So much for keeping to a regular schedule of blog posts this year.  January was off to a good start, but then it got cold and snowy, and I don’t do well when cold and snow separate me from my plants… unless of course it’s to hit a tropical beach or indulgent ski resort… but we all know how that’s been going this year.

snow yorkie

Biscuit the Yorkie loves the snow, especially when the foot or so of compacted old snow is covered with a couple inches of delicious new snow.  

So February has been a nothing month.  Nothing much gets done, there’s not much moving (other than for food), and no one seems to care.  We just watch the snow storms roll through and vaguely consider the damage that heaps of snow and ice are doing to the roof, and wonder just how big an icicle needs to be before it rips the gutter off.

ice dam

Ice dams edge the entire roof.  Snow is piled high, it gets wet as the up-roof sections melt a bit, and then freezes to form a solid 10 inch wall of ice atop the gutter.  Of course with the gutter blocked the next melt will just run off the edge forming (in this case tiny) icicles.    

Sunday actually lived up to its name, with a clear sky and almost above freezing temperatures I made my first trek into the yard in about three weeks.  There really wasn’t anything to see (anything good that is) but I did dig out one of buckets covering snowdrops and was thrilled to see them also enjoying the bright change in weather.

snowdrop protection

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ still looking great, assuming I’m willing to trudge out and dig her up each time I visit.

Although many will complain about the snow, you won’t hear me gripe about it until March when we get hit by some nasty blizzard or Nor’easter which crushes all the new sprouts and ruins all the earliest spring flowers.  Fortunately this year, in spite of a warm January, most everything was still far enough back that all this cold has done is make it wait.  When it melts I expect a grand explosion of spring, and that’s always exciting.

rabbit winter damage

A foot or two of compacted snow isn’t all good things.   The rabbits can’t get to their food and end up eating just about anything which makes it above the snow line.  

Maybe that spring explosion will be enough to save the leafless hollies and camellias, and skeletal spruces which I just bought and planted… thinking they would be just fine and out of reach in the raised beds of the potager…  I fenced a bunch of things back in December, but in the past these have been safe, so obviously why would I over do it?

winter sunset

winter sunset

Even with all the clamor over snow and bitter cold and an arctic vortex or two, reality says this winter is still warmer than average, with only seven or eight nights actually below average, and not by much.  Even the most impaired statistician will tell you that for an average to be average about half the temps will be above and half below… give or take a few extremes… and we are far from that even if it sure seems like a winter out of the ‘olden’ days.

garden journal

A quick flashback to my garden journals of the ’80s tells me that we are actually about right in line with the spring of ’87.  That might sound reassuring, but these are actually from when I lived on Long Island, which is now considered a balmy zone 7, so…  we are actually way ahead.   

Reading a thermometer and checking a weather report really only take at most five minutes, so it’s been a struggle to fill the rest of the weekend with nothingness.  Even the winter garden is boring me so in a valiant attempt to beat the stupor I checked up on any drip irrigation fittings I might need.  Yes I need to order more, maybe 100 1/2 gph emitters will be enough for all the caladium bulbs I ordered.  Yes, I need to pot them up individually so that I can separate all the colors and then arrange them and rearrange them through the summer.  Yes, I know that’s excessive.

drip irrigation containers

Drip irrigation fittings and parts.  For all of ten minutes I considered a post on the subject, but then… the stupor again descended.  

One thing I have managed this winter is reading.  Three new books top the pile, and they’re all excellent.  ‘Some Snowdrops’ is a beautiful dreambook of how I imagine snowdrop season will be like, ‘A Year at Brandywine Cottage’ gets me excited about every plant and every season (and unfortunately every recipe has me wandering into the kitchen hungry), and ‘Colchicum’ has me doubting every label in my little colchicum bed.

winter garden reading

Winter reading for the gardener.

