“Neither Snow nor Rain…”

Roads have been cleared enough for us to take a peek at our community and see how these folks are coping with the snow.

IMG_7347This was a common sight along our drive. We saw many homeowners who were excavating by hand, however two out of three vehicles we passed were trucks with snow plows. It’s a huge business here.

shoveling snow in ExeterSome people can’t wait for freezing weather. This family floods their front yard annually for a little ice hockey at home. As long as the weather holds, this rink is full of kids. In the warmer months, it reverts back to healthy green grass. How does that happen?

IceNeither the frigid temperatures nor the snow has had much effect on hardy New England shoppers… although it’s all single-file on the sidewalks. IMG_7356

The most unusual sight we witnessed was St. Nick heading toward his sleigh…err… car in a parking lot. Heads turned but we saw no one chasing Santa down to hand over a last minute wish list.photo 2We do admire these New England residents and their adoption of the unofficial US Post Office motto. As for us, we are back in the warmth of home, fire in the fireplace, Christmas carols in the background, a good book to carry us through the afternoon.

There’s just something about snow

There is something magic about the first snowfall of the season. It transforms the drab colors of fall into a pristine blanket of white. Somehow it transforms us, too. The stresses of daily life seem to fade, allowing our minds to slow down and simply enjoy the moment.

New Hampshire had the first REAL snowfall over the weekend, super timing for the weekend when most could thoroughly enjoy the experience. The snow fell softly through the night, covering bare branches and blanketing evergreen boughs, shrubs and the ground, allowing us to see nature in a fresh way. Mister gardener and I donned our boots, down coats, scarves and hats and enjoyed walking through the drifts to a neighborhood Christmas party where the excitement of the holiday season, enhanced by the falling snow, was contagious.

snow 12/14/1013In the stillness of early morning, we shoveled our way to the bird feeders to make sure our feathered friends were well taken care of and an ice dam had not frozen the food supply. And we sprinkled enough seed over the snow to assist the ground feeding birds.

Shoveling to the feedersWell-received by the birds is our new heated birdbath, not for bathing, but allowing a fresh drink of water in this frozen landscape.

heated birdbathAlas, the peacefulness of a snowy morning was eventually broken by the din of snowplows, jolting us back from the land of snow castles and daydreams and hot chocolate to the land of must-do’s and our endless lists of chores.

snow removalOh well. We’re back on the road again… but I’m thrilled that the weatherman announced that the accumulation of snow we received over the weekend guarantees us a blanket of snow for Christmas. Matter of fact, over half of the USA is covered in snow, said to be the most in 11 years on this date. It should be a white Christmas for many!

Monster Blizzard or Not?

With Nor’easter Nemo bearing down on us, mister gardener said perhaps I should remove my last blog post entitled, “It’s Snow Wonder I Like New Hampshire.” He said I might feel differently about snow after the weekend. I chuckled at the time but later I considered his suggestion. With predicted amounts changing by the hour for the coastal region of New Hampshire, we are still unsure whether we will have 24″…. or 32″ as we heard one forecaster announce tonight. Cancellations are streaming across the television and on the radio. By 9 pm, schools and colleges, 2,933 flights, businesses, functions and events have been canceled or postponed. The entire area is shutting down for perhaps historical amounts of snow.

The Great Blizzard of ’78, Boston

We shopped today for all the survival necessities found on everyone’s lists, then dined out tonight. Native New Englanders, clerks, checkers, baggers, waiters, with whom we exchanged greetings throughout the day, seemed nervous. These hardy, robust, resilient natives who normally take everything in stride, expressed real concerns about Elmo. The 1978 snow-mageddon was all the talk today…. the storm with 80 mph winds that left 10 foot drifts, flooded homes, stranded motorists, tons of debris, collapsed roofs, and 99 New Englanders dead. We knew about the storm 35 years ago but mister gardener and I were unaware of the extent of damage the storm caused.

