Winter is coming to the Willamette Valley. Usually, it flows in softly on a bed of clouds but, because we are so far north (equal to Calais, Maine, if you live on that side of the country), when the cloud cover goes, it is cold! For the last two days, the sky has been bright blue, brisk winds have blown, and there has been electricity in the air. Now that the clouds are coming back, we are seeing “Wintery Mix” in the forecast.
I spent Veteran’s Day snugging in plant communities. In the morning, I headed out to Sunbow Farm, figuring I would spend a few hours in the greenhouses, pulling up weeds and prepping for winter plantings. But, because of the forecast—24 degrees overnight!—Harry and Nate had bigger concerns. “Take this twine,” Nate asked, “and weave it across the entrances.” The newer greenhouses were breathing heavy, in and out, in and out with the wind, putting strain on the plastic covers. The twine could stabilize the flapping. Using orange binder twine and a small ladder, I designed a series of crossing strings that looked, from outside, like a pentagram. “Cool!” Nate called. “I love this guerilla farming stuff!” He staked down sandbags. Then we unzipped the front and back curtains in greenhouse five and replaced them. Standing on a ladder, wrestling with the greenhouse zipper in the bright breeze—it was a glorious way to spend the morning.
After lunch, I went to work in my own backyard. First, the chicken coop needed to be wrapped in plastic film for the winter. Because of the orientation of the garden beds, the coop is wide open to the westerly winter winds. I found the pieces I used last year in the shed and stapled them on. Once the Ladies were settled, I rigged a cold frame out of large tomato cages, rested on the garlic and onion beds, and covered them with more plastic. I repaired the sheet rigged over an experimental bed of Winter Peas as cover crop, then moved quickly onto the leaf project. All of the garden beds had piles of leaves dumped in the middle, but the mulch needed to be spread across each bed and snugged down around the roots of the overwintering plants. Collards, leeks, sprouting broccoli and the last of the beets were all covered. Because I had moved so quickly, I still had time to rake up the leaves that had spilled out, tangled with day lily stems and some old amaranth that had sprouted in the aisles. It was all dumped onto the beds as well. Compost In Place, I thought. By this time, the air was growing nippy and the sun was setting, so I went inside, glad we had already hung the wooden storm windows.
This afternoon, I watched the sky from my classroom. I could see heavy dark clouds on the horizon, but the precipitation was holding off. I fled before all of the students had cleared the building. Leaves, the beautiful red maple leaves down the street, had been raked into the road and were waiting for me to rescue them. Quickly, I gathered the rake and wheelbarrow. Rake, scoop, and dump…six barrow loads covered the front garden in a lovely glowing blanket. My last act was to bring the scented geraniums inside for the duration. I spread a small blanket for the cats on the window bench and we are ready for the cold.
2 cinnamon sticks
2 chunks of candied ginger
10 crushed cardamom pods
1t whole coriander seed
.5 t peppercorns
.5 t whole cloves
4 c of water—simmer the spices for twenty minutes (cover the pan)
Add 3t of tea and 1 cup of milk. Bring to a gentle boil, then steep for about five minutes. Strain and add honey.