NATURE’S TURN: Winter muse, then arctic freeze, winds transform the landscape

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By Monday, Nov 20 Farm and Table
Judy Isacoff
First snow: Schoolhouse Garden, Mount Washington, Mass. Nov. 8, 2017, 9:20 a.m.

November 20 – December 3, 2017

Mount Washington — The garden was still lush with a diversity of green plants 10 days ago when hoarfrost decorated each broadleaf and blade. Plants painted with prickly frost crystals sparkled, lit by morning’s first sunbeams. Every sparkle flashed rainbow colors. Each uniquely rimed leaf invited a close-up look. Beyond the garden, the broad landscape was frosted – from near herbaceous vegetation to woody growth to distant, forested hills. The appearance of hoarfrost and the first snow occurred within a day of each other on the Taconic Plateau. Both phenomena were fleeting like most mesmerizing visions and magical interludes. As the sun rose above tall hemlock trees to the east, the snow of the 8th and the ice crystals the next morning melted. The vision of water’s many states of being vanished.

The long view. Nov. 9, 2017, 8:41 a.m. Photo: Judy Isacoff

It is sobering to realize that, for most people who live in urban environments, renderings of aspects of these natural scenes offered for sale as holiday ornamentation may be the only glimpse of the beauty of nature in wintertime.

The season’s gentle muse was followed by two mornings of unseasonable 14-degree thermometer readings along with tempestuous winds that made for wind-chill temperatures around zero. I had covered crops that remained in the ground with fabric, including quilted mattress covers designated for the purpose, and large barrels. I had no time to harvest and process the vegetables so was resigned to offer the precious produce as an experiment for the sake of knowledge: What would be edible after the onslaught?

Hoarfrost on winter wheat, amsonia, turnip and beet greens. Nov. 9, 2017, 8:50 a.m. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Prized heads of radicchio lettuce, under barrels, survived! Turnips, though showing signs of having frozen, are good to eat but I don’t expect to store them for more than a week. Beets seem to be unchanged, although I’ll prepare them soon. I’ve lost the beet greens. Kale has recharged from a limp state; leeks, parsnips and perennial onion prevail.

Hoarfrost on kale. Nov. 9, 2017, 10:14 a.m. Photo: Judy Isacoff


Nick Diller,, personal communications

Frost And Your Plants: What You Need To Know –

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