With our minds changed about this potentially crippling storm barreling down on us, we nervously decided to re-check our survival to-do list tonight. Water… check.  Batteries…. check. Groceries….. check. Dry firewood…. check. Snow shovel…. check.  iPad, iPhones charged…. check. Bird feeders filled…. check. Laundry washed…. check.  Autos fueled…. check. Blankets…. check.

How will I spend the days secluded at home beneath drifts of snow? I hope to hibernate, keep my toes warm in front of a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate in a mug, a good book on iPad. Whether we have total white-out conditions with hurricane-force winds or not, I’d like to block out the dangers of the storm that twists and turns and howls outside. The drapes might be closed for this snowstorm.

It’s Snow Wonder I like New Hampshire…

As long as I have a nice fire in the fireplace, a good book and a hot drink, I love a snowy day. I love it if I don’t have to clear the driveway, take the trash to the street through deep drifts, traipse out the mailbox, trudge out to get the morning newspaper, or drive on slippery streets. mister gardener did a lot of that today.

In an all-day-winter-storm like we had today, my favorite pastime is putting my feet up in front of a roaring fire, glancing up every now and then to check snow accumulation. However, lest I sound a bit too inert, I do journey outside for walks in the yard with the dog, refill the bird feeders, sweep the steps of snow or take a few photos of snow laden branches. And here are some photos of the fluffy stuff today. Click on them if you want to see the snow falling. It was an especially beautiful snowfall.

Snow on White PineSnow on roadSnow on Feedersnow clearingAs evening approached, our driveway was finally cleared as the storm began to wane. Perfect timing. Snug again by the fire, one final glance out the window at dusk gave me the last hazy view of the meadow and the house lights of our neighbors, just minutes before the curtain of darkness fell over the field.

I love a snowy day!

Snow on Meadow

Baby, it’s (almost) cold outside

Around these parts, there have been hints that locals are preparing for the wintry weather they know is around the corner. Trucks delivering firewood regularly pass us on the highway, a visit to LLBean two days ago had mister gardener and a number of other customers converging on the down outerwear, and our farmers’ markets have all moved indoors. Around the house, we’ve tested the furnace, stored umbrellas, and discarded annuals in pots. We’ve also dusted off the bird feeders as bears are now thinking more about their winter den than raiding birdseed.

Another sure sign of the approaching season is the colorful scene I photographed from our front door on a warmer day last week. These young people were roller skiing using long inline skates with wheels and ski poles fitted with special tips. Although they had skied past the house, they somehow spotted me and waved. The motion in this activity is similar to cross-country skiing in snow and it’s a terrific way to train for the upcoming season.

Even though my daughter kept her cross-country skills intact just like this for her Vermont school ski team years ago, it’s still a novelty for me to see such a sight. And from the expressions on their faces, you can tell it’s a good way to get in shape and have fun doing it.

I’m learning a lot about zone 5… but my thoughts always return to my family and friends in Virginia. I wonder whether any preparations are underway for cold weather in zone 7. Somehow I imagine them still enjoying a bountiful garden and colorful blooms in the borders…

The Challenge

This post challenge comes from Les at A Tidewater Garden Winter Walk-Off: On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.  Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue, unless you want it to be.  Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping or local eyesores.  Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative and have fun, but don’t show anything from your own garden.

It sounds simple. Les can find beauty and interest in shadows and shapes, textures and tales, as well as in his garden. But his challenge is a tricky one for me. Last year I passed up this assignment because all I saw on my walks was a mile and a half of sand and loblollies. Ho-hum. This year I live in the burbs, too far from anything of great photographic interest. But, I tried. Two days ago, I walked around the neighborhood, armed with camera, shooting photographs of boulders, Christmas wreaths that still hang on doors and mailboxes, trees, road signs…. Yawn, Ho-hum.

After our big snow yesterday, I saw a another opportunity to give the assignment a go. I was drawn to the large fields and tidal salt marsh covered in deep snow. With help from my daughter, I strapped on gaiters and snowshoes for the very first time and stepped out into the ‘Wilds’ behind the house… accompanied by my daughter, her Rhodesian ridgeback and our old gal, Mattie.

