May Snow

snow 2

A foot of snow. That’s what fell on my garden last week. Twelve inches of heavy, wet, icy snow covered our lawn, bent the branches on our trees, and broke the tender new shoots on my perennials. Yes, I had already planted annuals, but I put them in pots on our deck, which I hauled into the warm house when I saw the forecast. I managed to cover my lettuce and chard, which were already in the ground, but they’re reasonably hardy and did just fine, although they may still decide that they’ve endured a winter and it’s time to bloom, producing a flower stalk instead of the leaves I want. All things considered, however, we did well. Many of our friends and neighbors lost entire trees. I can’t complain.

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My Annual Mid-winter Attitude Check

Hoar frost_LaVeta-CO_LAH_2371

I love wintertime. I love the snow, the icicles, and even the subzero temperatures (probably because we so seldom get them). Having grown up in the monotonous weather of southern California, I think winter is amazing, even after 25 years in Colorado.

However… sometimes we just get too much winter. Not in quality—Colorado winters are milder than one might suspect—but in the quantity of days when winter is likely. We’ve experienced a hard frost and snow as early as September 8 and as late as mid-June. I like winter—but I like summer too!

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Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Kale
LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest. Continue reading “Snow-tolerant Veggies”

Snowy Blankets

Snow-covered yard_NSFT_COS_LAH_9309We have a lot of snow in our front yard. It may not seem like much to those who live in Minnesota, upstate New York, or Maine, but for us here along the Front Range of the Rockies, it’s a lot of snow. Colorado is dry. Colorado is sunny. We don’t get all that much snow, and what we do get melts the next day. The “real” snow is supposed to stay up on the ski slopes, not in our front yards.

When we picked out a lot for our new house, we were thinking about a longer growing season from our south-facing backyard, the spectacular view of Pikes Peak out the living room picture windows, the warmth of sunshine filling our bedroom. We carefully oriented our house to take advantage of all these.

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Cold Brrrrrds

Dark-eyed Junco_BlkForest-CO_LAH_2377Brrrrr. I woke up this morning to -17 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit!), and the weather folks are predicting cold and more cold. While I ventured out to refill the bird feeders, and I need to dig out the car later (something about mailing Christmas gifts), for the most part I can snuggle up at home, with the thermostat in the 60s and a cup of warm tea defrosting me from the inside out.

The birds aren’t so lucky.

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Bosque Birding, Part 2

(Be sure to see Bosque Birding, Part 1.)

Snow Geese_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_6273It was pitch black, and our motel room was uncomfortably cold, despite the noisy heater that had run all night. I groped my way out of bed, half asleep but excited about the coming day. We were in Socorro, New Mexico, just north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In less than an hour, I’d be taking pictures of some 30,000 Snow Geese flying into the dawn sky.

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Bosque Birding, Part 1

Question: I’m a birder and nature photographer living in Colorado, with a limited budget for travel. Where can I go for fun and photos at this time of year?

Answer: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge!

Geese and Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR - NM_LAH_7495Just a day’s drive south of Colorado Springs, Bosque del Apache is the place to go for anyone interested in birds and/or photography. The week we visited, right after New Year’s, the refuge was home to 8,100 Sandhill Cranes, over 32,000 “light” geese, and a whopping 57,000 ducks! With such numbers, spectacular photos are pretty much guaranteed.

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