January, being named for the Roman god Janus, is something of a two way street in time. The name Janus means “archway” and he was a god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings [Janus. I sit and think of this pagan mythology early on Sunday morning.
I, too, look backward and forwards at the same time while ensconced in the icy white shrouds of winter frost, cold snow strewn winds, and pallid blue skies. I am the Snow Queen this month, enjoying the cover of snow- because if one must endure the cold, at least make it tolerable with snow. Of course I say that now, with the frigid temperatures preserving the pristine white of the fluffy mounds of whipped cream drifts; in the grayed and soiled snows of January melts I’m not so enamored of the treasures of the snow.
If my tiller were in good working order, which it is not, I would make use of the singular time that appears in most of my winters: a dry earth of heaved soil which when covered in snow yields the “poor man’s fertilizer”. As I learned, the snow will still give nitrogen to the ground, whether I can take advantage of the thawed, yet not soaked, earthen openings of my vegetable garden space, or not.
Snow and Nitrogen:
There is something else that happens when it snows: nitrogen is deposited by the snow and absorbed either into the soil food web residing and active at low temperatures or by plants as a result of nitrogen fixation, a microbial activity which, astonishingly enough, can take place even at low temperatures. Even when the soil is frozen, its eventual thaw can result in the absorption of nitrogen.
Well, it turns out not only snow, but rain as well, contains nitrogen compounds that were suspended in air as they formed.
It is estimated that 2 to 12 pounds of nitrogen are deposited per acre as a result of snow and rain. Most of this nitrogen comes from emissions as a result of burning fossil fuels and industrial manufacturing. The rest comes from lightning fixing atmospheric nitrogen, which makes up 70 percent of air, as I recall.
snow “the poor farmer’s fertilizer.” – Full Story
Ruth Kirk, the author of “Snow”: “Snow not only insulates against low minimum temperatures but also against fluctuations.
A bare soil surface may be heated by direct sunshine, then cooled in seconds as clouds pass overhead, and its temperatures often surge drastically from day to night. Snow moderates these swings and that can be a crucial advantage.”
She also corroborates the old saw that snow is the poor farmer’s fertilizer. Ms. Kirk found evidence that snow, drawing on ions from the upper atmosphere, adds nitrates as well as some sulfates, calcium and potassium to the soil. –NYT Story
January is slow to warm in terms of outdoor work, and so it is perfect for forward looking plans and backward looking calculations. Regrets are best put to bed by facing them and creating new pictures of future efforts.
Questions I ask myself now:
- What is reasonable to expect from my resources in the coming year? Do I have energy/money/time for the efforts I imagine?
- How should I re-prioritize to accomplish what I would like? What life balance must be taken into account? Do I weight my desires too lightly, or too highly?
- Is my plan healthgiving and fruitful? Or time consuming and depleting? How can I adjust it to be more positive?
- Am I prepared to make my dreams come true?
These questions must come first, before drawing the plans, or ordering from catalogues. The garden is such a transitory thing, it is the perfect lesson lab for life. How often has it shown me my folly of believing I held control? Or the illusion of “sheer willpower”? Burns had his wee mousie, I have memories of last year’s tomatoes.