A little wandering, a little dreaming, a little reading, that’s actually a pretty banner weekend (or more honestly, month) for me.  Even in mid February the sun already seems March strong, and I don’t think I’m the only one thinking that.  The best thing I noticed on Sunday was that birdsong is back, and in spite of the snow, birds were vociferously carving up the neighborhood into new territories for spring.

winter bird feeder

… until Monday, and another six inches of snow…

So it’s not spring yet, but things are looking up.  Tomorrow will be warm, Thursday will be warmer.  It will take a while for the snow and ice to melt, so I’ve got a few more days to be lazy, but the next few days look promising!

sleepy pup

Snow can wear you out.

Have a great week!

22 comments on “February

  1. That is my sense of it, too. That however interminable this winter seems, it hasn’t been as cold as winters of yore, and snow in February is pretty normal, it’s just that previous winters have been cushy, so this winter seems harsh by comparison. And there’s a milder spell coming up. Looking forward to it!

    • bittster says:

      You and I both! In a way I’m glad I have work when the first warm days come along. It will drive me nuts if I have to stand on the driveway just wishing all the beds would thaw out and grow… at least by the weekend there might be a bare spot or two (hopefully).
      Last winter wasn’t even a winter. I really appreciate the snow we had this month, it just doesn’t feel right when you’re raking out beds in the middle of “winter”. -but I do like it when the cold only lasts a month or so!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Rabbits and ice dams, oh, boy. Don’t Yorkies chase rabbits?? At least the snowdrops are looking good.
    I’ve been eyeing the forecast as well. I am optimistically believing the worst is behind us. 40s days/20s nights make for a good maple sugaring season – yay! (Of course, that means mud-season, too, but I’ll avoid dirt roads until April.) At those temps the snow won’t last long and your snowdrops will be freed from their buckets. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      This Yorkie just likes to find the yummy little rabbit candies and gobble them up. It is a disgusting obsession for him…
      More snow this morning! I hope it melts fast enough that the old snow can melt some as well. All the moisture is making for a nice mud season in the garden, but fortunately we don’t get a real mud season like you do. I wonder if it’s just because there are fewer dirt roads, or if it’s just a weather thing.
      I love seeing all the maple buckets, but it’s usually a bit further north than here. We have weedy little red maples, and not those majestic sugars!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I think all dogs like rabbit and deer BBs! It is nearly impossible to keep ours from eating such. Worse still is when she detects something ‘delightful,’ she rolls in it. (sigh)
        Dirt roads definitely have mud-season, some years worse than others. This year the temps should allow a gentle warming and because it never got super cold, the frost didn’t go too deeply, which takes longer to thaw. The thawed dirt on top of frozen creates a mush that has nowhere to go. Rather than having to close roads, this year there may just be a few yucky days. Luckily, I don’t live on a dirt road and can avoid any when it gets mushy. I noted our local sugar house is getting ready to boil its first sap. I love seeing that steam rise out of the shed…good stuff coming!

  3. Your Snowdrops look happy. We had a very cold and miserable last two weeks, but today it got up to 63°. The snow has finally almost all melted. Spring is right around the corner. 🙂

  4. Pauline says:

    I hope spring gets to you soon, without too much mess from the thaw. We must all stay positive in these dreadful times, hopefully they will soon be over and we will be able to get out once more.

  5. Cathy says:

    Yay, snowdrops! 😃 It may be snowy but there is a lot of life under it all waiting to explode. Our soil has thawed almost completely now and I have a grand total of five snowdrops to date. I hope the thaw is not too ugly and that your roof doesn’t let water… we had problems in our last house a couple of times with a layer of ice that melted and as there was compacted snow on top it had nowhere to go except INWARDS! Your little Yorkie is very cute and has the right idea. Enjoy the peace and rest while you can!

