Preparing for Winter

If you haven't started preparing for winter, here is a checklist to it done right.

| October/November 1998

The 1998 growing season's over and the immediate future promises us little but a deluge of cold rain or colder snow, depending on where you spend your winters.

Don't expect a repeat of last winter's freakish El Niño weather. A strong weather reversal — called La Niña (young girl) in a PC effort to gender-balance El Niño (young boy) but historically termed El Viejo (old man) — is predicted to follow. El Niño's equatorial-Pacific Ocean temperature pattern will flipflop, producing different, but equally freakish, weather.

Meteorologists tell us that recent El Viejo years have featured cooler and much wetter weather in the Northwest, a colder Northern tier, much warmer and wetter weather in the East Central states, warmer than usual weather in the Southeast, and dryer than normal weather in the Southwest, all around the Gulf of Mexico, and up the Atlantic seaboard from Southern Florida to inland Maine.

Here in the North, we're preparing for winter by putting up an extra cord of wood, resoling the Bean boots we barely used last winter, and installing a block heater in the new truck and chains on the snow blower.

- In the garden, you should mulch the strawberry patch, asparagus, parsnips, over wintering beets, and carrots extra well under straw. Cover the winter-keeping root vegetables with black plastic to keep the ground thawed as long as possible for early winter digging. Anticipating a winter  with no prolonged seedling-killer warm spells, you can plant — in finely tilled soil and under a loose, thick mulch — spinach, leaf lettuce, and scallion seeds for an early start to salads next spring. Risk a row or two of edible pod pea seed as well.

- In the stock barn, rabbit hutches, and henhouse, close or plastic-sheet low windows, drop the burlap drapes at weather-ends of cages, and seal cracks and openings in the outer walls against winter wind. Remember, it's the draft more than the cold that causes discomfort or harm to your animals. Check the immersion water heaters in box stalls and heater bases for floor-mount waterers.

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