None of us expected our fall to end like it did last weekend. In my 40 years here, I can’t remember such an early snow that stuck around as long as this one did. While it left me scrambling to finish a couple of projects, I also stopped to appreciate the change of seasons.
As I left the house Sunday morning I was struck with how quiet it was. The snow had muffled most of the usual early morning sounds so that the landscape was hushed. The snow made a gentle hiss as it landed on my jacket. The chickadees and nuthatches were twittering as they flew back and forth between the feeder and our maple tree. In the span of two hours they ate 2 inches of sunflower seeds from the feeder.
As I walked to the car, I checked out the animal tracks that crisscrossed the driveway. Several cat tracks as well as a squirrel and two or three deer. One set of the cat tracks belonged to a young, half-Siamese tomcat we are trying to win over to get him out of the cold. His tracks led under an evergreen where he hides when he hunts under the bird feeder. His success rate is poor; the birds all know him and where he hides.
The ground is still too warm for snow to stick for very long, so the driveway didn’t have as much snow on it as the surrounding lawn. However, there were odd tuffets of snow that looked for all the world like large pieces of popcorn all over the driveway. Upon investigation I found a leaf under each tuffet. The leaf was acting as insulation from the warm asphalt, so the snow hadn’t melted.
We were lucky that most of the leaves were off the trees before the wet snow hit. Any earlier and we could be facing a lot of broken limbs. Remember that the 1996 Ice Storm happened in mid-November and the damage it did. Stage a few bamboo poles near your trees so you can knock snow off limbs if we get a heavy, wet snow later in the winter. Tap the branches gently to release the snow.
All this cold, wet weather called for a big pot of beef stew to warm me up after being outdoors for a while. With the meat in the Crock-Pot I began gathering the potatoes, leeks, garlic, carrots and parsnips to add to the stew; all from this summer’s harvest. The carrots and parsnips were still in the garden under a couple of inches of snow getting sweeter with each new frost. I felt like I was foraging as I tried to find a space to stick the fork in the ground through the snow without spearing any of the vegetables. After a bit of digging, the yellow, orange and white treasures emerged from the still soft ground covered with dirt and snow. It is going to be a good stew.
Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening. com.