Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crazy Icy Roads

This blog post is totally not garden-related, but - holy cow! -  we are having a time here in North Georgia. It all started yesterday at around 10 a.m., when the first flurry of snow started coming down, and instead of melting on the roads, it glazed them all with ice.

I left the office to run some errands on my lunch break, noticed how slick the roads already had become, then returned and started making calls to cancel my evening Seed Saving class (I've rescheduled for two nights). By then, local schools had all announced that they would be sending kids home two hours ahead of the usual schedule, and parents all headed home so kids wouldn't be left in empty houses.

 Just about that same time, county employees (of which I am one) were told that they could leave early if they needed to, but that they would have to use annual leave (vacation time!) to cover that absence. By 2 p.m., my office was down to three employees. I stayed until 4:15 p.m. (those vacation hours are precious), but I wanted to make at least part of the drive in daylight. It took an hour and a half to go the first mile. Some areas were covered up in cars that couldn't go anyplace, and navigating between them was a little bit hair-raising.

I saw an astounding number of pedestrians, which at first I thought was pretty cool, but then I figured out that most of those people were walking because they had abandoned their cars -- which were now blocking roads all over the place.

I am one of the lucky ones. My drive took a little less than five hours (it's a nine mile commute), and I only had trouble twice. The first time, the driver of a Marietta Schools bus helped me get my car moving over a slick patch. He had no passengers at that time, and based on all the reports I've heard of schools filled with stranded kids,  I am sure he needed to be somewhere else.

The second time, I was stuck on a hill that provided about as much traction as greased glass, and other cars began to go around mine. I had about a quart of dirt in a container in the back of the car (I am a gardener, after all), and I tossed a little behind and in front of my front wheels, and that gave me enough of a boost to continue up the icy hill.

Of course, this was the first time in a very long time that I accidentally had left my cell phone in the dining room when I headed for work in the morning. Phone-less, I had no way to let Joe know where I was or how I was doing.

When I finally got home, I could see that I had been constantly on his mind. Not only did he run out in his socks to give me a long, hard hug, but he also had shoveled out tracks on the driveway so I would have an easy stop (rather than a slide into the garage doors) at the end of my journey. Those tracks were like a big, non-icy welcome mat! He said he had been less than 15 minutes from getting into the Jeep to come look for me.

Two cleared tracks like a welcome mat, shoveled from our slippery driveway.

Other people who work in my office ran into a lot more trouble on the road. One who lives just another mile or so beyond me had a seven hour drive home; two got home at five this morning; one still wasn't home when I heard last at 10 a.m.; a couple others got home after midnight.

One of Joe's coworkers drove for nine hours, then had to leave his car and walk the last mile and a half. Others didn't make it more than a mile from work and walked away from their stranded vehicles to the nearby home of a friend, where they all still are. My next door neighbor just got home about an hour ago, around 1:00 p.m.

I had a call this morning, early, from my boss, with the message that county offices would be opening at noon today. By 10 a.m., though, the county website announced that county offices would remain closed for the entire day (good call). I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, the website doesn't say yet, but at two in the afternoon the road in front of my house is still providing some excellent sledding. I'm thinking that's not a good sign for any of us who might be asked to report to work in the morning.

I hope that all of the rest of my gardening friends are safe, warm, well-fed, and able to enjoy at least part of the craziness!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When the Garden Gets Slammed By a Very Hard Freeze

I have a friend who says that gamblers should skip going to Vegas and just plant a garden, instead --  letting those weather dice roll and taking odds on what will yield well, what will do poorly, and what will be a total fail.

In the past bunch of winters, broccoli, cabbages, and nearly all the cool-season greens have produced right through until spring. Gardeners in North Georgia are accustomed to the success of those crops, so, back in October, we all would have said the likelihood of those crops surviving the winter was fairly high. This year, the usual winter crops pretty much ended a few weeks ago when the temperature dropped down near 5 degrees F.

It seemed like it might be useful to have a list of the hardiest crops, for future reference when planning the fall/winter garden, so what follows is such a list:
multiplying onions
shallots
garlic
carrots
winter radishes
green onions
cilantro
spinach
Brussels Sprouts (report from another local gardener)
I'm guessing that parsnips would be ok, too, but I didn't plant any this year.

