• Tag Archives winter
  • Welcome, Growing Season!

    Beltane                                                                                  Early Growth Moon

    We have turned the corner on winter it seems and now will begin the gradual invasion of a more southerly clime, with heat and humidity climbing like kudzu broken free from the Confederacy.  We are two distinct climates in one here in Minnesota.  The one for which we are best known and with which most of us here identify is the polar influenced late fall, winter and early spring.  Cold, often severe, snow and a long fallow time typify this one.

    The second, one for which we are not known at all, but which we know well, is the briefer Northern summer in which all signs of that polar influence wane then disappear, giving way to temperatures often reaching the 90’s and sometimes into the 100’s–this has happened more lately of course–and dewpoints moist enough to make being outside like wrapping yourself in one of those turkey cooking bags sold around Thanksgiving and sticking yourself in your oven.

    This means, the good part, that we can grow crops that mature in under 120 days or so, leeks stretch that, but I’ve done it consistently.  This is long enough to get most garden vegetables including tomatoes, peppers and others that require frost free conditions when planting. (which shortens the season).

    The bees, long adapted to cold climate, are fine with these temperature swings; it’s the multivalent attack of pesticides, mites, loss of habitat, mite borne viruses or viruses aided by the mite weakened bee and reliance on bees not bred for hygienic behavior (cleaning out diseased larvae before they can infest the colony).

    Our cherry, plum and pear trees all blossomed in Monday’s record heat.  The apples have not, yet, and I’m glad because once their blossoms fall I have to get out the ladder and bag each fruit set.  And, this year I’m getting more aggressive with the damned squirrels, those tree bandits.

    It’s time to get out there and dig several holes in the ground, mash it up, put it in a plastic baggy and send it off to the lab.

  • The Devil’s Weather

    Imbolc                                                                      Cold Moon

    It is these middling days, when the sun shines and water melts off the roof, these days when the natural order seems poised for a sudden change, that make me want to hide deep in a bunker coming out only for true deep winter, May and the crisp days of fall whenever they might come.  A weather purist me.  I want a fall with blues that make you want to disappear into the sky, chill winds, golden leaves.  I want winters with crunchy snow, temperatures that curl your hair and winds that howl all night.  I like, too, those brief moments when the earth discovers growth again, when plants, leaves and flowers ascramble with color, fling themselves out of the ground, eager for food and light.  The rest, those dreary drippy days of mud and slush can go to the devil, whom I’m sure invented such weather as a metaphor for our usual approach to values.  Give me weather with a knife edge or the shocking beauty of a pre-Raphaelite painter.  That’s what would get me out of my bunker.  For the rest, bah.

  • A Year of No Winter, Now With No Spring?

    Imbolc                                         Woodpecker Moon

    OK.  So, there was this place that used to have winter but had it replaced by a season of cloudy skies and what passes for cold in the southern states.  Then, that season ended and summer began.  Minnesota 2011-2012

    Not kidding.  It’s 60 degrees here today, March 11th.  And this doesn’t seem to be an aberration, the temps go like this for highs:  59, 65, 70, 67, 68.  And that gets us through Friday.  It may throw the bee season into a conundrum since my package bees don’t arrive until mid-April and the bloom cycle could be accelerated by as much as a month.

    This is also a year when I didn’t start any vegetables.  Not a one.  We moved the hydroponics into the garage for storage so we could consolidate the dog crates in one place. I imagine the places I buy plants will have used the same calendar as usual and we could waste a month or so of available warmer weather.  In other words we could have a growing season up to 6 weeks longer than normal.  But we’re not ready for it and won’t be.

    The Great Wheel continues to turn, but the holidays may usher in different weather than usual.  Climate change is well under way.  I hope the climate change deniers have a ringside seat in hell to the catastrophe they’ve created.  I know, that sounds extreme, but I mean it.

    The deniers will not and never could change the basic science behind global warming, all they could ever do was slow down humanity’s response to it, a slowing down that amounts to a criminal act, a felony against generations yet to be born.  They need to be held responsible for their greedy, stupid, infantile actions.

