LOCAL VIEW –Carrot Crop–

Sometimes my Childcare work is actually fun, to a degree where I feel a bit guilty for charging people to do it. Such was the case with the carrot crop, this year.

Carrots, like parsnips, are a biennial, and put their energy into forming a big root the first year. If you leave the root in the ground then the second year the carrot puts all the energy stored in the root into producing a beautiful flower (shaped like it’s close cousin, Queen Anne’s lace), and then produces so many carrot seeds that they can become a weed, in certain situations.

Because they are a biennial they handle freezes well, and I tend to harvest them last, for two reasons.

The first is that I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever possible, not because I am particularly lazy, but rather because life is so full of fun things to do that I always over-schedule. Usually I am busy doing one thing, but even when I am busy with one task I am procrastinating in terms of ten or twenty other tasks. This tends to get me in trouble, but also makes me highly skilled when it comes to inventing excuses for procrastinating. The best excuses are those which disguise the procrastination as part of a “plan.” And this brings me to the second reason for harvesting carrots last.

One year, as I was procrastinating in my usual way, I continued my usual habit of pulling a few carrots every day for my wife’s needs, and noticed that as the carrot greens finally browned (and they are one of the final things in the garden to give up on greenness in the autumn) that the carrot roots beneath the greens abruptly grew substantially larger. I suppose the carrot pulls all energy from those greens down into it’s roots. This was a great thing to discover. No longer was I procrastinating, but instead I was being a wise farmer and “ensuring my carrots achieved their optimum size.”

This year I nearly paid the price for this procrastination. The first hard, carrot-browning freeze of winter was not a “Squaw Winter” followed by an “Indian Summer”. (Yes, I know such terms are now politically-incorrect, but it is also politically-incorrect to criticize the traditions of an indigenous people, and, as the Yankee have been squatting here stewards of New England for 399 years, I figure we deserve to be called “indigenous”), (especially by globalists who have no culture nor traditions whatsoever.)

This year the cold came with unusual ferocity, and the first blast was followed in short order by a second, and then a third. The autumn began to remind me of the start to the winter of 1976-1977, where the “Squaw Winter” came without an “Indian Summer”, and turned out to be “Real Winter” and froze our socks off all the way into February.

Usually our temperatures drop steadily through November; our lows bottom out around freezing at the start of the month and sink to around 24° (-4.4° Celsius) by the end of the month. But this November, during the three savage, arctic blasts that hit us, the high temperature was 24°, and the lows set records, around 12° (-11° Celsius) even back at the start of the month.

This led to a problem, when I took the children out to the “carrot harvest” at our Farm-childcare. The ground was frozen hard as iron, and the carrots were stuck in it like rivets. At first I thought I’d need a jackhammer to dig them out, but I managed to jump on my shovel with such zeal I broke through to the unfrozen earth, and then could pry up slabs and plates of brown, frozen earth, roughly three inches thick, with the tapered ends of orange carrots protruding from the bottom. By whacking and smashing these plates the plates could be broken into chunks, and the carrots wrenched free (and they tasted just as good when thawed) but to me it seemed like an awful lot of work, per carrot.

Of course, when you are dealing with children two, three and four years old, they have no idea that this is not how things are always done. Also they find it sort of fun to smash plates, and not get in trouble for it. Prying up the plates had me huffing and puffing, and I would have given the job up, but the kids were having such a blast I continued to pry up frozen slabs of earth even after I was too weary to break them up, and they kept up their smashing and prying-carrots-loose until we had filled a grain bag with some forty pounds, and they also all had small bags holding their “favorite carrots” to bring home with them.

I could not, in good conscience, allow them to think this was a usual carrot-harvest. We had done less than half of the twenty-four foot double-row in twice the time it would usually take to complete the entire harvest. I attempted to get across the idea I had procrastinated too long, but they’d had too much fun to understand Aesop’s fable about The Grasshopper and the Ant, and so I abandoned my moralizing and just told them I was going to try to “soften the soil”, to make the rest of the harvest easier.

