I’m a Michigan girl, which means not only am I used to four seasons but dramatic, often vacillating transitions between those seasons. In the spring and fall it is not uncommon to have sunny, 80-degree weather and windy, perhaps rainy 40-degree weather shortly after (sometimes in the same day). Until recently, I always remember winter being abysmally cold and sustained with ample snow. The last few winters in Michigan have been very mild, even if they were sprinkled by some bad storms here and there. In fact last winter, I was still digging in dirt not long before Christmas!
This winter is making up for all the mildness we’ve recently experienced. We’ve had a record-breaking cold snap with day after day in subzero temperatures (not to mention the deep wind chill). I now have a new definition of abysmally cold. And I should know – I’m an expert in hating highly disliking cold. I can’t stand being cold. I’m not really a fan of snow. I appreciate a white Christmas and then it can all go away as far as I’m concerned. Give me liberty summer or give me death the furnace set at 75!
I’ve never understood why people love
winter so much. I especially dislike it when the weather starts just
baaarrrrley turning cold in the fall (say, the first 60-degree day of
September) and Facebook is alight with “Oh, fall is here!” and “Cold
weather is coming!” and “I just broke out the Christmas music!” Really?
Really?!? I get so annoyed with folks who drag Christmas into
Thanksgiving and Halloween.
I’ve always thought of myself as a champion of holiday sanctification; a seasonal purist. Please – no Christmas trees before pumpkins, thank you! But then as December rolled into January and I started blogging about garden plans and seed starting and “Spring is almost here!” I realized… I’m one of them. I wish away winter just like the Christmas-music-in-September-Nazis fancy truncating summer.
Then I had another strange epiphany… trapped in my house for days on end by sub-zero windchills, I’ve spent a lot of time looking out. And contemplating what I see… and thinking about the bright side. And I realized… winter’s not all that bad. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to actually be thankful for winter. Here are a few…
Some Plants Need Cold Weather
Some of our favorite garden plants actually benefit from a cold snap. For example, according to Grey Duck Garlic, “garlic requires vernalization (exposed to cold) before or after planting. Cold temperatures stimulate garlic to sprout and develop a bulb.” Also many fruit trees – including Apple and Cherry – have a chilling time requirement. Here’s an explanation from The Housing Forum: “Fruit trees require a period of time called chill time which accumulates throughout cold weather seasons. Chill time begins as soon as the leaves fall off of the tree and extends to the first bloom. Cherry trees require between 600 and 700 hours of chill time to produce ample and healthy blossoms.”
Cold Weather Diminishes Pest Populations
I’ve heard more-experienced gardeners talk before about the fact that winter weather helps to reduce pest populations, namely bugs. A deep freeze like we’re experiencing is likely to have a deeper impact. For example, a tiger mosquito’s eggs are destroyed below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to garden pests, a deep freeze is hard on moth populations as well. Apparently adult moths mate at night when temperatures are above freezing, and since those days have been few and far between so far this winter, we might be in luck.
Snow Replenishes Waterways
Water is an important natural resources, especially in Michigan. During the summer drought two years ago some waterways were very low and dry. Since snowfall eventually replenishes tributaries and aquifers, it also replenishes our lakes, ponds and streams in time. National Geographic reports that “the recent Arctic blast that gripped much of the nation will likely contribute to a healthy rise in Great Lakes water levels in 2014.”
Winter Wonderlands are Beautiful
Have you looked outside? My yard looks like this – isn’t it beautiful? From within a warm house with a warm cup of tea in my hand, all that white stuff’s not so bad. (P.S. The pictures just don’t do it justice!)
Cabin Fever and Quiet Time
No one likes cabin fever, especially when you’re really trapped inside and not just staying home to be road-wise. But if we’re honest, most of us could benefit from a day or two of quiet together-time at home with family. Our family has broken out books and games and crafts during the last few snow days that haven’t seen the light of day in a while.
Winter-Related Sports and Commerce
Not all of us are stuck inside during snowy weather. Some crazy people live for the day when there’s enough snowfall to ski, snowmobile or go sledding. For yet others getting out into the elements is less about choice and more about employment. We’re so indebted to the men and women who make their living by clearing roadways, parking lots and driveways so that the rest of us can go about our business safely. All of these activities have an impact on our economy by creating seasonal jobs and income.
Spring Really Is Coming
Ironically, one of the benefits of winter is that it helps us appreciate warmer weather. Close friends of ours from Malaysia often commented on how much they loved the change in seasons, with winter ranking as their favorite time of year. They came from a climate of warm, warm, warm day after day. That sounds pretty tempting when I’m lugging water out to the chicken coop with a -30 degree wind smacking my face. But if Michigan was always warm, warm, warm day after day I would never get to experience that euphoric feeling when the days suddenly turn substantially warmer and the sun on my face reminds me of how much vitamin D I’ve been missing (and how great it makes me feel)! Or when I awake (physically and otherwise) to the realization that songbirds brought me out of slumber. Or when the trees explode with green seemingly overnight and I remember how full of life the world is. I plod through the winter and do my best to be thankful for what we receive. But when songbirds and sunshine and green things remind me of just how cold and stark and quiet the winter has been, I appreciate these things all the more. Spring really is coming… and that hope would be meaningless if it weren’t for winter.
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