Winter in October

Our friends, came up from New York for the weekend, expecting fall weather. Instead we plunged right into winter. Saturday started off cool and cloudy, but by the time we came home from the farmers’ market, a slushy rain had begun to fall. Pretty soon fat flakes of snow were coming down fast, coating the ground and the backs of the chickens which continued to look for food; they were wet and muddy but seemed completely unbothered.

Sunday we awoke to a winter wonderland…typical for January or February, but not October 30.

Snow in October

It was beautiful but wrong. Colored leaves rested on top of four inches of snow in the woods, and the trees were so laden with leaves, snow and ice, large branches ripped off. We had pruned our magnolia tree dramatically a couple of years ago and it had made a great comeback; it now has a large gash down most of the trunk. We have to see if we can apply something to protect it; if we can’t I am afraid it will soon get sick and die. One long branch on the crab apple split at the joint. As soon as the birds eat the fruit, we will have to remove the branch. And one of the lilacs also lost a couple of major branches. We were very lucky though. Our next door neighbor lost power, as did many homes in New England and New Jersey. Buying a generator has now moved to the top of the list.

The chickens didn’t know what to make of the snow. They peeked out their door, and it took them a long time before they decided to venture out in it. The cold hasn’t stopped egg production, though. Today we had seven eggs—the most yet—although one was crushed by another laying hen.

Rather belatedly we put row covers on two of the vegetable beds—a few little lettuces are struggling to survive, and the swiss chard still looks good. We might be too late (we should have covered them a few weeks ago), but perhaps we can eek out a bit more from them. I had cut back most of the flowers in the garden, but a few were still blooming, providing some sustenance for the bees. Now they have all frozen.

What is considered the “norm” is always evolving, however when it comes to weather there seems to be no new norm. Freak weather events keep occurring (an earthquake in New York City, microbursts in New England, snow in October) but a new pattern hasn’t emerged. So everyone is left wondering what to expect next. It makes gardening—already effected by such an array of mitigating factors–even more of a guessing game. I have to pull out my garden journal and start making good notes!

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