Then I found an old, black tarp to cover the rest of the carrots with. I figured the black would absorb sunshine and might even thaw the soil. Most of the children were not the slightest bit interested, but this year I have one small boy who tags along with me and has an owlish interest in everything I do. He even reached out with his small hand and felt the black tarp along with me, noticing the slight warmth it gathered from the low November noon. He then owlishly listened as I reminisced, (like the garrulous old coot I am), about the winter of 1976-1977. There may not have been an Indian Summer that November, but I seemed to recollect the blasts did relent to a degree where temperatures were normal for a while, edging above freezing every noon. Perhaps the soil around our carrots could thaw.

I seem to get a small sidekick like this owlish boy every few years. They are precociously articulate, and what is especially nice is that they are deeply concerned about my well-being. They seem very aware I am hapless and need help, but they own this awareness in a manner that is amazingly respectful. For example, when I am rummaging through the staff’s packs for a missing flashlight (which we need for November’s early-evening darkness), this particular boy will first inquire what I am looking for, and, second, point out a flashlight I’d never notice at the back of a counter on the far side of the room.

If the sidekick is a female, it is like I have the secretary I’ve long yearned-for but could never afford, in the form of a four or five-year old girl. This small boy is like having a butler. He is unnaturally interested in my interests, and unnaturally helpful.

Where the other children forgot all about carrots under the onslaught of other interests, this young fellow popped up the next day, smiling and helpful, and querulously wondering in a piping voice if the soil had started to thaw under the tarp. This was helpful to me, for, under the onslaught of other concerns, I might have forgotten all about carrots myself. We checked the soil daily.

In any case, we lucked out. An Aleutian Low crashed east into Alaska, interrupting the southward delivery of arctic air and allowing us just enough sunshine and thaw to soften the soil under the tarp. (And if you don’t believe me, ask my small butler. Though born in 2014, he will inform you, “This may have happened in 1976 as well,”) (because he asked me.)

Because the soil under the tarp did thaw, the rest of the carrot-harvest was much easier, though at first the other children were less than eager. If you look at the picture at the start of the post, you’ll notice only two children are working, and the rest are standing around. Perhaps they were a bit desultory because there were no “plates” to break, but they soon got over that, which is why there are no further pictures. I was soon too busy “providing child care” to take pictures.

The first problem involved breaking up fights about who would get the shovel next, and be the next to get to dig carrots. I attempted to teach them about “taking turns” and “sharing”, but they were too impatient for that. They skipped off in all directions and returned with more shovels than I knew our Childcare possessed, including tiny shovels ordinarily seen when building sand castles on a beach. One girl couldn’t be bothered with a shovel, and scooped with her hands in a manner that puts badgers to shame.

The second problem was that dirt was flying in all directions, and I had to instruct the young in ditch-digger-protocol, and teach them how to dig without flinging a face-full of dirt at a neighbor. Despite my instructions, I had to pause to attend to eyes weeping muddy tears, but even that tearful, offended face swiftly became riveted on the next carrot.

No two carrots are alike. This seemed to intrigue the small children and make them dig faster. They were constantly exclaiming over how a carrot was especially fat or long or round or small or crooked, and would dissolve into gales of laughter over a carrot that forked like two legs (which made me cringe slightly, for, in prior years, a small, tertiary fork between the two “legs” has resulted in child-like hilarity and frank discussions, which can present problems to child care providers.)

I hardly dug at all, so busy was I with other issues, but I instructed the children to place the gold they dug up in a single pile. The pile looks small, in the picture at the start of this post, but it grew and grew. When I put all the carrots in a second grain bag it amounted to a second forty pounds (minus carrots children took home.)

Forgive me for being a bit smug, but I can’t help myself. We had a great time. Not a child whined all morning that they were bored or that they wanted to go home. Nor did my staff or myself need to concoct a “plan” or belabor a “curriculum”. The “curriculum” was “dig carrots”.

And what did this “curriculum” teach? At the very least it taught where carrots come from. (The first year my wife and I opened our Farm-childcare a small child asked me, “Why do you dig dirty carrots when you could get clean ones in plastic bags at the store?”)

Good things come from dirt. I don’t know why this is such a revelation. But a mother did give me a disapproving look, as she picked up her daughter after our carrot-harvest. She had just washed her daughter’s play pants, and already the knees were brown.