The perennial herbs also seem to be struggling with the cold. Most years in winter I can find enough fresh oregano down under the browned stems to use for cooking, but today I could find only a few, tiny leaves. The sage has some good leaves, and I found some usable thyme under the tangle of old stems of that plant, but the rosemary looks pretty rough.

Also, since so many of the weeds that I depend upon for bunny food were bitten back by the hard freeze, I've been growing wheat greens indoors to feed to my pet bunnies. Without these greens, my bunny-food bill would be much higher!

We've been growing sprouts in the kitchen for ourselves, too, to add some fresh, home-grown greens to our meals. With the loss of many of the outdoor crops, we are lucky to have options for continued "gardening" indoors.

If other gardeners can let me know of additional crops that have done well in the cold, we can add them to the list, to help in planning next winter's garden. Hope you all are keeping warm!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Garden Plans and Events

After my very eventful December, it has taken some time for the pattern of my days to seem familiar again. I realized this afternoon, though, while hoeing out a few weeds and spreading more mulch in the onion/shallot/garlic bed, that everything feels just about normal. Parts of the garden even LOOK normal, in spite of the drop to 5 degrees Fahrenheit a week or so back.

The onions, garlic, and shallots mostly are vibrantly green, firm and growing. Nearly every other crop above ground has gone to mush  - even the chickweed that I feed to my bunnies! Underground crops, the carrots and winter radishes, seem to have survived the unusual cold pretty well. Only some individual plants that poked up out of the ground were affected.

At the little farm where we volunteer, the winter greens all look very damaged, except for the spinach. That bit of information is probably worth remembering, for future winter gardens.

Tomorrow I'll be working more in the yard. My compost pile is stacked pretty high with nearly-finished compost that I plan to move onto one of my garden beds, rather than risk letting the nutrients wash out across the back yard. I'd rather have them soaking into my garden! I hope to spend some time planning what to grow where, too.

My last, most favorite seed catalog finally arrived, which means I can place a seed order for my garden whenever I've completed the plan. I'll also be ordering seeds for a Seed Starting class that I'll be giving in February. Those seeds will all be UGA-recommended varieties, some of which are heirloom. I'm planning to order from a source that sells untreated seeds, so that organic gardeners won't have to worry about accidentally introducing unknown fungicides or systemic pesticides into their gardens.

The first class I am planning for this year, though, is a Planning for Seed Saving class. It's scheduled for the 28th at the Extension office, and I'll have some seeds to share at that class, too, in honor of National Seed Swap Day, which falls each year on the last Saturday in January (this year it's on the 25th).

I always enjoy meeting more gardeners, so I am really looking forward to both of these classes!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

Never before have I experienced a changing-of-the-year that so emphatically has an embodied ending and beginning. As the old year closed, I gained a daughter-in-law, a beautiful start for the year! While we were in Texas for the wedding, though, my mother-in-law (a.k.a. "Grandma") had some serious health problems, and she has passed away. Her life on earth and the relationships she nurtured - in the form we know - with friends and family are at an end. The events and emotions involved are all complex and varied.

Endings can be extremely difficult. Luckily for me, the endings I usually deal with in the garden  -- the changing of seasons, the maturity and decline of a round of crops -- these all are much easier to accept. They come without fail; the loss is familiar, and looking toward the beginning of a new season brings a sense of excitement.

Right now in the yard, we are anticipating the onset of very cold weather. I barely remember the last time we experienced a drop below 8 degrees Fahrenheit -- schools were closed (because families here in Georgia don't invest in cold-weather gear that is needed only once in a decade), and I wasn't worried about the garden because I hadn't begun growing so many cool-weather crops in the fall.

I will be interested to see how the carrots fare in this unusual cold. The broccoli and cabbages that I didn't harvest before last week already have been turned to mush by a hard freeze. Someone asked me just a few weeks ago why some gardeners in the area were so set on putting protective coverings over their crops when our winters are generally fairly mild -- I think what's coming is why.

Part of the appeal of gardening is that there is always something new to look forward to, even when "what's new" is a bout of freakishly cold weather! For many gardeners, seed and plant catalogs are piling up, plans are being made to try new varieties or to try a new technique or method, and the anticipation of growing favorite varieties alongside the new ones builds an eagerness to begin as the next growing season approaches. I hope that the coming year brings the joy of new beginnings and happiness in productive gardening to us all!

My beautiful family. I'm a lucky mom!
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