Writing by candlelight and fire evokes images of Abe Lincoln or Ben Franklin recording their thoughts at the end of a long day. But there is little else I was able to do after days without power finding myself alone tending a fire to keep the house warm and the pets fed. This trip back to an off- (or non-existent) grid New England was caused by a freak October snow storm that dumped nearly 18 inches of snow on my back yard. Only now, have I had the chance to post after more than a week of cleaning and catching up.
Initially pretty with large fluffy flecks covering the ground and plants, the snow became more and more menacing as the trees and bushes started to groan and sag against the weight of the snow. By 4:30 in the afternoon nearly 10 inches had dropped in a little over 4 hours and with it many a branch. The progression was fairly consistent: a slow and constant drop of a limb until it stopped moving downward. Nothing save more snow. It then became a waiting game. Could or would the tree be able to hold its own against the snow? Would the snow stop soon? How much would break or crack off?
Sometimes the branch released its cargo with a whoosh and thump like flour from a bag. It then shot upward to catch more snow and start its slow, downward movement again. Other times the snow was liberated only after a branch snapped with a large crack followed by a thud. This spectacle was repeated all evening until the morning when all was white and silent. Everything was broken and we were without power for nearly an entire week.
The butterfly bushes were crushed and laid over on their sides. The hydrangea snapped into pieces with their dried flowers smashed and spread all over. The Montauk daisies were crushed. The ornamentals fared the worse, particularly the Japanese maples.
All of the maples save one lost large chunks of their upper canopies. Like so many toothpicks the branches were scattered with jagged edges some hanging by a thin sliver of bark or wood. One of the trees split into three parts; one for each main leader that rose near the ground from a common base. It was splayed helpless among the pachysandra resting between a concrete Buddha and a crescent of azaleas. It seemed hopeless.
But the next week brought rapidly melting snow (though there is still a small pile in my yard) and progress. The damage forced me to cut back bushes and trees much sooner than I would have. Remarkably I was able to cable the trisected maple together with the base fitting neatly and cleanly together. I started to split wood every day as I burned through 1/3rd a cord in just a week. With each exhausting day came repair and the a view that this natural pruning process was not as bad as it could have been.
One surprise was how well my fall greens held up. Covered with Agribon and glass, my cold frames withheld the weight of the snow and saved the lettuces as well as the Swiss chard. My carrots emerged from the snow with tops still green and looking well. Even the herb garden suffered little damage save a few burnt leaves.
Last week I harvested a salad to have with my dinner. It was delicious.