Friday, November 21, 2008

Kale and Thoughts on the Little Ice Age

It seems like we've had our first real taste of winter these past five days; unseasonably cold and blustery, with mid-day temperatures never above 40 degrees and plumeting down into the mid-twenties at night. The pansies and mums I have in two hanging baskets out front nearly bought it the other day when I'd left them outside until merely an hour after sunset. Fortunately, the protection of a relatively warmer night in the basement seemed to revive them (at least somewhat).

Kale thriving in mostly sub-freezing weather

By comparison, the dwarf kale I had planted out back is not only surviving, but apparently thriving, in this sudden cold. The plants are noticeably larger than they were just a few weeks ago. This is truly a cold weather loving plant. But none the less, this winter is predicted to be a severe one, and as soon as there is a slight rise in temperature, I'll properly protect them with a cover of mulch.

All the upstairs rooms of the Hawkins House, except for the hall chamber, lack hot-air registers. In these conditions, they take a long time to warm up, as hot air slowly circulates out from the hall chamber, as well as upwards from the first floor. These unheated rooms always remain on the cool side, and begin to chill rapidly as soon as the furnace shuts off. This is something I'll need to address in my plans to improve the heating system next year.

However, it got me thinking about what life in the house was like in the distant past.

Winters in colonial New England were generally far more severe than what we've experienced in modern times. In fact, many climatologists agree that there was a general dip in temperatures in Europe and North America, from around the mid-seventeenth century until the late nineteenth century, a period sometimes referred to as The Little Ice Age.

My house's early occupants had endured far more severe and prolonged cold than I will perhaps ever experience in my life time. It's hard to imagine what it was like trying to stay warm on those frigid winter nights, the entire family huddled together in the kitchen or great room, directly in front of the largest fireplace in the house. Some one had to ensure that the fire remained stoked throughout the night, and no one dared venture away from the flames and into the outer rooms.

[ This house is frozen brittle, all except this room you sit in. - Robert Frost, "Snow" ]

So why am I complaining about a mere 11 degrees below average, over just a few days in November?

The BRT on Christmas Eve, about one month after this posting, with an interesting wind-blown slab on its roof.

1 comment:

AlexandraFunFit said...

Kale will make you hale, but driving that red truck will make you a chick-magnet, especially if they find out you can garden! Wait. Did I just give away my "things that make a guy seem hot" preferences? Well, what else can one do in those freezing-ass rooms you have all over your house?