After only one face-plant, I got the hang of snowshoeing and I was on my journey through the fields, past trees with branches that were beautifully adored with glistening snow, the air shrouded in a winter-blue mist. I felt as if I had stepped through a wardrobe into a mystical land called Narnia.

Although we didn’t encounter Peter, Susan, Edmund or Lucy, we saw signs of creatures that make this land their home. Deer tracks, squirrel tracks, birds calling beyond the treeline, a red-tailed hawk circling, seagulls, a turkey vulture, and the noisy Canada geese overhead.

Together the 4 of us made our way down to the river breaking a trail in the fresh snow, then we turned and followed our trail back across the fields and marsh.

My one amazing but true story to tell about this stretch of land involves the late Aristotle Onassis.

In 1973, shipping and oil magnate Aristotle Onassis had an option to purchase thousands of acres of land and planned to build the world’s largest oil refinery just a stone’s throw from this very spot. Stretching all the way from Lake Winnipesaukee for needed fresh water supply, the pipeline would snake through several towns, ending at an oil dock for super tankers 10 miles offshore on the Isles of Shoals. Outraged local residents were organized under the leadership of 3 strong women and exercised “home rule” where local citizens have the right to determine what happens in their community. They were able to thwart this dastardly plan by legislative vote in 1974 and, thankfully, the land and waterways remain pristine to this day.

Sorry Aristotle. This land is Our Land.

Click on any photo for a more detailed look at a little slice of Durham NH

You’ve Got Snow!

We awoke early to sounds of trucks plowing driveways… forward, reverse, forward reverse… piling mountains of snow in ditches and yards.

The weather forecast seemed to change hourly yesterday. First we heard “All Snow with totals of 3 – 5″,” then “Snow/Rain Mix,” then “Snow turning to Rain,” then it was “Brace yourself. Snow and lots of it.”  And the last forecast was dead right. When it was all said and done tonight, we measured 12″ of snow at this home.

We ventured out for a walk after lunch to see what havoc the heavy snow was causing. It was heartbreaking to see several major limbs torn from the midsection of a number of large white pines. Small birch trees were bent dangerously low in the swirling snowstorm. mister gardener shook the snow from the boughs of the right birch but it seemed frozen in position.

We cleared off a bit of the snow from the feeder for our fine feathered friends.

We lost power for part of the day. Then it was restored. We then lost our cable internet connection. After darkness fell and snow was lighter, a truck found its way to our driveway. Forward, reverse, forward, reverse.  Lickety-split, we had a snow-free driveway.

Tomorrow, with temperatures reaching 40°, the slow melt will begin.

Let it snow!

White pines in snow

There is nothing more magical than waking to a blanket of snow from an overnight storm. I cracked open the door and listened. There was a sweet quietness as the snow covered every horizontal surface and muted all sound.

Snow is still falling this afternoon. Although we’re living in the north where no one seems intimidated by the white stuff, schools were delayed. I imagine kids must still in their pj’s sipping hot chocolate in front of a glowing, warm fire… or either next to the glow of a warm tv.  But this ‘kid’ and her dog ventured out into the storm of white.

Mattie loves a snowy day

Mattie loves a snowy day. She jumps. She runs. She eats snow. And she catches snowflakes on her tongue.

So do I…..  We love a snowy day!

Where’s the snow?

While the rest of the country seems to be setting high temperature records, New England is experiencing its fair share of warmer weather, too. Temperatures topped out in the upper 30’s today but not before a few snow flurries dusted the area overnight. mister gardener and I sat by the window with morning coffee watching the flakes dance and swirl against the pines. Then it ended and I was sad. I don’t want a blizzard, mind you, but bring on the snow. I love snow. I can’t wait until the skies cloud over and buckets of the white stuff fall from the heavens. I long to build a snowman. I have a yen to pelt mister gardener with  snowballs. I want to slide down our mini-hill out back. I want to catch snowflakes on my mittens.

