The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Negative 22

Pathways in the snow

At -22 Fahrenheit, we clearly see the difference between the addition we built and the main trailer. Even though the corners aren't precisely square in the former, we insulated it like mad and thus find it easy to keep the internal temperature at a balmy 68 throughout arctic blasts. In contrast, inside the trailer, I had to keep the wood stove running full bore from 4:30 am on to maintain a temperature above 40. We sure would add a lot more insulation to our main living space if our normal weather regularly dropped down so far below 0.

Dog walking down a snowy trail

Despite the momentary discomfort, though, my main concern with this cold snap is fruit trees. Will our Chicago Hardy fig simply die back to the ground the way it did last year at -12, or will -22 be the death knell for this Mediterranean fruit? Our current thick snow cover should protect overwintering garlic and strawberries, but with dormant peach buds starting to get damaged at -10 Fahrenheit, will we even see a bloom this spring? I sure am glad I decided to wait at least until March to prune.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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A neighbor of mine did an experiment with solar water heating. He created a box, painted it black, ran some copper tubing through it, also painted black and somehow hooked it up inside his house to a water heater. The whole thing got so hot in the winter sun the water was almost boiling. I was thinking maybe I could do something like this to heat a greenhouse, by just running the pipes through the greenhouse bare and allowing the hot water to heat the area. Now I'm wondering if you can't do something similar. After all, that's the way radiators up north work. They have hot water heated by a furnace running through pipes.
Comment by Na Yan Sat Feb 21 09:49:04 2015
Anna - when I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts was about your fruit trees too! This colder-than-normal cold snap has got to be hard on them - I hope they come through okay. I asked Hubby - "aren't you glad we haven't yet planted the $928 worth of trees and fruit bushes that I want to order?". For homesteaders, a deep freeze could mean an entire growing season and harvest failure. I keep wondering if I should only plant varieties that are much hardier than our zone (6) to combat these random weather swings in future.
Comment by Karen B Sat Feb 21 11:03:13 2015

Also Anna/Mark - Hubby asked me yesterday "When it's THIS cold out, what ~has~ to be done outside, and how long do you think it will take?"

We ask as not-yet-Homesteaders. We will be following along a path very similar to yours, and would love to know what has to happen on the farm (similar to yours with size, gardens, animals and mechanical systems) when it is bitter outside.

I'd love to hear what you do on days like this. Thank you!

Comment by Karen B Sat Feb 21 11:10:19 2015

I feel your pain! We didn't get as cold as you guys,,, but it was still crazy cold for us... I'm worried about my figs too... they are my favorite fruit. We wrapped the base up in wool this year left over from last year's dairy sheep raising experiment (which did not go well) to see if that would help! we lost power to the big ice storm and thank goodness we had carried in extra wood. We stayed pretty warm but more insulation would be nice! We trailerstead too :-)

Comment by angie silvera Sat Feb 21 12:35:16 2015
Al Gore notwithstanding, the real scientists are telling us we're headed for 30 yrs of nasty winters like these last two. Karen's point is well taken: it may be wisest to plan on that by planting for one zone colder than you're listed at now.
Comment by doc Sat Feb 21 18:20:07 2015
Hi Anna, Did you catch the recent article on npr's website about burying fig trees? Italian immigrants to the northeast area brought fig cuttings. They have a tradition of digging a big pit next to the fig tree and bending the whole tree over into the pit, then covering with sacks, boards, and then a mound of dirt. Like a temporary root cellar! I'd send you the link, but I think your site blocks it out. Just google for "burying fig trees", and it's the first link.
Comment by Rena Sat Feb 21 20:40:03 2015
Just wanted to comment on the first comment regarding hot water heat. I've been reading up on this a lot, and it can be very dangerous if you don't use the right pressure valves. I saw a photograph where someone did not do it properly, and pretty much blew out their roof. It was lucky they weren't standing nearby. Just a FYI. Definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Blessings.
Comment by Heather Tue Feb 24 10:15:37 2015

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