    But they probably won’t be.  They’ll die off before the worst of it hits.  That’s why I hope hell has a special viewing room for these shrunken souls.

    Would you like me to tell you what I really believe?

  • While The Cyber River Closed

    Samhain                           New Winter Solstice Moon

    Midnight  12/6/10

    Writing this on Word since I’ve had no internet connection for a few hours.  My limited number of tricks have not produced a link and I don’t have the patience for navigating so-called “customer service.”  George Orwell would be proud of the internet and internet services industry.

    Kate’s cold continues with little sign of progress.  She suffers, complains about not liking to be sick, but otherwise Norwegian’s through it all.  She takes illness as a personal insult, something to be shrugged off if possible, if not, to work through and last something that requires rest and chicken noodle soup.  She’s in the latter mode right now.  Good for her.

    We skyped tonight.  It’s Hanukkah so the grandkids had various gifts from doting grandparents and uncles and aunts.  The literal hit of the evening was an inflatable t-ball set.  Ruth took swing after swing, often swinging from her right shoulder and leveling at the ball.  She’s co-ordinated for 4.  Or, rather 4 and ½.

    Her blond hair swirls, ringlets tumbling every which way as she performs couchnastics, a living room form of gymnastics that replaces gym equipment with the normal living room furniture.

    My Latin is still here spread out on the desk beside me.  This Ovid requires slow, laborious work.  Look up words.  Figure out forms.  Check usage possibilities, verb tenses, noun declensions.  A lot of back and forth with books and pages of help.  I realized tonight that it’s a hobby, something I’m doing for fun.  Weird, huh?

    Winter has snugged us up in the house, the furnace and insulation our best friends just as the AC and the insulation are our best friends in the summer.  I like winter because it provides all this darkness for desk work, darkness in which there are no outdoor chores.  Therefore, no guilt.

  • Summer. It’s About Time.

    Summer Solstice                                      Waxing Strawberry Moon


    The longest day of the year.  Light triumphant, streaming, steaming.  The darkness held at bay.

    Summer Solstice

    This is an astronomical phenomenon transformed and translated into a spiritual one.  We humans have over millennia taken solstice and equinox alike as moments out of time, a sacred caesura when we could review our life, our path as the Great Wheel turns and turns and turns once again.

    The Celts first divided their year into two:  Beltane, the beginning of summer, and Samhain, literally summer’s end.  As their faith tradition developed, they added in both solstices and equinoxes.  Since Beltane and Samhain occurred between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice respectively, they became known as cross-quarter holidays.  Imbolc and Lughnasa filled in the other two cross-quarter spots.

    It is the eight holidays, the four astronomical ones and the four cross-quarter, that make up the Great Wheel.  In the most straight forward sense the Great Wheel emphasizes cyclical time as opposed to linear or chronological time.  This seems odd to those of us raised in the chronological tradition influenced by Jewish and Christian thought in which there is an end time.  With an end to time the obvious influence on our perception of time is that we progress through the days until they become years, which become millennia until the Day of the Lord or that great risin’ up mornin’ when the dead live and time comes to a stop.

    That this is an interpretation rather than a fact rarely crosses the mind of people raised on birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of one year as it comes followed by the next.  Our historical disciplines from history itself to the history of ideas, art history, even geology and the theory of evolution all reinforce the essentially religious notion of time as a river flowing in one direction, emptying eventually into an unknown sea which will contain and end the river.

    Immanuel Kant, in attempting to reconcile the dueling metaphysics of two apparently contradictory philosophical schools (rationalists and empiricists), hit on the notion of time and space as a priori’s, in a sense mental hardwiring that allows us to perceive, but is not inherent in the nature of reality.  That is, we bring space and time to the table when we begin ordering our chaotic sense impressions.  My interest in the Great Wheel and in the traditional faith of my genetic ancestors came in part from a long standing fascination with the question of time.  We are never in yesterday or tomorrow, we are always in now.  What is time?  What is its nature and its correct interpretation relative to the question of chronological versus cyclical time?

