The Daily: 16 March 2023

Words are like bees:
They have honey
and a sting.
     — Old Farmer's Almanac
     desk calendar wisdom for 16 March


It is snowing. It has been snowing since yesterday afternoon. It is predicted to continue snowing all day tomorrow. It is warm for snow, hovering right around freezing. So it’s pretty snow, with big drifting flakes that flock all the trees (and power lines…). But it will be misery to shovel. So I am procrastinating. Instead, a fit of pure contrarianism, I dragged the spring stuff out of the attic and then cleaned the house.

Maybe by the time I get to shoveling it will be melted. It is melting. I had to park my car outside because the drainage pipe froze again overnight, but there is water flowing into the garage. So I have a garage pond. There is the possibility that the garage pond will freeze overnight, so there is some concern about the tires if I leave the car in there. But the bigger problem is that I’m really nervous about plugging in an electric car in the middle of a pond. For some reason, the slush-muddy driveway seems safer…

They’re calling this a nor’easter. While it is certainly huge and wet, dumping snow from Quebec to Philadelphia, Nova Scotia to Ohio, it’s not a very energetic storm. At least not here. They’ve been predicting winds from the northeast since Sunday, but not much air movement has materialized. Mostly the snow is falling straight down. There is maybe a bit of breeze now and then because there is snow on my front porch, but it’s coming from the usual western flow. So I think this is just a big mass of spring snow.

I’m glad the wind has not happened yet. I’m sure the electric company is happy also. With the prediction for heavy snow and high winds, they were sending out increasingly agitated emails, entreating us to be prepared for power loss and the dangers of downed lines. I prepared as much one can, but if the power goes down it takes the heating system with it; and there’s really no preparing for that.

So I have the heat turned up sort of high. If the power goes, then it will at least take a good long while to cool down in here, especially since it’s really not that cold. In fact, since it’s about 32°F outside, it could probably remain above 50°F inside just through keeping the house closed up.

And I ‘prepared’ by digging out spring. Rabbits and eggs. It’s not time for flowers yet. But as it is the actual equinox — equal day and night — here in central Vermont on Friday, I feel justified in thumbing my nose at the weather gods with colored eggs and fluffy bunnies.

We are so close to spring, it’s almost painful. I think the trees are feeling the same. My neighbor’s maple certainly seems to be waking up. There is a definite increase in bird activity in the branches, and mostly of those birds that eat insects. I figure there is just enough sap and just enough afternoon warmth to bring out the ants — which brings the birds. Today there are no birds… And there is no other evidence of sap, none of the dark stains and pretty sugar crystals. The newspaper has been running almost daily pictures of sugaring that isn’t quite happening. Lots of flannel-shirted guys staring despondently in the collecting bins and buckets. It is just not warm enough in the afternoons to really set up a flow. I also have a theory that it’s not just a response to temperature. I think the trees are also responding to sunlight, because calm sunny days are a better indicator of the end of winter weather than merely afternoon warmth. And we haven’t had much sun at all.

This has definitely been the winter of darkness. My weather journal is a long string of black circles in the ‘cloud cover’ column, meaning that there is no part of the sky that is not solid grey. For days and days on end. Most days the clouds are so low and thick there isn’t enough light to turn off the city streetlights. My car has an automatic setting for its headlights. It too thinks there isn’t enough light to go without lamps. Last winter was not this dark, according to my journal. It was much colder though, so… I guess I’ll take the insulation from all this cloud over -20°F and blue skies.

Still, I’m done with winter. I have my seeds, if I could just get to the garden beds. I bought a fancy new pair of secateurs since I lost mine last fall in the Jungle somewhere. I’d love to be putting them to use. It’s pruning season, time to shape up the trees I want to keep and cut down more of the brushy grack I want to obliterate. But I can’t even get into the woodlot! It hasn’t much melted under the tree canopy for weeks, so the snow out there is something like five or six feet deep. And it’s hiding all the mess of jumbled stone and downed trees from the Christmas windstorm. Pretty sure if I tried to brave the pruning task, I’d break a femur. Perhaps right before freezing to death buried under the snow…

But if I don’t get this on this project soon, there’s a good chance that the trees will break dormancy before I get out there. That’s fine for the stuff I want to kill (or severely reign in), not so fine for the apple tree that desperately needs its watersprouts cut off. It has dozens of unproductive, smooth, cane-like branches shooting straight up to the heavens. I hope I can get it back in shape. The few apples it bears are gorgeous — big, round and candy-apple red. But they’re waaaay up at the tops of the oldest branches, far beyond my apple picker’s reach. If I want to eat apples from my property, I have to force it to bud a bit lower. With this endless snow, I’m not sure that’s going to happen this year.

For that matter, I’m starting to worry about peas and spinach and my other early spring veg. I haven’t even been able to clear out what was overwintering out there. In fact, I don’t even know what’s under there. I haven’t seen the beds since January. The cold frame is still putting out greens and I suppose the spinach could go in there, but I like a lot of spinach. I eat cupfuls of it the entire growing season, sowing another couple 4 foot rows every two weeks. The cold frame is not even 3 foot wide…

So I’m ready for this weather to end. I need this weather to end. It’s time to garden, damn it!

A Weirdly Disturbing Quote

If all knowledge were good, the pursuit of every sort of knowledge would be useful. But many false meditations are disguised as good and useful knowledge; therefore be strict in selecting the knowledge you want to acquire.
     — Tolstoy

When I found this in Tolstoy’s March 16th entry in his Calendar of Wisdom, I had to stop reading for a bit and just sit with this idea. On the first reading, it feels correct, a simple bit of advice to seek out the truth and put aside falsity. But… who decides what is good and what is useful? And are those the same thing? And how do we know it’s good &/or useful if we don’t know it? Slippery words like this make me uncomfortable. So I figured this might make a good meditation for this dragging winter.

What do you think?

©Elizabeth Anker 2023

2 thoughts on “The Daily: 16 March 2023”

  1. Here in the PNW Cascades winter remains though warmer temps are slowing melting the evidence. We had a big dump of the white stuff last week – heavy spring snow is the worst. I have declared March as the worst month of the year for a gardener. Weary of winter and eager for spring …and then there’s March with its snow, pounding showers, overnight frosts, cold temps, and the ridiculous daylight saving time change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As cooler weather begins to move in to remind us of summer’s demise, I do not envy you the snow or having to shovel your way out of your driveway. It has been overcast and damp here – perfect conditions to encourage my tomato seedlings and to keep the end of summer flowers alive for a little longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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