    • bittster says:

      I saw how many early flowers you already have and I’m excited for you! I think we are just two or three weeks behind, and as soon as the snow disappears things will be much less boring. Hopefully we can escape learning anything more about roof-ice-damage this winter. I had an argument with a stove pilot light yesterday and was wondering if every appliance will be breaking in these first few months of 2021!
      I remember having five snowdrops total. Each one was much anticipated and every extra bloom was treasured 🙂

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Fun seeing your journaling of past gardens. My 80’s journals aren’t near as detailed. I was busy working and chasing children around to different activities. I was so busy I don’t think I even thought about the weather except when it prevented me from making my rounds. Mud season arrived here yesterday. Water is standing in some of the paths as the snow melts. Helebores are peeking out. Snowdrops are just barely emerging here and there. I couldn’t help but to get out with a snow shovel and sort of help along the melt by scooping off the first 6″ or so of snow around some plants. Beware of falling icicles. Let the games begin…

    • bittster says:

      Those were still the ‘can’t drive yet teenage years’ and without all the time sucking phone apps and online distractions, so plenty of time for journaling 🙂 Plus no kids sure helped!
      We’ve got a fresh inch or two of snow this morning, so that’s a little bit of a setback, but I keep reminding myself that it’s still February. I did see a few new things poking out yesterday so that was very exciting! It’s always a surprise when things continue to grow underneath the snow, there were hellebore buds and snowdrop sprouts where I new there were none a few weeks ago.

  7. Tim C says:

    The snow here in Virginia is just vestigial, clinging to small north shadows, but winter isn’t over yet, I’m sure. While February’s weather did grow tiresome, as you say, it offered an excuse to stay in and read — after all, don’t want to damage what passes for soil structure here. Been hitting those same three books, plus ‘Minding the Garden’, which Kathy had recommended a while back. All very enjoyable. Enjoy your rest!

    • bittster says:

      I’ll have to look up ‘Minding the Garden’, must not have been paying close enough attention!
      Yesterday there was a considerable amount of guilt as every bare bit of earth became a squishy mud patch underfoot, but the need to inspect is fierce!
      Hope you get plenty of sun this weekend, warmth is nice, but glorious sun is even better! Btw we have an inch or two of fresh snow this morning. Not what I was hoping for 🙂

  8. rusty duck says:

    At least you have the excuse of snow cover Frank. You can’t do anything about that. I, meanwhile, have to wrestle with my conscience over the 40mph biting wind. I could layer up and go out there anyway. There’s no shortage of stuff to be done. But what about the risk of branches or even whole trees falling on my head? That would put me out for the rest of the season wouldn’t it and then nothing would get done.
    As you were.

    • bittster says:

      I really don’t mind snow, or (a mild) drizzle, or cold, or heat, or clouds, but wind always seems excessively annoying and tiresome. With the constant noise and pulling and pushing it seems to make gardening far less peaceful than it should be. Fortunately there are no major trees on the verge of dropping a branch or two on my head, that would make things even less appealing!!
      Hopefully there’s enough to keep you busy (or at least entertained) in the greenhouse.

  9. Somehow I never pictured you keeping a journal. Loved seeing it. I have a huge stack of garden books I’ve bought during the pandemic from Timber Press and local indie bookstores. But I’ve barely dented the pile. Started Brandywine Cottage but have not finished it yet. Years ago I heard David Culp give a presentation on winter gardens that I’ve never forgotten. I like the recipes better in Frances Palmer’s new book, Life in the Studio. She’s a potter who specializes in flower containers and she is a Dahlia fanatic. I will have to look for the other two books as they both look good. Our snow is still at the tops of my almost knee-high boots so I have not been out for a damage inspection. Yesterday we hit the high 40°F and went for a walk with our ice treads on our boots. It was heavenly. I think it’s time to order more plants. If I look at the computer screen I can’t see the icicles!

    • bittster says:

      Haha, my journalling days faded once I started working and found all the other fun things you can do when you have a car and a paycheck 🙂 Now I just take plenty of pictures.
      You’ve added a few books to my list. I’ll have to make a note somewhere since I suspect the reading season will come to an end rather quickly once I can get into the derelict beds and see what’s going on. Plus even if I’m not doing anything, I can easily waste an afternoon just looking and looking 🙂
      I think our snow remains would probably only go halfway up your boots. A little more has fallen overnight, but through the window I can hear a cardinal singing!

  10. Just today learned how heavy icicles need to be to tear down a chunk of gutter, and I’ve been calling contractors all afternoon. But I’m with you in anticipating that spring wildflower explosion!

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