    I have not settled these questions, not even in my own mind, and they continue to be live topics in philosophy.  Learning to pay attention to the Great Wheel, to the now, and to the specific place where I live has pushed me toward the cyclical view, as has gardening and now the keeping of bees.  It is, today, the Summer Solstice.  Again.  As it was the last time the earth visited this location in space (ah, yes, space.  another conversation which we’ll bracket for now) and as it will be the next time.  This is a literally cyclical view of time based on the earth’s orbit around the sun, one which returns us, over and over to much the same spot.

    Next summer when the solstice arrives the asiatic lilies will be ready to bloom, Americans will be getting ready to celebrate the fourth of July and kids will be out of school.  The mosquitoes will have hatched, the loons returned and basketball will finally be over.  These kind of phenological observations depend on the repetitive, cyclical character of natural events.  There is a real sense in which this time does not move forward at all, rather it exists in a state of eternal return, one solstice will find itself happening again a year later.  Is there any progress, from the perspective of the solstice, from one to the next?  Not in my opinion.

    I don’t deny the intellectual value of arranging knowledge in what appears to be a rational sequence. It aids learning and explanation, but it may well be a mistake to think that sequence exists outside our mental need for it.  It may just be that time is, in some sense, an illusion, a useful one to be sure, but an illusion none the less.

    Even if it is, we still will have the Summer Solstice and its celebration of light.  We will still have the Winter Solstice and its celebration of the dark.  We can see each year not as one damned thing after another, but as a movement from the light into the dark and back out again.  We can see the year as a period of fallowness and cold (here in the temperate latitudes) followed by a period of fertility and abundance.  This is the Great Wheel and it currently makes the most sense to me.  That’s the light I have today anyhow.  Let’s talk next year at this time.

  • The Sun! The Sun!

    Imbolc                                        Waning Wild Moon

    On these days I often think of Fantasy Island, when Tatto would say, The plane!  The plane!  I want to run outside in the street and yell, The sun!  The sun!  After a long run of dreary weather the sight of the sun climbing higher and higher in the sky bucks us up and makes us eager for the end of winter.  By now we have earned our spring and the joys of the cold and snow have begun to fade when weighed against the possibility of flowers and vegetables and outdoor walks.

    Most of us do not come to this place without some regret and I’m among them, a part of me yearning for the depths of winter with its ascetic cold and its spare landscape, but the gardener in me has begun to awaken, thinking of which vegetable to put in which plot, how much, what new flowers might look good.

    Another 1,300 words in before Kate and I began to check our work chapter 6 of Wheelock.  She’s improving fast, as I knew she would.  Working together does make a difference, a major positive difference.  And just think how surprised the natives will be when we start using our newly acquired Latin on them.

    What’s that?  All dead?  Really?  Whoa, that’s a pity, all this language and no place to speak it.

    Sierra Club legcom tonight.  7:00 pm sharp.

  • As It Is, So Shall It Be

    Imbolc                                         Waning Cold Moon

    We have hoarfrost on fences, tree limbs, shed roofs.  I looked out yesterday afternoon and it fell to the ground like snow from two big cottonwoods.  Shrubs appear limned in light as the morning sun refracts through the hoarfrost on their branches.  We have a white, soft landscape that carries the long shadows of morning in their full definition.

    This February has been outspoken in its winter voice.  The woodchuck in Pennsylvania saw his shadow, so we might have a February and early March filled with cold and snow.  That’s ok with me.

    I’ve been waiting for the gardening bug to hit me, usually it happens around New Years.  It did a bit.  I got a couple of seed catalogs and spent time sifting through them.  Then, however, the feeling went away, submerged I guess by the unrelenting nature of this seasons winter.  Kate says it’ll return and I hope she’s right.  We’ve got a lot of garden that will need care soon, well, relatively soon.

    Meanwhile I get messages from Mexico, Georgia, Singapore and Bangkok, places where winter either never happens or lands with a light brush.  Watching Burn Notice last night I felt for the first time a pang of envy at the easy way the characters moved the Miami climate.

    It’s been a busy time for me, something I generally embrace, but I also love downtime.  I’d better not keep writing here or I’m going to write myself into a fit of melancholy, not what I want or need right now.  So, Vale, amici!

