Monthly Archives: January 2011

Winter Garden

It’s catalogue time again, and there’s never so fair a garden as the one that grows during a blizzard–on the colorful pages of the seed books.  The seedsmen ought to be subsidized by the government, because their catalogues bring hope of spring and summer to winter-worn folk.  In the postmans’ bag lie orchards, and rose gardens, and acres of bouncing vegetables, all done in brown paper.  And it seems a miracle to me that for a few cents you can buy beauty and nourishment, and I wonder what the seedsmen buy that’s half as precious as the stuff they sell!

“Now this year we mustn’t put in anything new,” said Bob.

But that was in August.  And Jill, the gardener, agreed firmly, “No, there’s no room for anything more.”

That was alright in August, but in winter it never looks as though we had anything at all in the yard except two rather doubtful holly bushes, and a couple of little switches with cages around them which Jill believes are Seckel pears.  Quite often we have planted new things eagerly in the spring right on top of what we set out late in the fall before.  In many ways our garden is survival of the fittest.  We don’t seem to be suited to the making of garden plans; not even Jill, the methodical one.  She is always writing down in notebooks and I am always losing them, so if we had a garden plan we couldn’t find it.

~ Excerpted from Gladys Taber’s The Book of Stillmeadow.

There is nothing so lovely and dreamy as poring and planning over the seed catalogs, while our hopes in the garden lie deep and frozen under a thick blanket of snow.  But for me, I must have a plan, and do plan the garden out on graph paper, just so I can squeeze as many plants as possible into our too-small garden plot.

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Not just cold … *really* cold!

We usually get a bit of snow here in Northern Michigan, and one feels a little special to boast about going out in ten below weather to do the barn chores.  But this is a little ridiculous!  This morning we awoke to twenty-seven degrees below zero.  Jess was eager to see what 27-below felt like, so he stepped outside the back door in his jammies, looked around at the glittering, frosted world, and declared, “It’s not bad.  It’s really beautiful out here!”  So he was unsuspecting as he volunteered to help me do horse chores this morning.

I grabbed my camera, knowing the snow wouldn’t stay on the tree limbs forever, and wanting to capture the prettiness.  I traipsed down to the barn, and just about the time I hit the feed room, realized that, wow!  This really was cold.  Not just “freeze the hairs in your nose cold”, but really, really cold. The horses’s faces were covered in frost.  They didn’t mind, but they did look disconcerting.  It always amazes me their tolerance for cold.  I suspect that, at 27-below, they were probably saying to one another, “Well, I guess it’s a little chilly out this morning, ey?”  I quickly measured Lacy’s senior feed, oats, and supplements into her bucket, drizzled oil over it and began to mix it up.  My fingers were starting to numb.  I couldn’t have been outside more than just a couple of minutes yet.

Jess was already scooping the paddocks as quickly as he could.  The sunshine glinted off the snow as I went through the usual round of moving hay around, filling waterers and so forth as quickly as I could.  My fingers were painful by the time I started to help with the scooping.  There wasn’t much left to do.  I did Lacy’s stall and a few piles in the main paddock, then grabbed the muck forks and ran to put them away.  We were both doing okay under our layers of coat and snowpants, but two layers of gloves weren’t enough.  The wheelbarrow was empty and I knew I should put another bale of hay into it and open it up for whoever did chores after lunch.  But I couldn’t get my hands under the baling twine to lift the bale, even after three tries.  We left the cargo sled, full of manure, sitting out front of the barn.  We weren’t going to take even three extra minutes to dump it, as we were both experiencing a pretty biting pain in our fingers.

Into the house and before I even took my boots off I put a kettle of water on to boil.  I didn’t need tea to drink, I just needed a hot mug to hold!  Here I am, more than twelve hours later and my fingers are still numb – sort of like after you touch a burning pan.  I expect it’ll go away in a day or two, but it surely doesn’t make me want to head back out in that kind of cold again soon!

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