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Winter: Survival Strategies

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Days grow short. Many winter days are covered in unbroken gray, as is typical in the mid-Ohio Valley. Coming from New England, where I spent most of my post-college years, this was a huge adjustment for me. The greenhouse is an excellent antidote for the sluggish drug cocktail of short days and heavy clouds. 

I start each day by looking at the weather radar, trying to figure out when I might dart out to find some blue sky. If I see fronts coming from the west, that brief interval might be first thing in the morning. Lately, though, we've been socked in early, and the clouds sometimes break in late afternoon. At least that's the hope today.

I try to meet the sun whenever it shows itself. If you saw only my Instagram or Facebook feed, you'd think it was beautiful all the time here. Nope. The good days are overrepresented.

I just looked at Intellicast. Temperatures in the 50's and 60's for the next ten days in December! Amazing. Almost unprecedented. A Carolina winter, in Ohio. I'll take it! Because there's been no snow to mash it down, the little bluestem is standing tall in the fields. I love to see this native prairie grass take over, just as much as the hay farmers hate it. Cows don't like it because it's sharp and cuts their mouths. I see it as an assertion of what belongs over what we are forever bringing to the land. 

Cows aren't the only ones who don't like little bluestem. Chet Baker will follow me anywhere, but he has a problem navigating through it. I've noticed lately that I keep losing him when I tromp the orange-russet hills. He'll go off in a straight line on a weird tangent and I have to call and call to find him, because I can't see him through the grass tops.

I just figured out why. He runs through it with his eyes screwed shut.

I only figured this out by wondering why he was disappearing on me, then calling him to me and blowing up my photos. Then I put two and two together. He's worried about his eyes; he knows instinctively that they need to be protected. So he navigates by hearing. Here, I've called him to me and he's running blind. 

When I looked at these photos I laughed out loud, and part of me sighed at the tenacity and intelligence of this dear little dog, who will do anything to stay by my side, even run with his eyes shut. He's about to be gathered into my arms for a big brisket gnawing here.

I just sent in his license registration. $16 each year, for the 11 years now that I've loved him.  I get the tags that certify he's up on his rabies shots, and any more I don't even bother to put them on a collar, because the only time he wears one is when he goes to the veterinarian, or when we take a night run. I may start putting one on him when I'm planning to hike the hayfields, though, because I need jingles to tell me where he winds up after a long tangent run with his eyes squeezed tight. What a little goofball. 

He accompanies me to the greenhouse several times each day, waiting patiently until I'm done communing with the plants. 

Fuchsia "Trandshen Bonnstadt" roots readily from cuttings, and I love it, so I have a bunch of great big plants blooming now. If something roots well, and I love it, I make too many.

Plus a couple of the more traditional dwarf types, and good ol' Gartenmeister Bonstedt.

Delicate lobelia, volunteered from seed dropped this summer into the poet's jasmine pot.

Creole Lady continues to delight me with blossom after blossom. They're at their best just after they spring open, around dawn. Absolutely surreally lovely, and they go through a hue change from this to yellow and lavender by the sed

On a sunny day, it's a powerful tonic, an antidote to the dulling drug cocktail of clouds. The Path is throwing out an amazing number of blossoms, probably due to my having cut her back last winter.

Young Rex begonias are coming along very nicely! I start little pieces taken from the big mother plants in late summer, so I don't have to haul the huge plants inside. When these get too big for the shelf, I'll display them in the master bathroom. By then, it'll be time to start some peppers and tomatoes, and I'll need some shelf space!

And so the little Zick-made rhythms and rituals around my plants pull me on through the winter.  As soon as it's light, go out and fill the bird feeders, then warm up in the greenhouse, see who's blooming. 

I couldn't let this brave "Orange Flash" petunia die at frost. It bloomed hard all summer, flopped over its pot, then sent up a bunch of fresh shoots, re-inventing itself for the winter. I had to reward that with the humid warm hug of the greenhouse, so I took it in in mid-November. Behind it is Pelargonium "Happy Thought Red." Hold that thought. And look at that green December grass! I'll take it, I'll take it.

The greenhouse is a saving grace, a little cauldron of summer I can get into, up to my neck.  I can poke around in damp soil, kiss the wide-open face of a hibiscus, and sometimes bury my nose in jasmine flowers. But nothing fixes me like a long lope and hike through field and hill with my best friend. If something's wrong, and you don't know how to fix it or even how to think about it, get out and change your channel. Just get out, move your body and breathe deeply. Get your heart going again, and be thankful for the places you have to go.

Onward, Bacon! Eyes screwed shut. I'm right behind you.


Hmmm-wonderr if some of those doggeh goggles would work for Bacon? You know, the kind motor-bike riding dogs wear?

I agree with KGMom: Chet needs aviator goggles. Maybe even one of those leather aviator helmets and a silk scarf, too -- just to be stylin'. We all know that Chet Baker is all about style!

I've heard of this "winter"...always thought it was a myth.

I've heard of this "winter"...always thought it was a myth.

Get out and change the channel. Amen! Gorgeous as always. Lots of blue sky breaks each day in these parts but your posts are still a tonic. 💚

The last picture--amazing art!

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