization contributing to the complexity of the situation? I believe so, although the changes are difficult to document clearly and perhaps even harder to attribute. Overuse of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions? Probably. Deforestation? Probably.

When I look at the garden as it struggles to live as it is meant to live in sync with the seasons, my heart aches. We must fix this.

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Cathie Draine is a South Dakota Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Whispering Pines. Contact her at blackhillsgarden.com.

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