An Eye on the Weather

This morning’s sunrise was fleeting, maybe 10 minutes, but always worth it  You know what they say about red skies at dawn.

The past 5 days have been the kind of weather I could do without.  This is the time of year when we watch the forecast obsessively yet try not to be taken in by the hype.  Those dire warnings that pop up every couple of hours – winter weather warnings, high wind advisories, wind chill frostbite warnings send people out in droves to fill their tanks with gas and get that bread and milk.

This past weekend we saw about a foot of snow and sleet but the real news was the frigid temps that followed that precipitation.  Minus 8 degrees with 20 to 30 mph hour wind gusts made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable couple of days.  We have the wood stove but the idea that we have to bring wood in, after breaking the frozen chunks apart on the pile never really occurs to us until it happens. (Yes, the wood is inside the shed that is attached to the house and the pile remains frozen together).

There is always the worry that the pipes will freeze.  We were blessed with the wind and snow drifted up against the house banking it and allowing the ell to stay warmer.  The old timers used to bank their houses with leaves or hay in the fall for just that reason.  The stone foundations are pretty drafty.

Then there are the animals – and the worry about their well-being.  The goats have very heavy coats this year, their space is fairly tight and their water is heated.  They seem unaffected (that doesn’t take into account how affected we are in taking care of them).  On the coldest, windiest morning the hens didn’t get off of their roost or make a sound when they were fed.  They were just hunkered down keeping their feet and each other warm.

Yesterday felt like a heat wave at 13 degrees with no wind.

January is the longest month of the year for me.  It’s dark, cold and very often windy.  The days may be getting longer but it won’t be noticeable until mid February, although I must confess to taking notice of the time the sunsets to convince myself that the days are indeed getting longer.

We have people who take care of us.   Our town is small enough so I know every member of the road crew personally.  Almost every morning this time of year I wake up to the sound of the plow going by the house.  It is always comforting to know that their job is to keep everyone as safe as possible in awful conditions.  There is also the guy who plows my driveway and back yard – he’s a kid really.  I grew up with his grandfather plowing the same yard (he still does on occasion).  They are always a phone call away from getting me out of my yard.  If I have to be somewhere at a particular hour I let them know ahead of time and I will be at a different spot in the queue of driveways to be plowed.  If I cannot walk to the barn because of ice they are here to sand.  There’s a lot to be said for dependability.  Of course they are also neighbors and have always felt like family.

So a flash flood warning just came up on my phone and the town payloader just dug out drainage spots in the banks.  The forecast says highs in the 40s – until Friday when it all freezes again. The signs are all there that I will be hunkered down in the house for a few days weaving.  Winter weather does have its advantages.

Enough Already

140728 Coop

I woke up this morning to thunder rumbling in the west and air that was thick.  Visibility was low.  It rained, hard.

140728 Clouds

There were breaks of sunshine allowing me to get a little gardening in but the day pretty much looked like this.  Small breaks of blue sky with the ever present clouds building all around, thunder constantly in the background. The kind of day best spent doing chores indoors.  Digging in the dirt was more like digging in the mud.

There’s nothing worse than being forced to stay in the house when all you want to do is be outdoors.  Somehow doing laundry and vacuuming lose all appeal when there is sod to dig and plants to move.  Maybe sitting around thinking about it will make setting the garden in easier.  I might actually have a plan.

 

Bracing

140118 Snow (1)

brac·ing
adjective
adjective: bracing 
1. fresh and invigorating.
Yesterday afternoon my sister told me she had gone out for a chilly run, followed by a cold hike.  I commented on how much I hated the weather when it was in single digits and the wind was blowing.  She told me it was bracing.  I laughed out loud when I read the word.
Fast forward to this morning.  We didn’t get the predicted 3 to 6 inches of snow but it’s a little after 9 o’clock and the temperature is 5 degrees with the wind blowing what little snow we had.  Last time I checked it’s about minus 14.  The snow that fell was so fine it was like dust.  When you are outdoors and the wind whips it up it feels like you are being blasted with sand, very cold sand.  Suffice it to say it is painful to be outdoors today for any time longer than walking to your car parked next to the door.
The real burning question I have is why do your dogs have to spend an inordinately long period of time outdoors when it’s below zero and you have to walk them one by one on a leash?  For them it’s bracing, for me it was frostbite.

Rain, Rain, Rain

130701 Crocs

 

This photo says it all.  I wear these crocs when I work in the garden in the summer.  They are easy to slip on, hose off.  After working yesterday I hosed them off as usual and left them on the patio to dry.  They may have dried but it started raining in the late afternoon and continued off and on through the night.  The forecast for today – rain.

I managed to get half of the garden weeded but really need to get out there again and finish before the weeds take over.

All this rain has wreaked havoc for farmers of every variety over the whole of New England this year.  It’s been one of those years where you think you have the right combo of things to plant because they have grown so well in the past only to find no matter how many times you plant the seeds the conditions won’t allow them to germinate.  I’ve planted beets twice so far this year and have had one sprout.  It’s not a matter of bad seed either.  I’ve planted two varieties, new seed.  I will plant them one more time, if they grow great, if not I wait until next year. My carrots are sparse, but the rhutabagas are fine.  The potatoes are finally going after a very slow start. They are also sprouting all over the garden – apparently I didn’t dig up everything last year.  They’ve survived tillage 3 times so I guess I will just hill them where they are.

The beans are a bit disappointing as well, they have had a tough time starting.  There will be a few more seeds planted there as well.  Although my tomatoes had a rough start they are looking pretty good at the moment.  I need to tie them up for the second time this week.  Onions and garlic are very happy.  There are blossoms on my cucumber starts but I’ve come to realize that I don’t plant enough to really put up so they will probably be eaten fresh and I will have to visit the local farmstands to make pickles. My long pie pumpkins look great, they are one of my favorite varieties and they are great keepers.

The potted flowers have never been happier.  Every summer for the past few years I’ve had to have someone water them on the days when I’m not here.  No problem this year.

One of the biggest problems that has occurred this year is with haying.  It’s has rained every day for weeks, for hay you need at least a couple of dry days (dry, not exorbitantly humid like it has been).  With the weather pattern that we’ve been in the hay has been in the field too long so the quality of the feed suffers.  I’m not sure what the answer is here.  There may be more steers going to the auction in the fall because there won’t be the hay to feed them through the winter.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Farming is such a difficult way of life.  You are dealing with the unknown on a daily basis.  Each week the weather is bad you adjust your expectations for the off season.  This is something that hasn’t changed since the dawn of agriculture but each year when it happens to me it is deeply personal.