I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and I hope that at least one of the dishes served was something that you grew yourself. I had some home-grown winter squash served with local maple syrup as well as the last of my fingerling potatoes. Most of the potatoes were really not much bigger than my thumb, thanks to this summer’s drought, but they really do taste different than store bought ones. If you have not grown potatoes I would recommend that you give them a try next year. I also have some smoked wild turkey breast meat in the freezer from the bird I bagged in May, but that is reserved for sandwiches on fishing trips. I did not bring any Brussels sprouts down to Florida with me since my family is not all that fond of these tasty minicabbages, but I did bring a dozen pints of homemade pickles. My kids deep fried the Butterball turkey they bought, which is something of a southern tradition that I used to be skeptical of, but I have come to really like turkey cooked like this!
Whatever the temperature, smog is not good for you!
Last week’s snowstorm was a reminder of what winter in upstate New York is supposed to be like. Last year’s open, mild, winter is not likely to repeat itself very often in our lives, despite global climate change. Climate change has always been occurring since this planet was formed and the question our leaders are dealing with now is how much of the change is due to reversible human activity. Specifically, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal which puts carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants in the atmosphere. Whether human pollution will cause the glaciers to melt in the next 20 years or so is debatable, but there is no doubt that we need to find a different source of energy. Fossil fuel emissions kill or sicken millions of people each year all over the earth and that fact is not debatable regardless of your political views. Several friends of mine have visited China in recent years where the air pollution is so bad that almost everyone wears masks in the city or develops a characteristic cough. It was not all that many years ago when air pollution from auto emissions alone caused a visible haze over most cities here in the United States and made many people sick. We have made strides in reducing emissions, but the bottom line is that the internal combustion engine needs to be replaced, not refined, as our main source of energy.
Rock salt does not play well with plants
OK, I will get off my soapbox and onto a few tips for the upcoming winter. Most of us know that rock salt is toxic to all plants and roadside trees and shrubs along highly salted roads are most at risk. You can put three- or four-foot-wide strips of black plastic mulch over the ground between your plants and the road which will keep some of the salt from leeching into the root zone. For driveways, doorways and foot walks you can use calcium chloride or some of the other less toxic alternatives to protect plants. These products are far more expensive than rock salt, but they are also much more effective. Rock salt is actually pretty useless when the temperature is below 20 degrees and it is also very corrosive to concrete. In a pinch, you can use regular fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 as a deicer, but this is even more expensive and can also burn nearby plants. Wood ashes from the fireplace or woodstove will indeed improve traction, but they make a huge mess when tracked into the house, as does kitty litter.
Finally, make sure you continue to water any trees or shrubs you planted this past summer until the ground freezes solid.