Celebrating the End of Solar Winter

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

– Genesis 1:14-15 KJV

My apologies for no “Robin Tuesday” or “Willow Wednesday” posts this week, but the past few days have been full of illness and body aches, and the Deck Farm has preoccupied a good bit of my time. Mr. Awesome came down with a nasty stomach bug Monday and spent Tuesday and Wednesday recuperating. I’ve either been having a touch of the flu myself or a wicked Fibromyalgia flare. But enough of what has been going wrong. Today is a special day in my new gardening year, the end of Solar Winter in our area!

Solar what?

In Four-Season Harvest, author Eliot Coleman refers to the period of the year when there are ten hours or less of daylight as “Solar Winter”, or the “Persephone Days”. This is the period of the year when plants grow the least, even under cover. After doing a web search it was fairly easy to determine that in our area, Solar Winter lasts from around November 8 to January 31. That means today is a new beginning!

Now, as Coleman is quick to point out, there is a big difference between Solar Winter and what the thermometer says. In our area, February is traditionally one of our worst months for low temps and generally nasty weather (not to mention illness), and that can often last well into April. Looking at the weather forecast, we aren’t supposed to get above freezing for the foreseeable future, so I’m not going to be starting my tomatoes and cukes any day soon. But I do have the majority of my cold hardy crops and annuals started, and Lord willing, between the garage setup and cold frames, they will survive to see more pleasant weather (one of the great perks of container gardening, you can haul your crops inside if you really want to!).

I have to say, this has been one of the most pleasant winters I’ve had. The Garden Antsies haven’t been nearly so bad this year, thanks to Coleman’s book and what I’ve tried to implement into my gardening program after reading it. I haven’t had much by way of Garden Withdrawal, praise God. I’ve done a lot of reading, and I’m learning a lot. I’ve been able to add a number of things to the Deck Farm that make me more excited for this year than any of those past. Jesus has been good to us, and I feel incredibly blessed.

So what now? Having done so much for the Deck Farm in January, I’ll admit that February is looking rather dull. But I can read. And blog. I can sow a few more things, and above all keep an eye on what I’ve started to see if it was worth it to start it all so early, and pray that God will give us the best garden yet.

The day is thine, the night also is thine: though hast prepared the light and the sun.

– Psalm 74:16 KJV

 


Image Credit:

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “An analemma, shewing by inspection, the time of sun rising and sun setting, the lengths of days and nights, the beginning and end of twilight …” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1786. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/f2b72690-857c-0132-40ce-58d385a7b928

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Autumn Impressions

Got the camera out this morning.

During summer and winter I often chide myself for not taking a few minutes to grab the camera and capture some images of spring and autumn. The seasons are so fleeting, and it’s easy to be complacent and miss them.

I love photography because it forces you to pause and focus on the beauty of something you may otherwise have appreciated for only a fraction of a second then moved away from. It helps you revel in the beauty of Christ’s creation a little longer before becoming distracted.

I thank Him for it.

 

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Rose: Bill Reid

Of the roses I received this year, Bill Reid was one that really bloomed its heart out for me, and I praise God for that because this rose carries special sentiment for me.

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Bill Reid in front, not long after planting

This spring  I was scrolling through the High Country Roses online catalog (something, I must confess, that occupied a good bit of my time early in the year…), when to my great surprise, I came across a rose that carried the same name as one of my grandmother’s brothers. Confused, I tried to mentally page through what little I knew of the man (now passed on), and could not come up with any connection he would have had to roses. I called my mother and we laughed over such a strange coincidence which was only deepened by the fact that my grandmother’s favorite color of rose is yellow, as was her mother’s.

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The rose, of course, has no connection to my great-uncle, and neither did the artist whom this rose is named after. Still, my grandmother thought enough of it to ask to see the rose, and when I showed her the picture in the HCR catalog, she very kindly offered to get me one for my birthday.

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Bill Reid is part of the Canadian Artists series; a compact, repeat flowering floribunda that can handle temperatures down to zone 3. My young plant doesn’t appear to be very thorny, but that may change as it matures. It has a very light (citrus?) sent which isn’t all that impressive but what it doesn’t do for the nose Bill Reid does for the eyes.

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I have more pictures of Bill Reid than any of the other roses that bloomed this season, as I wanted my grandmother to see how lovely the rose she gave me turned out. She was delighted, and I am thankful to have a rose that will always remind me of her.

 

 

 

Introducing the Roses

I went rose crazy this spring.

When I first became interested in gardening I thought I would be focusing mostly on edibles, as the whole homesteading/self-sufficiency thing is very appealing to myself and Mr. Awesome, who comes from an agrarian family. But then catalogs and library books happened, and suddenly I was entranced by the idea of having a rose garden, albeit a potted one. I prayed that I would be able to get three rose bushes by the end of the 2016 growing season. I ended the year with fourteen, praise God! Most of the roses were an early 30th birthday present from Mr. Awesome and my grandmother.

