Update From Wild & Free: Our Garden is Flourishing

Categories: Homesteading

Greetings from Northern Canada! We've been under an unrelenting cold wave for most of “spring”. It was way back in mid-March when we had a spell of truly warm weather which had us giddy with excitement that the worst of winter was over. We were headed for an early spring! That celebration was premature and we've done nothing but pay for our unfounded exuberance.

All we've been able to do is bide our time and wait for the weather to break. The salad greens that have been planted in the cold frames are doing fine. In fact, we've already enjoyed our first salads. If you remember from my previous post, we have cold frames setup within the greenhouse. On cold nights, our technique is to put 3 milk jugs filled with hot water in the cold frames and then all is topped with garden fabric, the cold frame lid is closed and then the cold frames are covered by a thick, heavy blanket. An added hot water bottle was needed in our cold frame on the night of April 7th as night time temperatures were expected to be below 0F. Sure enough, the next morning greeted us with a reading of -20F . April 11th the morning temperature was -21F. These temps are well below normal. To add insult to injury, snow continued to fall during the first two weeks of the month and at one point, we had 30 inches of accumulated snow.

Most seedlings have been transplanted from the flats they were initially planted in to individual pots, and the melons, squash and cucumbers were started April 19 . Corn, the last vegetable to be started indoors, will not be planted until May 2 or 3. We have read that corn doesn't transplant well to a garden but we have found  the opposite to be true. As long as the plants are treated gently when it's time to plant into the garden, the plants don't take long to adapt and thrive. If we didn't start it indoors, there's no way we would have corn. The growing season is too short.

In the last couple of weeks we have seen a moderation in temperatures and we are finally losing the snow pack. It's about time! We are now in the spring breakup which means we are truly on our own. Normally, we would be accessible by float plane following visual flight rules, meaning a pilot needs to be able to to see where he or she is going. No night time or bad weather flights. Now that our lake is starting to melt, it is not safe for a float plane to land. Until open water shows, we are at that critical period when any emergency will now require an expensive helicopter to help us. The following is an excerpt from my book Off Grid and Free:My Path to the Wilderness.

“Spring breakup is a wonderful experience. Not only are the days getting longer but animals are more active and we are secure in the knowledge we’ve survived another winter—not to mention it’s fantastic to be outdoors on warm days. North of 56 degrees latitude, spring has the nasty habit of giving us hope one day, with 50°F temperatures and melting and then the next day dashing that hope with snow and a temperature of 10°F. But once we get over that hurdle, it is an interesting event.

Breakup begins with snow pack diminishing until all the snow has melted off the ice. Then the ice starts melting along the shoreline, slowly at first, but as more water is exposed and warms, the ice recedes more quickly. Every night the narrow band of open water along the shorelines refreezes, but each day we make a little more headway as the area that thaws becomes more expansive.

With the aid of the shining sun, melt water forms, which collects on top of the ice, forming large shallow pools. We can see water running into holes that started as small cracks. The force of the draining water creates small eddies that swirl in the holes. With the setting sun and cooler night temperatures, the melting is arrested and those shallow pools drain. If the melted surface refreezes overnight, it will likely be white the next morning, and as melting occurs that day, the surface will eventually turn a grayish color. Sooner or later, a time will come when the night temperature stays above freezing, allowing the rate of ice melt to accelerate.”

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