By mid-day, our dusting had melted. The temperatures are hovering near 30˚ tonight with a warming trend in the forecast for next week. By Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary, we should be experiencing temperatures in the 40’s.  Sweater weather. With these temperatures, I might as well be working in the garden. So my concrete garden friends from Virginia were unboxed and found their special homes in the landscape today.

Tomorrow? I think I’ll plant some tulip and daffodil bulbs.

I Love Snow!

Although I cannot tolerate frigid temperatures as I could in younger days, I am energized by a snowy day. I’m not sure why but even a light dusting of powdery snow like we had this week will lift my spirits. With the investment of warm down jackets and insulated boots to keep me toasty, I’m drawn outdoors for quiet walks in fresh fallen snow. And walks must be sooner rather than later for in our temperate Tidewater climate, it can snow today and 24 hours later it can be gone.

The snowy adventure that awaits seems to revive me from a semi dormant state of indoor life. How uplifting it is to witness Mother Nature’s artistic frosting of a lackluster and gloomy fall landscape. It is now transformed into a sugary winter wonderland. Even the most ordinary seed pod is now a goblet holding frozen crystals, or a rosebud is looking good enough to eat with a dollop of whipped snow atop. Small details you might otherwise miss in form and texture for a brief period, is boosted by the miracle of a little snow.

Daylily seed pod

Knockout rose

Kerria japonica

'Little Gem' magnolia

 

cattail at the pond

umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Walk In The Snow

The blowing and drifting snowstorm arrived today bringing about 8″ of snow so far to the Tidewater area.  Virtually all of Virginia experienced snow with some areas blanketed by a foot or more.  Thankfully, mister gardener and I did not have to venture out by vehicle.  A short afternoon walk was invigorating however, especially for the dogs who love a romp in snow.  Back inside, mister gardener kept the fires burning and we could stretch out and enjoy a good book and/or browse through a stack of seed catalogs.  We have not lost power and all is well.

Tomorrow should bring sunny skies and possibly warm enough weather to begin the big melt. Here’s a snapshot of what it looked like in Gloucester VA today.  Love to know how the rest of the state fared!

And so we started out...

Take a shortcut through the porch? No such luck. The door was frozen shut.

There's nothing like snow to bring out the puppy in an old dog

Yummy, it tastes like SNOW!

Snow was shaken from boughs that hung dangerously low under the weight.

More than 50 birds fed beneath and around several feeders. Some like this Carolina Wren sought shelter among the clay pots and driftwood.

A dark-eyed junco, frosty and cold, marched slowly back to shelter beneath the cotoneaster.

This gave me a start but it's only a faux feathered friend. It's a good reminder to keep birds well supplied with food in harsh weather.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

SNOW is on the way!

Have you seen the national weather map? A major storm is knifing through the lower Mississippi Valley.  You name it, they have it: snow, ice, flooding rains, thunderstorms. And this major system is sliding eastward to the mid-Atlantic area.  They tell us it’s going to be messy, folks. By tonight snow may begin to fall in Virginia and by Saturday morning we will experience a major winter snowstorm.

Just gazing out the window, it’s hard to believe that a winter storm is on the way.  The sun is shinning. The sky is blue.  Winds are light and out of the Northeast at 5 to 10 MPH.  The eagles are soaring above the river. The labs are napping in the grass just soaking up the rays from the sun.

Little Gem magnolia today

Thank goodness for weather forecasting.  We have primed the generator.  We have stocked up on water and other goods.  A fresh cord of wood is neatly stacked and ready.  The bird feeders are filled. Events that needed to be canceled have been canceled.

Little Gem magnolia may look much like this on Saturday

The foot or more of snow in Tidewater will surely create havoc for travel on the ground and in the air.  But we, mister gardener, the dogs, the cats and I, plan on a day of hibernation.  We are prepared like little squirrels with our food and warmth in our little nest.  We will try not to think about the travel mayhem across the state.  When we venture out, it will be on foot to enjoy the splendor of a winter wonderland.

Here’s hoping that everyone will stay safe and can appreciate the beauty that the snow will bring to the landscape.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester