January 11th, 2015 §
Each year, in the coldest and darkest days of winter, I have to make an effort to keep my spirits up by noticing beauty where I can. This year is no different, and is perhaps compounded by Scotland’s incredibly few daylight hours. It’s unnerving to look up at noon to see, when it’s not raining, sleeting or snowing, a weak sun barely clearing the housetops. It makes me feel like I’m on a different planet, and maybe I am.
I go outside as often as I can, and walk for miles around the city. Thankfully the city cooperates, and where natural light is scarce cheerful electric lights and fires have blazed all winter in what seems a concerted effort to beat back the dark. Here’s some wintery color and light that have caught my eye these last few weeks.
March 25th, 2014 §
Then it was supposed to be an inch of sloppy snow accumulation. But now it’s been snowing all day hard enough that I can’t see the mountains in either my front or back yard, and there are five inches on the ground and it’s still coming down.
The daffodils have wisely not yet bloomed.
This is a pretty good representation of how I feel about today’s weather developments, and this whole miserable winter that just won’t end.
Interestingly, though, it was snowing on this day last year.
March 24th, 2014 §
Last fall I had grand ideas of building a cold frame to overwinter spinach, kale, chard, and salad greens. In late October, right before the first frost, I stuffed 18 strawbales in the bed of the pickup and when I got home used them to build a small fortress around some rows of greens that I’d sowed earlier in the fall.
October 22, 2013
I made a one-and-a-half-story, south-facing design thinking that the angle would help trap the sun’s heat and shed water off the big sheet of contractor’s plastic that I draped over the top for a lid. I secured the plastic on top of the bales with some scrap lumber, bricks, and cinder blocks. It was admittedly a hot mess to look at, but that’s one reason that I hid the veg garden out of sight from the house and road!
December 5, 2013
Things looked good into December, and I kept harvesting greens. But then it started to get really cold and going out to the garden to wrestle with frozen plastic and the icebergs caught in its folds didn’t appeal. So I abandoned the cold frame to the savages of this very long, cold, and snowy winter.
Today I thought I would peek under the plastic, and I was surprised to find quite a few plants happily growing. There were vigorous-looking weeds starting to set seed, though outside the protection of the cold frame none of these weeds are growing yet anywhere on the property—proof that I was successful at creating a little warm microclimate! I was pleased to see chicory, which is called a weed but is actually a very healthy edible spring tonic that you can add to your salad. The Red Russian kale looked pretty good, as did the spinach, and the arugula was flowering. The chard and mustard didn’t make it through as well.
March 24, 2014
This is a happy discovery as these little plants, which have existed in suspended animation over the winter, mean a jump on the spring growing season—saving weeks of waiting for spring-sown seed to germinate in cold soil. These plants are undoubtedly strong beneath the surface, and all they will need to get up and growing is some more heat and water. After we get through this week—with more cold temps and even possible snow tomorrow—I will start opening the top of the cold frame for short spells to get the plants used to the temperatures and sun.
When it comes time to plant the whole garden, I will spread the nicely aged straw in these bales around the garden as part of my deep mulching soil-conditioning and weed-suppressing strategy.
I will still probably sow some more greens from seed, just to experiment, but while I wait I will be enjoying winter-sweetened greens that amazingly hung in there through multiple polar vortices, being flattened under 16″ of snow, and everything else this winter threw at them.
I am pretty happy that what I thought was a failed experiment at getting greens to grow all winter actually isn’t a total failure. I maybe wasn’t eating lush garden-grown salad in the deepest part of winter, but I can right now, and I probably could have weeks ago had I just peeked under the plastic!
March 18th, 2014 §
March 17th, 2014 §
March 17th, 2014 §
in this longest winter ever. Tucker’s face says it all.
March 11th, 2014 §
I stepped outside yesterday to see these tiny Iris reticulata had bloomed overnight. It’s amazing what a shock to the eyes a three-inch tall purple plant can be after acclimating to a winter’s color palette of brown, gold and grey.
Even more interesting is that these iris are blooming within days of when they bloomed last year, which I find fascinating because last winter was abnormally warm and this winter has been record-breakingly cold. I would have expected the flowering bulbs to be a bit delayed, but I guess once those longer daylight hours hit there’s no holding them back, whatever the weather.
I am very excited for this spring in the garden. I did a lot of work last spring and summer adding new perennials and moving things around, and last fall I planted a bunch of exciting new bulbs. It’s going to be fun to see how this all comes together this year.
The daffodil and iris planted in the woods are also emerging from their warm blankets of fall leaves. I am really curious to see if the iris actually flower. They’re all from the truckful that my friend Todd donated to the farm last spring. I had way too many to plant around the house so they went rogue and joined the woodland garden.
And tonight I heard the first spring peepers of the year! That is definitely the sound of spring,
March 4th, 2014 §
Just another zero-degree morning following a snowstorm. Refill the birdfeeders, defrost chicken waterer, tote in firewood, feed the wood stove, eat soup, make tea, rinse, repeat.
February 28th, 2014 §
Another polar vortex swooped down from the Arctic yesterday afternoon, and I tracked its progress online trying to figure out when the howling winds and eye-crossing headache it brought would abate.
It was 10 degrees here this morning at 7:00 a.m. It’s close to noon and the temperature still hasn’t passed 20.
I just went outside to bring in some firewood—to get the woodstove going to supplement the electric heat—and while I was out I turned on the outdoor tap on the wellhouse to fill Tucker’s water bucket. Well, the tap turned, but no water came out. Hmmmm….Then one second later my well house began to cry, water running out of the wall along the lower layers of siding. That’s when I saw the icicles, incongruously where no water usually flows…
Of course I knew what this was. All the plumbing for my house runs through the well house basement, which also houses my well pump, and it’s exposed to significantly more temperature variation than within my house. I’d had a taste of winter plumbing issues a few weeks earlier when my water filter, also in the basement, froze and needed emergency defrosting before I could get any water to run to the indoor taps.
So expecting a new basement swimming pool, I went inside to put on my wellies. Thankfully the basement wasn’t entirely flooded, but I found some nice icicles and dripping water, which I traced back up the stairs to the pipe that runs from the basement to the outdoor tap.
I peeled back the insulation to reveal the money shot. Sure enough, the pipe had burst. Another copper victim for the polar vortex!
I suppose burst pipes are a homeowner rite of passage and all things considered, if one had to go this was the one that would cause the least damage. Now I stand in solidarity with my burst-pipe brothers and sisters across the country as this winter continues to beat the crap out of most everyone.
Thankfully, when a friend did some plumbing upgrades I’d asked him to install a shutoff valve to this external faucet, with a scenario just such as this in the murky back of my mind. I can turn the water off to the the entire affected section and only be out the use of my outdoor tap. I’m pretty sure I’ll wait a few weeks—or maybe a few months the way this winter is going—to have it fixed.
February 26th, 2014 §
Just as I was going to write about how it was 65 degrees and sunny this past weekend, and that the maples are budding bright red, the winter weeds are blooming, and the male red-winged blackbirds have reappeared from their wintering grounds, another polar vortex dipped south.
I’ve awoken to snow two mornings in a row. Not much accumulation is expected, but it’s enough to remind me that we’re still at least a month away from spring.