Monday, November 30, 2015

Desperation In Vermont Garden As Winter Sets In

My attemps at fall cleanup and digging away rocks
and clay for a new perennial bed carried on yesterday
in St. Albans, Vermont despite snow and a
temperature of about 30 degrees. 
Winter always arrives despite the fact that nobody is ever really ready for it.

Yesterday was a case in point as I struggled to work on my St. Albans, Vermont gardens and property.   Autumn yard projects are never truly done. We gardeners always want to do more before winter really sets in.

The forecast for Sunday around my place was for partly to mostly cloudy skies, with temperatures in the mid-30s. No mention of precipitation.

Not exactly gorgeous, but nice enough to get some raking done, as long as I dressed fairly warmly.

As late morning progressed, the sky grew darker. I stepped outside to get to work. Was that a snowflake?

Yep. It ended up snowing all afternoon. Not heavily, but constantly. It started accumulating.

So much for the raking. But I soldiered on, putting up fencing around some evergreens to keep the winter deer away, and cleaning up the autumn debris that had accumulated especially heavy near the cedars and pines.   I ended up raking a combination of leaves and snow in a tarp to be carted away

The ground wasn't yet frozen, so I  turned to digging up some rocky, clay soil to make room for eventual perennial beds.  As I worked, the temperature dropped, and the soil started to freeze, sticking to the shovel, clinging in clumps. That idea stopped working.

Especially since there was now about a half inch of snow on the ground.

So I started hauling the debris from the trees we cut down to the burn pile. As I did that, I heard a sickening crunch on the road just below my house. The hill had iced up. A pickup truck spun out and hit the guardrail. I went down and checked on the driver. She was OK. She'd already called the police, so I went back to work.

This is Vermont, after all. Light snow and a late afternoon temperature of 30 degrees is perfectly normal weather for the end of November. With lakes still ice-free and the ground largely unfrozen, it doesn't take much for the early winter atmosphere to take up moisture and release it as snow.  Often unexpectedly.

In this case, all it took was a very weak cold front sinking south from Canada. The snowflakes flew down from the gray November overcast. The cold front gave Burlington, Vermont its first measurable snow of the season. A paltry 0.2 inches.

Often by now, the ground is frozen hard. We should  have had several inches of snow, at least by now. It's been mild.

We've been blessed by a November that will be among the warmest on record in Vermont. Precipitation is well below normal. I, ,and my fellow Vermonters, should have had oodles of time to get our fall chores done.

This autumn, I did manage to do everything that HAS to get done. The garlic, roses and sensitive flowers are safely mulched. The raised beds are cleaned up. More daffodil and hyacinth bulbs have been planted. The perennial beds are cut back and neatened up. The most visible parts of my property are raked and tidied, thanks to that unexpectedly pleasant November.

But you always want to get more done before winter shuts you down. Which explains why I was out there, in the falling snow and the gathering afternoon darkness, trying to get more done. You might think I was crazy, but I think a lot of us do such things.

Yard work is one way to imagine we are fending off the inevitable winter.

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