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After a long spell of foggy warm days and melting of previous layers of snow, temperatures lowered a little and it snowed over night. In the morning wet and heavy snow coated everything. (I know how heavy as I had to shovel it!) It is one of those spectacular winter views that turns the landscape white and black, a fairy-esque landscape sparkling in ice and snow on trees. This is one of the wonders of living here. You can see how heavy the load on the branches is as they bend with the snow’s weight.
After my post about Gardeners and God Complex, I’ve reaped some bad karma for my presumption.
First, all the seeds I planted when the soil first became workable died or were eaten by birds or insects.
Second, a drought has followed the cold spell that followed the warm spell that let me plant early.
Third, the peas came up but languish in the heat.
Fourth, deer jumped the fence and ate all the new pepper plants I had grown from seeds and just planted, along with the leaves of the Jerusalem artichoke, the asparagus (although we had a great harvest of asparagus), and the parsley that has gone wild in the garden. The deer did not touch the eggplants or tomatoes. Bought and planted more peppers, two of which have disappeared.
Fifth, within a day of the cucumber seedlings breaking ground, they disappeared, as happened to the beets, parsnips and turnips. And something is eating the young squash plants. Moles? Birds? Insects? Grasshoppers?
Sixth, I planted a bed with beans, but now see I’d planted it with sunflowers too. It will be war of the world all over again.
Seventh, a special someone (not giving away names!) wanting to be helpful tilled the walkways between the beds so my feet sink into loose sandy soil whenever I walk the garden.
So, grrr, I didn’t take into consideration all the things not necessarily under my control. I’m hoping its not too late to plant more crops. What else can happen?
Two good aspects: the grapes seem to have abundant fruit developing for the first time. (I really need to learn how to prune those vines, and I’m sure the Baltimore Oriole nesting nearby will enjoy them as they did the Juneberries!) Yet the rhubarb is doing tremendous and the ancient apple trees have fruit developing.
Here it is, six weeks later, and some seedlings have s-l-o-w-l-y begun to sprout. The spinach has been up about a week and a half and is only now putting out second leaves. This past week some carrot and kohlrabi sprouts began to show. At least this give me some hope for the seeds remaining underground—they might spout yet. So okay, up here in north central western Michigan, you can plant as soon as the ground can be worked, but the results, like the weather, might be mixed.Six wees to sprout? Really? Kale, a very cold tolerant plant has shown no signs of germination, neither have the beets, radishes, or Swiss chard. It might work out better for me to plant some of these in late August and grow them through the fall, and just wait until about now to put other seeds in the ground. On the other hand, the annual seeds of camomile and parsley are all over the garden! They have literally turned wild and are competing with the Veronica peregrina, in other words they’ve joined the weed community. I don’t really want to pull any of them out. Perhaps the veronica would make a good ground cover on the walkways between the growing boxes? Gardening is an adventure and an experiment!
My daffodils. scilla siberica, and hyacinth are all blooming, and in the wild, so are the Amelanchier trees, so I can state spring is well underway here. Doesn’t mean we won’t have more snow! However, the blueberry plants from White Flower Farm arrived last Friday and I planted them Sunday. Hope they survive.
Well, I’ve checked the planted bed. Nothing has popped out of the soil. While the soil remains workable, the weather has not. My location has been hit by several snow storms and very cold temperatures. I know when seedlings wither, they are gone quickly and probably invisible on my soil. So have some sprouted and died, or has nothing come up? Will the seeds remain viable until the weather goes from freezing to cold? Is it just the unexpected swings between seasonable and unseasonable weather this spring? I expect to know if I have to buy more seeds in another week or so. Perhaps the ‘workable soil’ soil timeline is different in Northern Michigan than in Southern Michigan or further south. Certainly an experiment, but at least I’ll know one way or another.
Yet the landscape after a winter storm can be awesomely incredible in its evidence of nature’s strength and ultimate power. Unusual sights emerge like the sun shining through pristine white clouds and bright blue skies while ahead lays a gray sky thick with snow. Trees laden with snow and roads lined by ever-growing piles of the snowtruck’s deposits add to the much changed everyday sights. White fields and dark, heavy skies give a reversal of expected outdoors visual weights and I feel like Henny-Penny screaming, ‘The sky is falling, they sky is falling.” The dark, wet bark contrasts starkly with the snow etching each branch, bringing a visual acuity unseen in any other season. When the sun touches weeping willows the branches glow with gold. The burnished russet of last summer’s oak leaves offers a subtle but vivid split compliment to the purple shadowed snow and the deep green of adjacent pines. It is different, strange, gorgeous, overlooked spectacle from the warm landscapes of summer.
