Broad Valley Orchard

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Enough – We Surrender!


I have lived in northern latitudes for my entire life.  I was born just south of the Great Lake snow effect zone.  I went to college in frozen and windy Alliance, Ohio, and then later in Moscow in Northern Idaho, and Pullman in neighboring Washington State.  I spent my Coast Guard time in the North-Easters of Nantucket Sound, in Gulf  of Alaska winter hurricanes,  and I helped break ice on the frozen Delaware River.  Our twenty-eight years of farming in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pa. have seen plenty of blizzards, and a lot of deep freezes from Blue Northers.

But I have never felt this cold in my life.  We are getting week after week of gusty Northwest wind, and single and teen digits (F = my brain is to numb to convert to C).  Since we are getting very little snow, the soil is freezing deep.  Also since the sun is at its meager minimum just before winter Solstice, our passive solar heating, in the house and the hoop houses, is rather ineffective.

This results in the most freeze damage we have ever seen in our cold frames, even though the winter greens and roots are under a double layer of row covers.  Winter-hardy red lettuce is starting to look real poorly.  We did get a short period above freezing, and I went out, bundled up, to cut out some late kohlrabi  (the ground was too solid to pull them).  At least I got a bunch of greens to feed to the goats, and a dozen of the tasty above ground swollen stems for us.  I think I’ll make a stew today.

I am glad we did not bring in a buck to breed the goats for winter kidding  because this weather  would have been tough on them.

We are admitting that we will probably need to suspend our CSA sharingsfor February and March, after 93 straight weeks of deliveries. We should be ready to start again in April.  For the next week we will sit around in this cold old log house, heated only with a wood stove (LOOKING ALL THE WHILE AT OUR RAPIDLY SHRINKING WOOD PILE). In order to come up with more kindling, I split up 1/3 of a cord of hemlock.  I have not used that wood before, but for a soft wood, it is not bad.  I use it as kindling, with the draft open, and as I damp it down, I add oak and maple.  We are saving up our small supply of white ash and hickory for the really cold weather that we normally get for the next six weeks, until the sun rises higher in the sky.  Oh well, I have some other writing to do.

And I’ll pass on this old farmer’s experience to others of you, a spell of weather like this can drive us outdoor types to increase our use of intoxicants.  Believe me, that doesn’t help!  So I limit myself to two drinks a day (mostly my home made fruit wines which I believe have some medicinal effects, too).  I also bundle up, and take our winter-crazed farm dog, Jago, for walks, and I start writing more.

Believe it or not, the sun will start returning in a couple days, and we won’t freeze in the dark!

A Farmer in Winter – Thom

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