Thursday, December 27, 2007

31.1 and snow

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Returned to Marshfield today and as I began to climb the hill out of the village, the sky darkened noticeably. By the time I had reached Hilltop Auto Body where wrecks put on new bodies and drive again, snow was spitting from the sky and it had the appearance of a big storm. Now it's an hour later and the wood supply for the next couple days has been brought in. Karl the wonder dog is barking at a neighbor getting their mail out front and Gail is preparing a pot roast for tonight. The wood stove has been cleaned and fired up and I have to pay good credit to Gail and Alex for today's labors.

I enjoy watching the birds and animals just before a storm as they busy themselves in flighty movements and gorge themselves on seeds of choice. Someplace under the snow there is a red squirrel magnet this year and it is drawing in squirrels from adjacent woodlands. As I sit looking out the window, three reds move like little vacuums across the snowy crust, picking up cracked corn and black oil sunflower to store in temporary storage units beneath the snow. They work relentlessly like blue jays and apparently have a similar appetite.

When snows come like this year's have, there's no worry about wind dessication to plants. Instead the caution comes when the snow begins to leave in late March, for then there's no telling how much damage was created by little critters like voles, hungry for good food throughout the winter. I have yet to determine if there are more plant eaters each year or if it's merely the fact that we seem to increase the size of our gardens and provide a more enticing buffet.

Some folks tire of talk of global warming, Kyoto Protocol, Bali and the suggested books and movies which raise credence or discussion about change. Today it is snowing. Today in 1866 a storm came up the coast and dropped three feet of snow in the Berkshires and left a couple feet in southern Vermont. If we get 4 inches of snow and some rain that constitutes change. If the temperature here in Marshfield changes 2 degrees one way or the other, we will either have a pile of snow or melting snowbanks. That's change.

I for one am not going to dispute temperature change. I see it in the temperature, the type of snow, the amount of precipitation and the creatures new and since passed that result from the change. Every growing season there are too many new insects gnawing away on our plants--insects I have never seen before. I just learned that the hardiness zones have been updated. The Arbor Day Foundation site has some interesting information and the new

hardiness zone map and accompanying information deserve a look. Our half of Vermont is now Zone 4 with the exception of a dot of land from Canaan in the Northeast Kingdom to adjacent Pittsburg, New Hampshire. As you get a chance, take a look and compare what hardiness zone you are in.

Our new land along the Winooski River is Zone 4 but the river rises and falls each day as Green Mountain Power releases water to make electricity. The movement changes air flow and temperature and should allow us to try some zone 5 plants that might be tricky in other places. In contrast the heavy clay soil where our building and shade houses will stand may stay cold later or warm up faster. It all depends on how quickly the snow will melt off that piece. I guess the story then is that temperatures have changed. Gardens will be affected by everything in proximity and a gardener's success or challenge will relate to temperature. As you consider a new garden for next year, view the proposed site all winter. Make note of where the wind blocks, the snow piles up and the water gathers. Those little pieces of information will make for a stronger project next spring.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two inches of quick falling snow has covered the seed in the platform feeder and closed down the evening meal for our birds.

Snowy garden wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

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