By Sarah Schrock

Thankfully, fresh snow overnight in the hills dampened the towering plumes lurking in the backdrop of Isabella Ridge last week, hopefully ending what has now become the Methow’s official sixth season. Smoke Season joins Mud Season as her irritating little brother who might overpower her yet.

Starting this week with a nip of cool clean air, golden hills, radiantly red rose hips and tinted leaves, it feels as though the true season known as fall is finally upon us.

Each season in the garden presents new challenges, surprises, disappointments and mysteries. This year, I couldn’t grow a normal cucumber. I plant only picklers. When the vines started to flower, which they did reluctantly I might add, they barely put on fruit. What fruit they did put on never turned green, so I didn’t pick them. That in turn resulted in giant whitish cucumbers, bitter and unusable. This happened over and over.

Similarly, all of my of squash plants only put on male flowers, rendering them sterile as there were no females to bear fruit. I started to wonder if the smoke was affecting these strange results.

As breathing organisms, I figured plants must suffer as we do when the smoke descends and clogs the airways. Plants breath through small openings similar to pores on the underside of their leaves, called stomata. Stomata react to temperature and light to maximize photosynthesis and conserve moisture.

So, it would seem to reason that when choked with smoke, plant growth might be stressed. Also, the dampened light from the smoke must have some effect on plant growth.

But this time I can’t blame the smoke for poor garden goods. Apparently, a chemical in smoke called karrikins can positively enhance crops. Karrikins are found in ash and soil after fires and are responsible for profuse seed germination following fires, but can also positively impact the growth of sturdier stems and leaves in plants exposed to smoky air. Also, the diffuse light from scattered rays through the smoke can distribute light more evenly, boosting photosynthesis. Direct, hot sun can scorch and actually burn your plants, so diffuse light can be a benefit of smoky skies.

Cascadia Music opened its new season at The Merc Playhouse on Saturday night, hosting guest guitarist Pierre Bensusan. The performance drew two standing ovations and marked the beginning of concert season for our local musicians.

Of special musical note (no pun intended), Terry Hunt and Laura Love just wrapped up their own exciting summer festival season on tour. For Terry, it was the first time to go on a tour of this caliber. For Laura, she was welcomed back by adoring fans.

Playing as the Laura Love Duo, they spent August out of the smoke performing in Falls Church, Virginia; at the Philadelphia Folk Festival alongside big names like Graham Nash, Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo; at the Valhalla Festival in South Lake Tahoe; at the Strawberry Music Festival in Sonora, California; and at some private house parties along the way.



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