This is one of the hardest periods of the year for me. I've had my winter break from gardening duties, and it was very welcome. Now I'm a bit antsy and definitely missing all the summer vegetables. There is still a week or two to go before the earliest seed starting can begin, though I'm pushing that boundary with some experimental cold frame plantings. I've done a few germination tests to make sure that the seeds I put into our personal seed vault came through the year in viable condition. All looks well there, so my seed orders this year will be fairly limited. We have snow on the ground still from two separate storms, and six-ten inches of mixed sleet and snow predicted for the next 24 hours. As I write, fat flakes are coming down at a decent clip. I'm trying to see the upside in winter. Here's what I've come up with.
I used our recent -1 F (-18 C) temperature to go around the windows of our home feeling for air leaks. At that temperature you don't need any fancy instruments to find them. Bare fingers will do the trick, trust me. I'd brought in a tube of silicone caulking from the garage to warm up in the house. Then I went over all the leaks I could find, sealing them up. It made a noticeable (but not huge) improvement in our downstairs bathroom, which has two exterior walls, both of which are only passably insulated. Upgrading the insulation in these walls is on the list, but the expense will not be insignificant, so the project is not near the top of that list. But hey, a reduction of those thin drafts of icy cold is all to the good.
I've also got a tiny tip today. I call it iceboxing - turning our refrigerator into an icebox. It's easy to do at this time of year, provided there's a little extra room on the top shelf. I use empty plastic juice and soda containers, given to me by relatives. The large squarish ones with the rectangular handles are really nice for this purpose. Just fill them with tap water, put them outside and let them freeze solid overnight. In the morning, I put them in the fridge and put two more filled bottles outside so as to have swaps available when the first two thaw out. Two large chunks of ice keep the refrigerator's compressor from running much at all. I don't unplug the machine because I still want the light in there, but it certainly cuts down on our electrical usage. Easy, free, saves money. Seems like an obvious win to me.
Winter is also the time of year I most like to knit, and cold hands certainly provide motivation. I've made myself two more pairs of fingerless gloves. I finally have some that fit snugly around my wrists, like the ones I made for my husband a few years back. A pair of these gloves is a quick project that suits my short knitting attention span. They can be made fast enough to give me a quick sense of accomplishment, and that helps keep me going on other fronts.
The cold season is a tough sell, but I wouldn't give it up for anything. I've lived in places without a real winter and always felt slightly cheated. I grew up with four seasons, so snow and sub-freezing temperatures feel right to me. Winter has its austere beauty too. As a gardener, I know the value of the frost heave that loosens up our heavy soils, making them spongy and easier to work. The glory of spring in this area is part and parcel with the severity of our winter. Where I live spring explodes out of frozen winter: dramatic, lavish, electrifying. Other places have springs that sort of saunter onto the scene, a nearly seamless transition from tepid winter, or maybe even just a rainy season. Not our springs. So as I look out the window at a world drained of color, it's well to remember this. I know that in a few short months we'll feast on asparagus and enjoy the succession of breathtaking tree blossoms. Meanwhile I muse on hoop house designs and hope that this time next year will see us harvesting abundant greens as the snows come down.
Have you been making good on winter weather lately? Do tell.