Freshly fallen snow covers the earth indiscriminately. So does a patina of filth in a poorly cleaned home. The patina has more of a negative connotation for some reason. Most of us like to think of snow as a lovely warm blanket covering the earth. Oh how comfy and sweet.
It’s a very peaceful image, but a bit out of focus given snow’s temperature. The image might come from a time when most of us knew that snow does act as a good insulator. It takes a lot of energy to freeze and thaw water. A thick blanket of snow will actually buffer the temperature of the soil underneath. If the ground hasn’t frozen before a good snow fall, it might stay that way despite temperatures well below freezing.
December made a feeble attempt at being a winter month between the solstice and the New Year. The snow covered the garden, including my hastily constructed tunnels, before the soil had frozen. I’m sad to report that I’m going to need to hire another structural engineer next year as these did not hold up under a few inches of snow.
A week after the garden’s burial, I found a bit of time to pull back the snow blanket from my little tunnels. Though we’d had a few nights right around 0, the temperature had risen to a good bit above freezing. I wasn’t really hoping for much; the collapsed structures didn’t look promising. So I was delighted when I found lovely green spinach. Standing in six inches of snow I ate a few leaves, I was eating spinach slaughtered just moments before in January in New England. I looked around the neighborhood and despite the fine weather I had no one to share the moment with. That’s not entirely true of course: from my garden I can see two flocks of chickens. Both were staring vacantly at me. I don’t take it personally, that’s what chickens do.
I harvested some carrots and headed inside. Carrots that have been through a freeze or two get almost painfully sweet. The youngest boarder half-heartedly offered to share them with his brother, but quickly devoured all of them himself.
While standing in the garden eating I felt like I was being let in on a secret. Underneath the snow there’s life. When I pulled back the plastic I saw a beetle and could smell the earth. The soil wasn’t frozen at all, it was soft and friable. This is one of the great joys of gardening. You get let in on little secrets. I’m learning where the garter snake lives and why bindweed likes the southern edge of the garden. Every garden has its secrets: mine can grow spinach in January.