The majority of the roses came mail order via High Country Roses out in Colorado. I really can’t recommend them enough if you are looking for young, own root roses. Their selection is great, shipping costs are reasonable, and the customer service is very good. One wet April morning, I received one of each of the following:

  • Cardinal de Richelieu
  • The Fairy
  • Gruss An Aachen
  • Buff Beauty
  • Marchesa Boccella
  • Ballerina
  • Zephirine Drouhin
  • Mountain Mignonette
  • Distant Drums
  • Madame Pierre Oger
  • Bill Reid
  • Awakening
  • Honorine de Brabant
  • Reine des Violettes
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Rose order before being taken out of the box. The bloom you see above is the Gruss An Aachen. Though the petals were not at their peak, it smelled wonderful.

Before their arrival, I made sure I had all I needed for my new charges. I had found enough good sized pots to house them in in the recycling bin of a local nursery, which cost me nothing (if you have a nearby nursery or home improvement store that lets you raid their recycle bin, this is a great way to get plastic containers for free). I had also picked up a bag or two of Dairy Doo and some cedar mulch.

The instructions High Country Roses sent along with their order recommended hardening the little plants off before planting them out. Since they were going into pots and I could stick them under our balcony until they were more comfortable with their surroundings, I called HCR and asked if that would be an adequate hardening off period. The gentleman said it would be fine, so I geared up to plant.

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The Fairy, planted and ready to grow.

All of the HCR roses got the same treatment. I made a mix of some soil I had left over from the year before, peat moss, homemade compost, Dairy Doo, and a bit of Espoma’s Rose-tone. After planting them in their containers, I surrounded them with a thin layer of Dairy Doo, mulched them with the cedar, and gave them a drink.

The two climbers, Awakening and Zephirine Drouhin, got the largest containers (at least 20 in. and probably close to 20 gallons of space) as well as a couple of homemade trellises I DIYed.

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Awakening with the bamboo trellis I made by tying poles together with fishing line. May not hold up for long, but at least it’s light weight.

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Zephirine Drouhin with the much heavier trellis I made by screwing together 1 1/2 x 3/4 in. untreated pine lumber. Much heavier but more professional looking.

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Buff Beauty

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Honorine de Brabant up on our balcony.

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I believe the rose in front is Bill Reid. I think that’s The Fairy behind it.

Overall, everything went in just fine. In hindsight I think I should have been a bit more conservative with the amount of compost I put in with them, and perhaps left off the Espoma as Buff Beauty and Reine des Violettes ended up quite leggy. I also regret a couple of my container choices. A few simply did not drain well and with the unusually wet summer we had, it was a bit of a shuffle to keep the roses from drowning.

A few weeks later I was looking through the discount section at a local nursery and saw that they had a few David Austin roses there with mildew ravaging their leaves. Despite the mildew and the fact that they were grafted, I couldn’t resist the price tag of $10 each and brought home a Harlow Carr and a Wollerton Old Hall. I tried to keep them away from the other roses to keep the mildew from spreading and treat them as best I could. Eventually I just defoliated them both. Harlow Carr Survived by Wollerton Old Hall did not. That week  Zephirine Drouhin showed up with mildew. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or if I had infected her by bringing in the new comers, but if I had to do it over again I think I would have left the discounted roses where they were. Still, Harlow Carr gave me some very lovely blooms this season, even if it is a bit of a thorny monster.

Poor Distant Drums had a bit of a struggle. It ended up on our balcony where I think it simply got too hot and eventually expired. A big bummer considering the lovely coffee fading to lavender color of its blooms.

It is amazing how quickly roses grow though, and I was very happy that Awakening, The Fairy, Gruss an Aachen, Marchesa Boccella, Ballerina, Mountain Mignonette, Distant Drums, Bill Reid and Harlow Carr all bloomed at least once.

I’m very thankful to have the roses around, and am excited to see how they do next season (assuming I don’t kill any more of them before then). I look forward to them becoming big, mature plants. Most if not all of them will be overwintering in our garage (a perk of growing them in pots). Most should safely grow in our zone, but I see no reason to take the chance. We had a mild winter last year, but the two years before that were quite brutal.

Eventually I plan to re-pot them into larger, more stately containers, but for now they should have plenty of room to stretch their legs, at least until spring arrives.

Sunset On Lake Michigan: No Filter

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Mr. Awesome and I spent a little time on the shores of Lake Michigan this past weekend. The view, as usual, was impressive.

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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. -Psalm 50:1

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