For many years my friend Doris and I spent a week of our vacation in Door County each summer. That's the area that's at the tip of Wisconsin's thumb for those of you who live elsewhere. We'd take an art class with Wendell Arneson at Peninsula Art School in the mornings, make art and visit galleries in the afternoons, read in the evenings and eat around the clock. The food is always fabulous in Door County where the specialties are whitefish and cherries. I don't think you can find an eatery up there that doesn't have dishes with cherries — from muffins to french toast to cherry pie a la mode — on its menu. Our last stop each summer, as we drove out of Fish Creek, was always Ray's Cherry Hut where we picked up fresh and frozen cherries to take home for our own pie baking exploits.
This year's unsettling weather — too hot too early, followed by frosts and dry conditions — has had a nasty effect on Wisconsin's traditional crops. I've already stocked up on maple syrup because of this year's truncated maple season and now it's bad news about the cherries. The Associated Press reports this story about what the change in the weather means for Wisconsin this year:
"Door County in northeastern Wisconsin ranks among the country's top cherry producers. But this year's crop could be the pits.
Bob Lautenbach of Lautenbach's Orchard in Fish Creek says this is the worst year he's ever experienced, and his family has grown cherries all his life.
He tells WLUK-TV the 2012 cherry crop in Door County has all but failed. He says the county would normally produce about 8 to 10 million pounds, but this year the prediction is about half a million pounds.
That's because the warm March woke up the trees early, but several nights of frost then killed off the buds.
Door County growers say they'll try to keep their crop in the county this year, for tourists and locals to enjoy. Prices will be higher."
According to the Wisconsin Cherry Growers' website, Michigan — which produces 80 percent of the total supply of tart cherries — experienced much of the same early season damage to flower buds. Reports indicate that "many commercial Michigan growers have experienced severe and devastating losses" as well.
. . .
Yesterday in Madison, the high was 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.44 Celsius) and today 95 is predicted. We've only had a trace of rain in a month where we typically get about three inches. Not exactly the lovely June days that were the norm for southern Wisconsin. The question we all want answered is how much of this is an aberration and how much is a taste of things to come?
Thanks to Jim Rowen for the heads up on this climate change story.