LOCAL VIEW –Daring the Frost–

I should be a sort of poster-child farmer for Global Warming this spring, for I’ve never had my peas up so early. Usually you “plant peas on Patriots Day” (April 19) but this year mine were up and growing by then. (Don’t complain that the rows are not straight. When you run a Farm-childcare, rows are never straight.)

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Having my peas up this early (for this far north; I’m sure people in Virginia are laughing at my vanity),  doesn’t actually mean I’m smart. I’ve just been lucky. I got them in and they likely had sprouted roots, but had not stuck their heads up above the soil, when we got this:

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What’s more, we got temperatures down in the single digits, (below -12.2° Celsius), and if my peas had emerged, they would not have just been discouraged. Though peas are tough, they’d be dead, dead, dead. All my work would have been wasted, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I’d be singing the blues, but that didn’t happen, so instead I’m smug, smug, smug.

Actually I threaded the needle, and the timing of planting those peas was timed perfectly. In truth you can either say I was lucky, or “to God goes the glory”,  but I so seldom have a chance to swagger that I prefer to think I did it all myself. After years of bungling and doing everything wrong, I have been so trained by misfortune that I’ve started doing things right, as a sort of intuitive reflex (which gets me off the hook of having to intellectually explain my success to scientists.)

Like a gambler “on a roll” I’ve decided to go with my instinct, and am planting other things a little early. I had to look hard to get my onions in, as they hadn’t even appeared in some stores, and in like manner I also got carrots, bulb-fennel, beets, turnips and lettuce planted this weekend.  (I might have planted potatoes, but at the hardware store they hadn’t brought them up to the showroom from the back warehouse.)

This could all be a complete disaster. This far north we can get frosts right into May. In fact, (to discredit Global Warming), we even had a frost on May 29 last spring. However I know how to handle such calamities. You wet everything down in the evening, (as it is harder to freeze wet things), (due to latent heat involved in the phase change, for you scientists), and then you put all your grass from mowing the lawn over the plants, but in a fluffy and thin manner (because the heat generated by wet hay can kill plants, if it is too thick).

The old-timers couldn’t be bothered planting early. They might plant a few things like peas on Patriots Day, but then they kicked back and waited until Memorial Day (May 31) to plant most everything else. Even though beets and carrots and turnips are hardy, and can stand a slight frost, old-timers had seen a few, late killing frosts. It wasn’t worth all the effort of planting a second time, or else rushing about wetting things down and fluffing grass over them. Why? because if you plant on April 24 your carrots take forever to sprout and then grow very slowly. Quite often, though you planted them five weeks ahead of Memorial Day, they have grown only to a height that plants planted after Memorial Day achieve in ten days. By July you can hardly tell the rows apart.  So why bother?

I suppose I bother because I seems to get slower as I get older. My garden is pretty big, and I can’t put the whole thing in on Memorial Day any more. So I pace myself, and do the same amount of work planting over weeks. In other words, I’m just as lazy as the old-timers.

Also, when you get to my age there’s not much you can do that is all that exciting. (Let’s skip the subject of sex.) (Also my finances.) Maybe I’ll drive forty when the speed limit is thirty-five, but the police officer just yawns as I speed by in my old, puttering pickup truck. Where’s the fun in that?

Therefore living-on-the-edge, for me, is to plant too early, but to get away with it.

Wisdom’s just a chance to show you’ve learned
From all you’re bungling, and to demonstrate
Old dogs aren’t dumb. Oh sure, we still get burned,
But flinch less. We’ve seen it’s never too late
To get things right. Although all of the clocks
Say time’s running out, we drive more slowly
Than frantic youngsters. The school of hard knocks
Has shown us speed kills, but the dawdler sees
The sunrises and smells the sweet bacon.
Do old dogs waste their time chasing their tails?
No, for they once bit their tail. Forsaking
The truth they learned would mean old dogs lie.
They don’t. So, if you’ve got things to fix,
Heed the old dogs. Don’t teach them new tricks.

P.S. (For Young Poets)

Yes, it is most definitely true that the young know more about computers and cell phones, but one big solar flare might set all that technology back on its heels, and make it difficult to even start a car. At that point an old geezer with a garden might suddenly seem to have values that are more lasting.

Not that it is wrong for young poets to spend time chasing their tails. It seems to be part of the process.