So too is the awesome effort needed to drive through a storm when caught—devastatingly hideous, scary. A forty-five minute trip can become ninety minutes or more of a dangerous, nerve-racking trek demanding intense attention: Is the dark patch in the road pavement or ice? How far ahead is the car hidden by the billowing snow cast upward by its wheels? Can I pass this car going twenty-five miles per hour on an apparently safe road, or is there an obstacle ahead? If I pull off on the shoulder, will my tires have traction to take off again? Oh no, someone’s slid off the road!
This past month has shown this effect throughout the Northern Hemisphere and the coming week looks like a replay. Is it an effect of Global Warming, or a global warning? Today’s fierce winds and ice-glazed roads have closed most schools in Northern Michigan. The temperatures are horrendous, promising frostbite to those who go out unprotected. Even my cats do not want to go out. If their desire overwhelms their prudence, they are soon back at the door—literally on it, pounding paws and shouting, “See me? see me! I want in!”
Autumn came so slowly due to warm weather all through September and the first week of October. The colors came with a flash, and are disappearing just as fast.
Life is often compared to the seasons, and as I approach my own winter, I’m often reflective on this season. It can be harsh, bleak, cold, scary and dangerous, but there are rewards.
During winter there are days I don’t want to leave my bed, let along my house. Like many animals and plants I feel like I should hibernate. Overcoming that desire can be difficult, but at my age, I know I must make it. While winter offers the hope of renewal, I know my life is winding down. That doesn’t mean giving up. It means seeking to find the treasure of each day.
One benefit of winter is that it highlights the structure of life. Winter strips away the ornate finery of life–the leaves, flowers and abundant grasses– to display the foundation. Those dips and swells of the land, the stark trunks and branches of trees and shrubs, much like monuments to life’s obstacles overcome, allow me to see the intricate patterns of living. The deciduous inter-planted with the subdued grandeur of evergreen.
Another beauty of winter is that it turns the world into amazingly varied shades of white and gray. Black is for the moonless night. In nature’s pallet black isn’t that common. That doesn’t mean there are no other colors, only that they’ve been subdued for the season. Tree trunks vary from cream to charcoal, olive to umber. Pines are drab green, spruce deep blue-green shadowed in plum. The leaves of many oaks cling to the branches, their once verdant green now turned russet.
Winter skies can remain unremitting gray. Even on these bleakest of days, the empty branches shadow the sky, reaching in mysterious appeal upward as if in prayer of freedom from a ground smothered in the white, icy gripe of snow.
Winter both obscures and heightens perception. On Highway 10 traveling west, an unusual grove of Paperbark Birch can be seen from a curve in the road. Often the pale trunks are lost in sheets of descending snow, or winter’s occasional fog, even though they stand in utter contrast to a background of pine and spruce. However, when sun strikes the white bark surfaces on a clear day, the interwoven branches shine like a sublime and ornate sculpture.
Sunlight also heightens all the grayed colors of winter, turning the dark burgundy twigs of the local diminutive dogwood shrub into sprays of burnished copper and blood, the tan bark of Popple to brass, and the hanging flounces of weeping willow twigs to newly minted gold. These signs of hope, promises of renewal, often grab my heart.
Who can doubt in nature’s or life’s rewards, no matter what the season? We only have to look and endure.
While here in Northern Michigan we had a constant snow cover, it wasn’t as deep as I’ve come to expect. All the bad storms seemed to have hit south and east of Michigan. I’m not complaining. I felt bad for those caught in storms not seen in their areas for years and who were unprepared to handle all the snow, but mostly I felt relief. The local snow cover hovered around twelve inches this winter rather than the thirty-six to forty-eight I’ve come to expect. That has all melted. March came in like a lamb with several days in the 60 degree Fahrenheit range.
I still expect another snowstorm, but the snowdrops are blooming, so can spring be too far behind? How do they do that? Do they bloom under the snow so that the blossoms appear as the snow melts around them, or do they emerge and bloom overnight? However the snowdrops do it, it looks like we’ll have another spring even if we receive more snow.
The daffodils have also emerged from the soil showing two and three inches of green beginning to reach for the light. As I walked the garden noting signs of life, I took comfort in the signs of renewal! I also noticed all the winter debris needing to be cleaned up. I’m waiting a little longer before I start that project… but soon, very soon. I just hope March doesn’t leave roaring like a lion.