Monday, January 18, 2010

the snow and cold, such as it is

I have some friends who would love love love to live here. They'd love the mountains, the rivers, the politics, the music, the food, the people -- all the things I love about it. I say to them, you should move to the Pioneer Valley! And to a person they say, nope, couldn't do the winters. Too cold! The obvious rejoiner, of course, is that with global warming it's not nearly as cold as they think.

(Our local paper is the oldest continuously publishing paper in the country and recently, among the snippets it runs from 20-50-200 years ago, there was an item from 100 years ago that talked about harvesting 14 inches of ice from the Connecticut River and storing it for the local school to use during the year. I don't think I've ever seen the Connecticut frozen over, or any river, really. It just doesn't get or stay that cold any more.)

But this has happened often enough with enough different people for me to realize that some of us just love winter and cold and snow. Maybe you had to grow up with it, but it's sure in my bones, and the cold and the changing seasons are a primary reason I wanted to move here. Personally I'm more of an observer of snow than a participant: I tend to look out at it from my Japanese soaking tub, steam rising around me, or through the doors to the deck next to the blazing woodstove. But I do like to snowshoe and ski, and I've written a lot here about how I have measured out by my life in produce--maple syrup in February, asparagus in May, strawberries in June, tomatoes and corn in August into the fall, pumpkins and root vegetables and apples in October. Like that. Like that.

And in the winter? Snow! Skiing, snowshoeing, skating, sledding, wood fires, hot soups and stews. And eating the frozen vegetables and soups and applesauce and tomato sauce I spent several weekends making. I hear people say it's too much work, all this cold and snow. I appreciate central heating and while I love my wood stove I have no need to split all the wood I need to heat my home. But getting two or three cords in the late summer and stacking it over a few weeks doesn't feel like work. I enjoy carrying in three tons of pellets, one 40-pound bag at a time. I like coming home these days and bringing in an armload of wood, or spending an hour one morning carrying wood to the porch and then filling up the pile next to the stove in the living room. I guess this is how a gardener feels about digging and planting and weeding. It ain't work. It's fun.

So it stinks now that it's warming up. The maple syrup industry is getting hammered from the poor weather and Asian long-horned beetles. The tomato blight took out much of the Valley's crop this summer. The Valley is famous for their tobacco but those farmers lost 80, 90, 100 percent of their crop this summer.

And we woke up this morning to a couple of inches of wet snow. Every time I get a snow emergency email from our fair city, I get excited -- snow! But this winter has been so disappointing. Either there was no snow at all, or there was just a couple of inches. This nonsense we have on the ground and in the branches this morning was pretty for a couple of hours. It was enough that the city plowed and Dave had to shovel the end of the driveway -- gotta time your driveway-clearing, so you don't shovel where the plow dumps it over and over. But it's wet and heavy and now the temperature is over 35 and it's starting to melt. We're not supposed to have mud season in January.

Everyone here in my corner of the world is really disappointed that this winter has been such a let-down. Florida, you got our cold weather this month and we want it back!

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