One way I chased-my-tail when in my late twenties was to be so determined to write that I did so even when I should have been living life, (and thus learning things worth writing about). My writing seemed to just get worse and worse. The worse it got the harder I tried, until I recall being on my knees and pounding the floor, shouting “I will write!  I will write!”

Then, exhausted, I made a liar of myself, for rather than writing I read, and what I happened to be reading was Huxley’s novel, “Antic Hay”, and I happened to get to the part where he has a character acting very much as I just had, pounding the carpet and fiercely insisting he would write.

This made me feel I wasn’t all that special, and was behaving like a character in a comic novel. So I got a job. It didn’t last, so I got another. And another. And another.

I’ve never sat down and counted the number of different jobs I’ve held, but it is over a hundred. Often they felt like they would ruin my ability to write. They never did. They enhanced it.

Eventually you wind up an old dog who knows lots of tricks. Keep the faith.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW —THANKSGIVING STORM APPROACHES— updated with afterward

This is a quick insomnia report, to show maps of the storm #5’s development, and also to express amazement that anyone would have the sheer audacity to forecast snow, when it only got down to 39 last night (as of 4:00 AM) and is still 46 in Boston.  In fact it is only recently that the radar started to show snow at the northwest edge of the rain.

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If I was a suspicious fellow, I might suspect the fellows over at the weather bureau were pulling our legs.  After all, it likely gets boring looking at isobars all the time. Maybe they decided to cause general panic and hysteria throughout the east coast just for the fun of it, and now are sniggering up their sleeves.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

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I’ll update later, after I’m done hysterically panicking.

UPDATE–8:00 AM EST

Storm is deepening over South Carolina. Watch to see if the following second low over Florida persists. A strung-out storm is weaker.

Temperature here has dropped 4 degrees to 36 in 4 hours. Alto stratus with some high scud indicating falling rain, from west. Radar shows rain here, but it isn’t reaching the ground. Pressure in Manchester 30.19 Hg and falling. In Jaffrey 30.16 Hg.

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UPDATE  —2:00 PM—  Storm is here.

The first flakes started falling at 8:30 AM. There was no rain.  I went and picked some wild cranberries with one of the older boys.  The bright berries contrasted nicely with the purple-green foliage and the white snow.  Then we dug the final row of potatoes, plus some scattered onions and carrots that remained, from the frozen and then re-thawed soil, which was very muddy. I wore yellow raingear which soon was covered with briwn slush.

In the yard a boy built a snowman as the snow swiftly mounted up to over two inches. The snowman was a bit muddy as well. Parents came early to pick up their kids. Now only a single child remains.

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Temperatures down to 34 Manchester, 32 Jaffrey.  Pressures still fairly high, at 30.11 Manchester and 30.07 Jaffrey.

UPDATE  —7:00 PM—in for keeps—   (not posted until 9:00 AM)

Temperatures down to 32 at Manchester and 30 at Jaffrey.  Can’t check pressures, as we have just lost our internet connection. but at 6:00 Manchester was down to 29.89 and Jaffrey was down to 29.87.

I’ve saved the maps but can’t access them at the moment. Nor can I post this, so why am I writing?  Life is such a mystery at times!

At least we still have power, though the lights keep blinking. The snow is so sticky that all the electrical wires look as thick as a man’s thigh, like long white noodles.

My last outdoor job was to snow-blow the Childcare drive so the last,  lone child and single member of the staff could leave. We had around five inches then, at 5:00, and have aound seven now, at 7:00.  The drive home was a creeping crawl. Coming down the steep hill into town I saw a policeman pushing a car with spinning tires up the hill, well away from his cruiser and its flashing blue lights.  You don’t see that every day.

Now I’m home and there are very few things that could pry me from my chair and out the door again.

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FINAL UPDATE  —AFTERWARDS—

We received a total of a foot, tapering off to light snow by midnight. Winds remained fairly light and the pressure never got below 29.85. Temperatures remained mild, and this morning it is at 34 in Manchester to our east and 28 in Jaffrey to our west. The snow was very sticky, and all the trees are burdened and stooped, especially the evergreens, which barely show any green at all, and resemble big blobs of white. Everwhites, perhaps, or that is what they will be until the wind picks up. 

