Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sleeping beauty

In contrast to my poor friend in Maine who is blitzed with snow, our weather has been moderating of late.

For about a week, we had the frustrating conditions of just-above-freezing days and below-freezing nights. What this meant was snow would melt just enough to form puddles, which then froze solid. This served to turn our 300-foot driveway, nearby 1.5 miles of dirt road, and cattle feedlot into sheets of ice. We couldn't take the dog walking for days because footing was too treacherous. We sowed ice-melt along paths to the shop and barn, and that was it. I was praying we wouldn't lose a cow to a broken leg from slipping on ice in the feedlot.

Any outside activities meant we had to shuffle along like Tim Conway playing the old man on the Carol Burnett Show (remember?).

Thankfully the ice is starting to melt. Our daytime temps have actually gotten to 40F (yesterday it was a dazzling 47F!), so we're finally getting bare ground and safer footing.

This is our pasture. A stream of water is trickling down the middle.

Just yesterday the drainage path was covered with snow; now the snow is thin and rotten, and shortly will collapse into this little temporary stream.

Yesterday I waded out to the garden for the first time in months to see what I should see.

Now compare this viewpoint:

...with a similar location taken October 12:

These are the beds where I planted the potatoes...

...on October 13.

Here are the strawberry beds:

...and how they looked in August:

Here's our startup orchard. We planted an experimental orchard (four each of apple and peach, and two of plum) in huge tractor tires last May (blog post is here), and this is the first winter for the young trees in their new location.

...and a photo from last August:

The trees have healthy-looking buds. This is plum:

And this is peach:

One notable thing was how dramatically the snow melted away from the tires, leaving large rings of bare ground. Here in the cold north, the extra heat reflected off the black rubber is an advantage.

I noticed this little spider in the snow and assumed it was frozen solid. Nope, very much alive. A spider on snow, go figure.

Here are the tires where I normally plant either tomatoes or viney plants such as melons.

Here's the garlic boat...

...with a garlic plant poking around the snow.

The blueberries...

...also have healthy buds.

Here's a brave Brussels sprout poking above the snow. Last summer these veggies got inundated by aphids and I got no harvest, but it looks like several over-wintered well. Brussels sprouts are biennials, so I'll leave one or two to produce seeds this upcoming summer. Meanwhile I'll plant some in the house within the next week or so (Brussels sprouts have a long growing season).

The raspberries. In early April, I'll trim out last year's dead canes.

Sage, which overwinters beautifully here.

Two of the young grapes we planted last summer. I've never grown grapes before and I'm curious how they'll do this year.

Right now the garden is like Sleeping Beauty, waiting for spring's kiss to wake up and come back to life. Can't wait!


  1. Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    Watching life awake every Spring, like 'Sleeping Beauty', is amazing. The complexity makes mans' inventions pale in comparison. What a wonderful reminder of God's power and presence.
    Montana Guy

  2. I have a rake that fits on the 3 point hitch of my tractor that last year it occurred to me to use to scratch up the ice when it is like you have there, and we have here. it works quite good. I wish I had thought of that 2 years earlier and then I would have not had a wreaked shoulder and surgery. The rake also gives the tractor more traction so I leave it on all winter now and keep the mat scratched up all the time.---ken

  3. Here in southern Idaho it's done iced over, too. We hitched up the harrow to the atv and drug it round and round. Broke up the ice real good.

  4. It has been a heck of a winter around these parts, I know you all got more snow in area's of Idaho then we did here in Spokane, but still enough to shovel & shovel, then play the shuffle walking game on ice..hehe !! That spider must know that spring is on the way, sure signs are seeing bugs,birds & squirrels around. On another note, right after you posted your pics with the moose, this past weekend I was out walking and went into some well traveled wooded area and saw movement in the trees and there she was, a bog moose laying under the trees, I was so excited and thought about you and your encounter a few weeks ago !! Love the wildlife we have in the PNW :) ~ Shannon

  5. Aphids - I use a spray bottle with water and a little Dawn (original) detergent in with the water. They drop like flies. Works wonderful. You may have to 'experiment' a bit to get the right ratio depending on the size of the spray bottle and how aggressive they are. They just die on the spot.

    1. Works good on squash beetles, too.

  6. That spider was a very rare Snow Spider, you did capture it, didn't you?

  7. AKA, Al Gore, Spider..

  8. Central Missouri, we know ice! Here is a good trick, you know the silver square nailer they use them to hold trusses togeather? They are called Gang nails. Buytwo of smaller size (2In by 3IN) and duck tape them to the bottom of your boots with the spikes down this works great for traction and inexpensive.

  9. Was browsing your site from an article from Backwoods home.

    As a transplant from Maine, something like this might come in handy for your ice walking. Bean Boots or duck boots are notoriously slippery, but the city girls like the looks of them. Of course it is from our great institution and business (LL Bean).