  • Like A Snowball Rolling Down Hill

    Fall                                       Waning Blood Moon

    The change of seasons has picked up some momentum in the past couple of days with two hard freezes in a row, then snow last night.  We’re not in late fall yet, that won’t come until November, so we could still have Indian summer, but for now, we’ve moved into meteorlogical simulacrum of early November.

    It changes the feeling here.  Jackets come out, gloves go on, stocking caps replace billed caps.  There is, too, the phenomenon I used to notice most at Macalester College when I  lived in St. Paul.  One day with below freezing temps and certain Mac students would walk the streets in heavy down coats, hoods up, scarfs around the neck and insulated mittens.  Often, they would have special winter boots.  These were the wealthy kids from points south whose parents grew worried when they realized their darling would have to bear a Minnesota winter.   Freshman to a person, I’m a sure.

    As for myself, I love to have on warm clothing when it’s cold outside.  The air braces me, kick starts the mental engines.  The combination of a warm torso and a cold face is a pleasure others–those outside the cold belt–would have a hard time understanding.

    The snow blower got its mechanical freak on in May so it’s ready.  The furnace went on here today, set at 59.  We’ve had almost three weeks with no heating and no cooling.

  • Rigel Redux

    Fall                                            Waxing Blood Moon

    After reviewing the stats for ancientrails, I learned something old.  During the time when Rigel and her sidekick Vega staged their break-outs readership went up.  My assumption is that conflict drove the rise.  Can man outsmart dog?

    Chapter 14 or so.  Vega and Rigel have not escaped the yard since the electric fence went up with the one exception I orchardfence709mentioned where Rigel opened the truck gate.  There is, though, a follow-on.  While gnashing my teeth  about the escapes and to allow Vega and Rigel some outside time, I reversed field and put them inside the fence we put up to keep them out of the orchard.  Did you follow that?

    This  only lasted for a few days while Kate and I gathered our strength and solved the larger problem, then we let them back out into the larger backyard.  Now, however, Rigel yearns for those days in the orchard.  So what does she do?  Yes.  She climbs into the orchard.  Do you hear those teeth again?  Right now I don’t know how she does it.

    On another front.  The bees.  Mark Nordeen graciously set me in bee-keeping this spring with the loan of a bee suit as well as hive boxes and supers (for the honey).  He came over frequently at first, then gradually let me handle the bees on my own.  We are, however, in the fall and I need to make the bees comfortable for winter.

    Since bees are warm climate critters, not even native to our shores, winters alone can kill an entire hive.  As  you can imagine, our winter puts a good deal of stress on a hive.  That stress plus some disease and pesticides contributes to Colony Collapse Disorder.

    Elise, Kate’s colleague and Mark’s wife, got a new horse, an heirloom breed and a black mare.  While putting the horse in a trainer (Elise rides dressage.), the horse kicked Elise on the chin, threw her fifteen feet and knocked her out.  The kick separated skin from bone around and below her jawline.  She’s better, but still suffering head-aches and neck pain.  As you might imagine.

    Anyhow that means the bees and I are on our own on this getting ready for winter deal.  A learning experience for me.

  • The Heart of Winter

    7  falls 30.13  W0 wchill 7  Winter

    Full Wolf Moon

    The Full Wolf Moon hangs high in the sky, hidden behind cloud cover.  It casts a ring of ice crystals, giving it a gem in a circular setting look.  The moon light suffuses the sky giving a bluish cast to the snow as it filters through the clouds.

    Another busy day.  Tomorrow I preach at Groveland.  Preaching may not convey quite what I do.  If you read any of the presentations/sermons on the Liberal Religion page, you’ll get a better sense of what happens.  I love the prep and the writing, the delivery adds a feedback dimension that I find valuable.

    The winter sits with its full weight upon the land here.  Snow covers the garden.  The deciduous trees have no leaves.  The air freezes in the nostrils and makes layers necessary.  Growth stopped; but the plant world has not died.  It only waits, gathering strength, making itself ready.

    Winter has a somber tone, the weather serious and sometimes unrelenting.  A Minnesota winter can kill you, so you have to pay attention.  That makes it worthwhile.  Like climbing a volcano.