I’ve been out shoveling this morning, to prove to my sons that the old man is tougher than he appears, and to make them feel guilty for sleeping late.  The snow was fairly light until I got to the pile the plow made by the road. Then I spent a lot of time leaning on my shovel, except for a brief time shoveling vigorously because a car was passing, and I wanted to keep my reputation.  I used to have the reputation of being “hale”,  but now I think I’m called “spry.”  I’m not sure I like the demotion.

I’m not sure when we got our internet connection back. One of my sons rebooted the computer, and there it was.  I went to look at my favorite blogs, and at Weatherbell saw Joseph D’Aleo claim places had two feet of snow. We usually get the most, because we face the east in these hills, and I doubted very much that Flatlanders down in the cities could get two feet, when we only got a fluffy foot that settled to ten inches by morning.  I thought this might be one of those rare occasions where I’m right and Mr. D’Aleo is wrong, but then I’ll be darned if he didn’t go and offer photographic proof:

TWO_FEET

In Canada that would be “61 cm of snow fell this morning,” and the joke would make no sense. Nor do we make sense for celebrating Thanksgiving five weeks too late.

http://www.insidehalton.com/whatson-story/4923662-10-reasons-why-canadian-thanksgiving-is-better-than-american-thanksgiving/

Be that as it may, thanks for visiting and HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Oh, I nearly forgot the Afterward maps: (Note the new lake-effect snows, and the small storm being whisked south of us.)

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LOCAL VIEW —THANKSGIVING SNOW? MILD AT THE MOMENT—

Quite a lovely rush of mild air swept over us yesterday, after the day began with a cold rain and temperatures down close to freezing. I didn’t mind the chill as I’d picked my smoked bacon and ham up, at the slaughterhouse in Troy, and was using the back of my truck as a sort of refrigerator, because the refrigerator in the house is crammed with stuff for Thanksgiving.

It was 36 when I drove the 6 five-year-olds to kindergarten, and then I went home to test out the fresh bacon for breakfast.  It was delicious, but then the after-effects of insomnia hit, and even though I had a ton to do I lay down to listen the lulling drumming of rain on the roof, and the next thing I knew it was over an hour later and the low sun was beaming through the window into my eyes. I headed into the cool kitchen for a second coffee, and stepped out onto the porch, and it was ten degrees warmer outside than inside.  (62 versus 52) (17 vs.11 Celsius) A warm front had swept north and past us.

It was hard to take the winter storm watches seriously when the kind wind was ruffling fingers through my hair, but I managed to potter about, putting the smoked meat from the back of the now too-warm pick-up into the freezer, getting some late carrots from the thawing soil in the frozen garden, dismantling the box I built in the back of my truck when I moved the pigs, moving the lumber into the stall to repair the goats stables with, instructing the fellow who came by to tow off my youngest son’s car to the shop to be fixed, loading the porch with firewood, all the while in a dreamy mood due to the mildness.

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Even after dark it stayed mild. The family is starting to gather for Thanksgiving, and we had a fresh ham for dinner with six adults and a baby at the table. (I never seem to get to enjoy much empty-nest-syndrome.) A lot a talk was about the coming storm, even as we were in T shirts due to the heat from the oven and the nearly completely closed-up wood-stove (which has had the same fire burning in it since mid-October.) I checked the computer and saw that at the Weatherbell site Joe Bastardi had noted the NAM model had upped the snow amounts:

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Now I’m up at 2:00 AM with my typical insomnia, and it is still mild, with hazy starlight. It is nearly impossible to imagine that in 24 hours it is suppose to be snowing heavily.  It is 57 out, (14 Celsius) and 64 (18 Celsius) down in Fitchburg, a half hour south of here in Massachusetts. The cold front won’t get here until around daybreak. Even though I can see the backlash snow well west of here, north of Chicago on the radar, and can see the first hint of low pressure down in South Carolina,  it is hard to think the storm won’t be rain.

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Considering worry is something I am all too good at, it seems odd I am doing such a bad job of it.

The mildness has chased the snow-cover north, and it has retreated greatly from its record-setting levels of only five days ago, when it was just north of here and clear down to Texas. However the west side of Hudson Bay is freezing up swiftly. The warmth never got up that far.

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