Yep, it’s winter in Wisconsin

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A co-worker asked me last week if I was getting anxious to get back in my garden. I told her no, that I thought I still had a couple weeks before a serious case of seasonal affective disorder set in. (For me, that usually happens in February.) The same day, we were talking about how “warm” it seemed outside. The temperature at the time was about 10 or 15 degrees and we had just ended a streak of record-setting cold — highs during the day of minus 13 with a wind chill of 35 to 40 below zero.

School was canceled three days in a row because of it. Businesses closed early because people just stayed home and those who did (or had to) venture out warmed up their cars half way through the work day to ensure they’d start when it was time to leave. I’m not kidding — it was so cold that it hurt to take deep breaths when you were out in it. So when the temperature actually went above zero for the first time in several days, someone mentioned how much warmer it seemed — and we all laughed about how cold could be such a relative idea. For those of you who think there’s no difference between 10 degrees above zero and 10 degrees below zero, you’re wrong. Ten degrees above zero is cold, no doubt. But 10 below zero is bone-chilling, mind-numbing, snot-freezing-in-your-nostrils cold! If only we could keep that in mind the next time we start complaining about the “cold” 50-degree temperatures in the spring!

Two days after the arctic air left the area, Mother Nature decided we needed precipitation — in the form of freezing drizzle and rain. Sidewalks, driveways and roads were turned into ice-skating rinks. Even after a couple doses of Ice Melt, I slipped and slid my way to the mailbox. When I let dog Chloe outside, she slid across the deck and landed in the snow. Dozens of motorists ended up in ditches on a hairy drive home from work.

It had been awhile since I took a walk in the back yard, so today I made a crunchy trek out to the garden to see how it’s taking in the cold and snow/ice. The first thing I noticed is that there is considerably less snow than there was at Christmas time. At that time, I sunk into the soft snow over the top of my boots, pretty much to my knees. After the rain though, the snow depth is down to about 8-10 inches and there’s now a crust of ice on top of the snow that makes it much harder to walk in. The sunflowers that I didn’t get a chance to pull out in the fall still droop over the garden as does the row of Cosmos stems. I found hoof prints from deer and followed them around the garden and thought about how hard the cold and the early snow must be on the deer and other wildlife. And at that moment, I was glad I hadn’t pulled out the sunflowers. I know deer don’t like Cosmos, but maybe the sunflowers will give them some options if they have a hard time finding food in the woods.

I’m also wondering how the extreme cold will affect the new shrubs I planted behind the house this fall. Kendra Meinert, another colleague who’s a great flower gardener, wrote this week about how the extremes we’ve been seeing aren’t good for young or new plants/shrubs or the “marginally hardy” plants. In addition to the new shrubs, that also includes the daylily bulbs Kendra traded me for raspberries. I’ve got my fingers crossed that all will survive, but as Kendra points out, we won’t know until spring.

So goes winter in Wisconsin. I wonder what Mother Nature has in store for us next?

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One response to this post.

  1. When the bird bath freezes overnight here on the Gulf Coast in Texas, something is very, very wrong. I had to put socks on with my flip flops — so cold! Glad you guys thawed a bit. “Snot-freezing-in-your-nostrils cold” pretty much says it all!

    PS — starting tomatoes and cakes and peppers indoors already. Getting geeked for March planting, itching to get my hands in some soil!

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