This noon sees me seated within the warm and glowing sphere of our Jotul woodstove. Although our 1918 built farm cottage has a modern propane furnace, we leave the thermostat set on 55 F, and rely upon, and prefer, the radiant heat of the woodstove.
Outside, with mid-day temperature of 26 F, snow is falling. Inside, we are pleasingly warmed by many years’ worth of stored sunlight released by the burning wood.
Sun’s energy is renewable. Wood too, is renewable, especially if managed properly. If one is fortunate to have a 10 acre property, a “woodlot” of around 6 acres would provide, among other wood uses, a sustainable firewood supply as part of a mixed use Permaculture forest ecosystem management.
In the next two days, low temperatures will be close to record setting. (Tomorrow’s low is forecast to be 18 degrees below today’s low of 17 F. The next day’s low, 7 degrees lower still)!
Asheville, (elevation 2150”) located in the southern Appalchian Mountains of western North Carolina, has an occasional experience yearly, of one or two single digit low temperatures; every several years, an overnight low of 0 F. What is forecast for the next two days is fairly severe cold that will have impact on already marginal fruit varieties (such as figs, asian persimmons, and hardy citrus).
Microclimate modification is one of our our best strategies for lessening damages from prolonged and unseasonably frigid conditions.
At Barefoot Permaculture, we currently have a small, in-ground planting of relatively cold hardy greens: kale, collards, cilantro, and lettuces. Whenever especially harsh conditions are forthcoming, I pull a double layer of Remay-like material over the bed. This creates a more protected microclimate, and gives the plants a more favorable chance of survival.
Within a greenhouse / hoop house, the same practice and principle applies. A small, low to the ground, hoop-held covering adds several degrees of warmth to the plants below. In extreme situations, another covering under the above hoop-covering, and directly upon the plants, can add upwards of 20 – 30 degrees F of protection.
In our above ground, mini-greenhouse ( see Winter at an Urban Oasis) we have three types of kale and cilantro. In this protected microclimate, all are doing better than those in the ground. Being a new bed, there has not been time for the slugs, as well as other plant predators, to work their way up and in, although black aphids are on the underside of the cilantro leaves. A protected microclimate for plants also makes a protected space for their predators…
Still, for this upcoming blast of Arctic frigidity, there are two layers of fabric over the plants.
* Recently, our favorite hen, a small, young, friendly, intelligent, rusty hued, dark colored egg laying hen named Ruby, failed to exit the hen house one morning. When later in the day, she still had not shown up, I looked up in the hen house to see if she was broody.
She was nowhere to be seen: an unpleasant sign. I found a 1 & 1/2 foot circle of reddish feathers, by the back corner, outside the fence. The work of a hawk (I first thought) since they pluck their prey; although it was odd that a hawk would fly the body over the 5 ‘ fence and land immediately outside.
An hour later, Chiwa looked out and spotted a mangy fox, trotting alongside the chicken-yard fence. It vacated when I went out, and although we have not seen the fox again, it’s track was in the snow the following morning.
If the fox took Ruby out of the yard, why not just run off with the bird? Since the fox is in the area, and has not repeated the event, it’s still a bit of a mystery….
* A yearly, winter visitor, a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) crashed into our front, glassed door, and perished. Since a bird, normally doesn’t fly into a single glass door with no other glass nearby, it must have been a response from a sudden hawk attack. We tried reviving the little beauty, were unsuccessful, and buried her in the compost pile, calling for her to rise up again as flower, fruit, and then, bird and beyond…
* Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) have already called from our small pond, being the first and earliest frog to do so: they are now back under leaves in their winter state of suspended animation…
* Winter is a fine time for heating the kitchen as a “side effect” of baking and other food preparation. Many breads, as well as banana leaf-wrapped tamales have emerged from our gas range as well as our Waterford Stanley Wood Cookstove….