Although the month between Thanksgiving is pretty quiet, there is isn’t much time to rest in the garden. Things have already started happening and if I don’t get items done on the winter to do list, then they never get done. It is always interesting to me the emptiness of the big box garden stores when I go pick up some random supplies. It is a big contrast to the hordes of people there in the spring. I can’t be alone in loving the peaceful quiet of winter work, but maybe I am. The climate of North Carolina is perfect for it and certainly some of the more intense jobs are much better done in the cold of winter than the heat and humidity of the summer. I love getting started in the cold morning, my body heating up and then the warmth of the sun making it impossible to be cold at all even though everyone else walking by is dressed like an Eskimo.
This past weekend, I took advantage of a cold sunny day to do some hard pruning and wood pile maintenance. I only get the chainsaw out once or twice a year, but, or because of that, I am always surprised at the physical intensity of cutting wood. I was thinking about my dad, at my age now, keeping the shed full of wood that provided the majority of heat for our house when I was a kid. Of course, he had me and my brother to do a lot of the grunt work, but running a chainsaw is serious business. At the end of the day I was beat. As I stretched out and rested, though, it was a good feeling, a feeling of physical accomplishment, of getting real work done in the real world.
Winter is a time when it feels like something is actually getting done in the garden. I can stand back and see the work that I have done and feel good about it. In a few months, nature will take over and run riot over all my plans. As I look around the garden I already see Spring is well on the way. It is an exciting time in the garden!
Sometime in December, the last of the leaves are raked, all the dead plants are composted and things are cleaned up and put away from another year in the garden. It is an odd feeling when the weekend rolls around and there is nothing to do. Of course, something to do can always be found, but maybe it is just the time of rest that me and the garden are looking for. I am always thinking and planning and shuffling priorities and ideas around in my head but I am content just to let things be for the short days of mid winter. Then, as the days start getting just a little bit longer, I start to feel anxious that I will run out of time. The days and weeks until the garden springs to life are beginning to count down, slowly, steadily. Before it is too late and keeping the garden under control is a full time job, there are things to be done.
When I was a kid, winter was wood cutting time, and somehow I have been able to keep that tradition alive. I don’t use wood for heat and my woodlot is not that big, but there sure are a lot of trees on my little lot. In winter, I prune and cut, moving always toward that perfect blend of shade and privacy and sun in the garden. There is always a lot more shade than sun, so every year some more trees come down, more limbs are pruned back. I have reached the point where there are only a few trees left that I am comfortable taking down. What is left are a bunch of 50 – 80 foot pines, any one of which could hit my house or either of three neighbors’ houses, not to mention assorted fences and sheds. So I pay some one to do the tricky part of bringing them down to the ground. I’ll clean up a lot of the mess, sorting out the wood for its highest value and cycle back into the garden, as chips or mushroom logs or the basis for hugel culture mounds or firewood for next fall’s camping trips. The tree guys are coming Monday. Winter break is over. They will cut up and chip most of the trees they bring down. This will provide most of the raw material for some of the things on this to-do list. The list is ambitious but doable. I am looking forward to getting started.
Winter 2021 To-Do List
Build new hugel
Wood chips into ‘polyculture corner’
Top up existing hugel
Remove landscape fabric from under Japanese maple
Unload compost tumbler
Build firewood rack
Wood chips in front beds
Prune corner holly bushes
Rear fencing on blueberry bed
Girdle gum by fence
Cut 2 gums (by raspberries, by playset(enough for shiitakes?))