Summer’s warmth will be here before we know it

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Boy, have we been spoiled.
This winter’s temperatures could have been a gardener’s dream, if we’d known. We could still have lettuce, spinach, turnips and kale growing, if we hadn’t put the gardens to bed. By this date last year, we had had 2.5 inches of snow.
What makes it snow? Moisture and temperature are the two culprits. Moisture in the air gathers into droplets and when the temperature cools enough, ice crystals are formed. As more are formed they get heavier. When it gets heavy enough, it falls as snow. So, where’s our snow?
Well, when we’ve had the moisture, we didn’t have the right temperatures for snow. When we had the cold temperatures, we didn’t have the moisture. I’m just grateful that it hasn’t been freezing rain, or worse.
During the winter of 2009 we had the worst ice storm in Kentucky’s history. We had 2-inch layers of ice on everything, and it was no picnic.
Ice storms form when a layer of warm air is between two layers of cold air. Frozen precipitation melts while falling into the warm air layer, and then proceeds to refreeze in the cold layer above the ground. This creates freezing rain or a glaze of ice. It’s like a winter Oreo cookie.
We have a cold front moving down from Canada right now. If the Gulf of Mexico sends us some warm air, we may be in for some real winter weather. I don’t want cookies. I’m a brownie girl.
So far, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has been a little off. It did call for below average precipitation for the month of December and slightly warmer temperatures. But, we were supposed to have a little more snow than we did.
It’s still cold to me and that means plenty of inside time. The mailbox has been stuffed with seed catalogues, giving me plenty of reading material. Each year there are lots of new seeds to choose from, but I just like to look at the vegetables shown. It reminds me of summer.
You remember summer. Those days when you didn’t grow a load of laundry in a matter of hours. Those mornings when you didn’t put on layers of clothes as you were getting out of bed. Those afternoons of shorts and sandals, not thermal underwear, thick socks and boots.
Here’s a warming thought. Spring is just 70 days away from today. We only have 10 more Mondays to live through before the sun maneuvers into the equinox. This spring may be a little colder and wetter than we like, but it will still be spring.
In the meantime, we’re raiding the pantry and turning out chili and casseroles to warm us up as the temperatures dip. Hot chocolate warms our hearts and bodies. The tomatoes, corn and beans are going into soups or on the side. We’ve had it easy so far, but a lot can happen in 70 days.
You can be a winter weather predictor, just watch the animals and skies. I work until 8 p.m. most days during the week, so during the winter I keep a close eye on the incoming fronts. Driving 18 miles out into the country, at night, during the winter, can get a little hairy and we know the weathermen don’t always get it right.
I keep an eye on the birds. If you see them become very active, fluttering frantically to and fro for food, you better start watching the radar closely. Remember there is a 100-mile “fuzzy zone,” built into the radar models.
Look for clouds that look like a cauliflower because that means moisture is growing. Watch for a halo around the moon and expect precipitation by morning. Let’s have strong positive thoughts and keep at least the ice at bay.
Stock up on milk and bread now. The bread will keep in the freezer and the ultra pasteurized milk keeps for weeks. Remember, it’s better to be prepared and not need it, than the other way around. Just keep dreaming of warm, sunny days and they’ll be here before we know it. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.