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Thinking of May flowers and other challenges

Debora Truax/Getty Images crabapple tree in bloom
SPRINGTIME: The month of May in western Pennsylvania can bring nearly every kind of weather you can imagine.
Farmhouse Window: Life is slowly returning to normal, but broadband is still a problem in the countryside.

The month of May in western Pennsylvania can bring nearly every kind of weather you can imagine.

The last frost date is usually about Mother’s Day, but the rule of thumb here is to never plant tomatoes until Memorial Day.

The itch to dig in the soil and to begin watching the buds swell on the trees means that spring is really here. Warm days encourage the grass to grow and the spring flowers to bloom.

The flowering trees in yards around our area are a sure sign of spring. A crabapple tree stood in our yard for many years. It was usually one of the last ones in our area to bloom. A few years ago, we cut it down after it began to get disease, and the wind took its toll on the poor thing.

The area is now an iris bed in spring and daylily bed in summer, but I sure do miss that tree.

Now that we have had our two COVID-19 vaccine shots, I think things will return to our new normal. I hope that organizations and businesses can get back to what was once their normal routine. Last fall, when I was visiting with a friend about all the restrictions and quarantining, she commented that she was so glad that she lived in the country.

For those of us in agriculture, our daily lives were not nearly as affected as some folks. Our animals needed fed, and our crops needed planted and harvested in their normal time. We could go outside and enjoy nature around us.

Unfortunately, lack of broadband is mostly a rural problem.

I wrote about a year ago about the availability of broadband in rural areas. This past year has shown the need to expand broadband into underserved areas and improve service in areas with limited service.

At our house, we have DSL service through the phone company. Our service is considered broadband.

We struggled to use our computers, and it seemed that some days we spent more time running up and down the cellar steps to boot the router than anything else.

This winter, we decided that enough was enough, and I called for the phone company’s technical service. Over a month’s time, three different technicians made house calls. Each one did something different that helped, but the last techie took the time to see what we were experiencing and increased our bandwidth.

Now, it is still very inferior to what cable service can offer, which is not available to us, but it was better than what we had.

He also had us go online with two devices at the same time. He wanted us to demonstrate a situation when we might experience a problem. We learned that we were asking the router to provide about 120% of its capacity.

Lesson learned. We can both check email, but can’t attempt to view streaming content at the same time. We also learned that if we do restart the router, it really does make a difference. We had to learn to take turns and to share. Didn’t we all learn these lessons as toddlers?

One of the things that the pandemic taught me was that I really enjoy reading. Whether it’s an e-book on my tablet or a real book with paper pages, it is something to be enjoyed. On one of the first sunny days of the spring, I found a lawn chair in the garage and took a book outside and sat in the sun reading. I wasn’t there long, but what a treat. I plan to make that a habit during these coming months.

As spring moves into summer, let us all enjoy the changing seasons and the challenges that lie ahead.

Gregg writes from western Pennsylvania. She is the Pennsylvania 2019 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture and is a past president of American Agri-Women.

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