Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Thinking Cold

Well, folks, the Upper Midwest is looking at several more days of the "brisk" temperatures.  The latest ten-day forecast's only hint of relief is that we *might* be more than two degrees above zero Fahrenheit a couple of times.  Maybe.

There are numerous reasons why this is actually good news from the my perspective as a farmer.  But, it sure can be difficult to feel good about it when you walk outside and your nostrils freeze shut.  Or your eyes tear up a little bit and then your eyelashes seal your eyes closed.

I won't pretend that I am one of the people in this world who loves to be out in this sort of weather.  But, I also won't say that I fail to understand people who do.  Things certainly feel, smell and look different (when eyelashes haven't sealed your eyes) when the temps go below zero.  There is a certain clean, crispness that can be refreshing.

This year we have plenty of snow cover on our farm, which also makes the cold weather a bit more bearable, from my point of view.  At least the landscape isn't lying to me.  The white blanket is a strong indicator that things are... well... cold.

Yep!  It's Winter.  Put on layers, cover your skin and deal.  

Winters when it gets this cold and there is no snow are deceitful - making you think that it can't possibly be as cold as it s.  And for some reason, snow blanket almost feels like a "warm" pair of words.  Ok, the blanket part does.  And, somehow it makes you feel as if you had a snow blanket you might actually be warmer.  Work with me here.  I'm trying to justify how a pair of words somehow distract me from the sound my chattering teeth are making.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, dealing with poultry and other animals in this weather is a bit more a task than it is any other time of year.  Every thing you do seems to take just a bit more effort - even breathing.  Tammy and I were grumbling at each other about how much time we spend just bundling up and unbundling ourselves between each trip out to deal with the animals.  

It's almost enough to make you think about staying outside and doing more work once you've got all of the layers on.  

Until your nostrils close up and you realize some snow somehow got into your boots and has melted into a cold, refreezing puddle between your toes.

I mentioned earlier that, as a farmer, I am also aware of the role cold winters in Iowa play.  Personally, I am not enamored by the list of pest problems farmers to our south have to deal with year after year.  A good, strong cold cycle in Winter can reduce populations of a number of pests that could otherwise cause us problems.  This is especially true since predator populations never seem to move as fast as the pests do.

This is, in fact, one of my concerns as our climate changes.  Farmers have taken note that the pests on their farms have been changing over the past few decades.  Much of these population differences are indicative of shorter cold cycles that allow certain critters to more readily thrive where we grow.  One such example has been the appearance of blister beetles on our farm and other vegetable farms over the past five years.

And, when it comes to our perennial plants - things like our apple trees, grapes and asparagus - a deep cold cycle simply encourages their full 'hibernation' - if you will allow me to call it that.  The years that get just warm enough to make these plants think it is time to start growing and then it hits them with a cold snap are the absolute worst as far as we are concerned.

Our plants like a little more certainty.  It's January and February and it is cold.  They know what to do.  Don't go confusing them with 62 degrees and sunny for a week!

I have also noticed that a deeper frost typically means that our soils are mellower in the Spring - making it much easier to work (assuming it dries out enough to work on our farm).  In my opinion, for our farm, that is a good thing.  

Which of course brings me to this: I am fully aware that the cold favors some populations and it does not favor others.  Of course if some of our pests are unable to survive the Winter it would be true that some of the beneficial populations will also struggle.  Some of our perennial plants would prefer a milder Winter to a harsh one.

But, the point is that our farm and the ecology of the area we live in is built for these periods of cold.  When we don't get them, some of the balance is lost.

And so, in honor of this cold cycle being brought to us by Old Man Winter, I present you with a post about the cold that is contrasted with the flowers Spring and Summer will bring when we pass through this period of time.

For now we'll just put on layers, cover our skin, and deal.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.