Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Will it...or Won't it?

Gorgeous skies out this morning. The clouds moving East as briefly backlit in spectacular fashion by the rising sun reminded me of this old saw, which was a favorite of my father's...

Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

Supposedly this predictive capacity of the sunrise and sunset skies is based upon the idea that a red sky results from the sun shining through clouds filled with dust and/or water, and if such clouds are to the West of a viewer that indicates a dust filled sky with newly stabilized air after a front has already passed through (most fronts moving from west to east riding the Westerlies according to this theory), while a red sky in the morning indicates either dust, or with a "fiery red" situation, moisture laden clouds with unsettled weather yet to move through the area.

So what's up with the red skies in Austin this morning? Maybe your life is not filled with weather geeks the way mine is, but whether or not you've been paying attention, buzz has it in meteorological circles that Austin is due for a hard freeze and potentially the first snow of the season, Friday, December 4th.

That's Austin, Texas, not Austin, Minnesota.I usually don't take such talk very seriously but was given pause when I heard they had thundersnow in San Diego a few days ago.

All of which highlights the need to understand we are not simply dealing with warmer temperatures alone so much as we are experiencing a more widespread climate disruption. I mean, snow in Central Texas before Christmas? Look in the dictionary under "disruption" and a copy of this week's weather forecast could be the illustration for the definition.

And I wouldn't care at all except for what a hard freeze could do to folks trying to earn a living growing food around these parts. Growers on a larger than back yard scale may not be able to arrange row covers for entire fields. Bad weather plus a recession can equal no profit for struggling farmers.

Not to mention what this might mean for trees already heat and drought stressed. Good news is the colder temperatures might put a damper on the nasty insect populations, but that will depend on the length of time spent below 32 degrees, of course, and unfortunately, the freeze doesn't differentiate between "beneficial" and "mosquito".

We have a new greenhouse here thanks to Hub's efforts but it seems not to provide any insulation other than protection from winds. The temperatures inside the plastic sheeting are currently running even with the temperatures outside.We will have to provide a heat source if we want this structure to do more than isolate certain plants. Which is almost as frustrating as the random early freeze predicted.

Gardening, especially with an eye to providing edibles, is certainly not for the faint of heart.

So.... What do you think about the snow in Austin in early December buzz? Typical, drum up advertising dollar weather forecast hooraw or might this be a serious freeze threat for our area?

And, how do you cope with the random hard freezes we have in this area? Do you duck? Let nature self select what will survive?

Cover? Throw protective layers over the tender stuff and hope it holds the temperatures higher?

Haul everything inside? Do you have room in your spaces for planters that ordinarily live out of doors? And if you do pull things in - do you leave them in for the winter or take them in and out depending on the forecast?

We do what I have come to think of as the WinterTime HodgePodge around here. Some plants will fall by the wayside if it gets too cold, others will get wrapped up a bit with fingers crossed, still others will do the in/out dance from the garage while a couple will start their wintering over inside the house stints.

At least the rains stopped for a bit so we can get things in without getting soaked for our troubles. Ah....winter......


  1. I like the setting for your greenhouse.--Kinda' woodsy & mystical. :-)

    Last weekend, I grouped all of my potted plants together in three spots in preparation for the first freeze. I have three rubbermaid garbage cans filled with old blankets and row covers specifically for this purpose.

    Tomorrow evening (Thurs.) as soon as I get home from work, I will cover everything. It will take 30-45 minutes. Brrrr!

    I built a potting shed with seven windows to put my plants in for the winter, but never got around to hooking up the electricity. Thus, like your greenhouse, it's just as cold inside that shed as it is outside. Maybe someday.

  2. Like you, I do the hodgepodge when freezes threaten. Today I hauled inside two potted plants, huddled others together outdoors in order to throw a sheet over them when the freeze comes, and left others to fend for themselves. I'm still not banking on the snow---there's always such hype about our chances---but I wouldn't be unhappy to see a little of the white stuff here.

  3. With us it is shepherds, rather than sailors.

    Well, my meteorological friend, that was quite a post.

    Actually, I didn't realize that you got snow or frost at all down there. I wouldn't raise my hopes for insect elimination: we had a fierce frost over quite a long time last year and that didn't slow anything down. Well, take the Northern States, and Canada: blackfly gone? I think not.

    Bubble wrap?

    I put horticultural fleece over my fuchsias, which looks unsightly but seems to help. Take it off in the day time, so I still have a bit of colour around. The winter jasmine doesn't need it. They are so tough.

    BTW, is that a chimney stuck on the front of that green house? Probably not.

  4. Anon, I covet your 3 cans of plant wrapping. I had repurposed covers I'd used for years that finally bit the dust and haven't replaced them all yet. I foolishly thought I'd have more time....

    Pam, I'm with you in my snowy skepticism. WIth the ground still relatively warm, it won't stick long but I wonder what it might do to traffic Friday. I have a son who works dinner shift in a restaurant out BeeCaves, and the idea of a commute plus any snow is not very fun.

    Jo, that chimney is a bird feeder hanging down. Since the greenhouse was put up the birds have been ignoring that feeder completely - I need to move it.

    We get annual frosts and freezes, with the occasional freezing rain (hands down the most destructive weather aside from hail around here) to varying extent. Snow however is quite a rarity so the potential always seems to cause speculative energy spikes.

    Fleas are a consistent problem year 'round here but they stick to the furry critters for the most part. Everybody is happy when a stretch of time below freezing takes the mosquito population out of the picture temporarily.

  5. Great post, Deb! I cover the veggies and wimpier plants that I like allot and bring inside a couple of potted plants. Everyone else is on his own, especially when the forecast is not for more than two days' straight of frozen temps. I think your greenhouse is super COOL, even if it doesn't insulate much! Stay warm!

  6. Most people in the country have a pump house to keep their well associated equipment in, like the pressure pump, pressure tank etc. Lights or little heaters are usually used to keep the water lines from freezing. So I figured if I had to have heat for that I may as well build mine into a green house and kill two birds with one stone. It's worked very well through the years and even stays warm enough to start my seedlings for the garden in it. I use a red heat lamp bulb in a light fixture down low.

  7. Thanks Iris! While the temperature inside the plastic stays the same as outside so far, there is protection from the wind at least, so it always feels warmer in there. We are considering heating options at the moment, so Bob's comment about a red light warming unit is quite timely.

    So far the temps here are above freezing but they are falling steadily. 8:30 and no snow so far. Eyes on the horizon!


About Me

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.