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After the Frost

After our first frost on November 1st, I've been watching the plants in the herb garden. Our average first frost date is October 31st so we were right on schedule. It was 30*F when I got up that Saturday morning. Since then we've had cold night temperatures, but no frost or freeze until yesterday, November 11th.

I was surprised that not all of my herbs were killed by the first frost. I'd taken the pots of oregano, chocolate mint and rosemary inside the day before to overwinter in the house. Of the plants that were left outside, the basil succumbed right away and the zinnia plant (not an herb, just pretty flowers) dried out over the next couple of days.

The nearby tomato and paprika pepper plants of course were frost-bitten, although the tomatoes themselves survived and for the following week I picked a tomato or two each day that was beginning to turn orange.

Then Scooter, my puppy, discovered the green tomatoes and picked them off the branches. They were more visible after the leaves died off and I guess they were irresistible. He'd lay in the yard, gnawing on one of the hard green orbs, or tossing it around like a ball. I'm finding half-eaten tomatoes every time I go outside.

The frost survivors: the calendula plants were still green, and the marigolds continued to bloom. The catnip looked pretty good - I'd harvested most of the leaves before the frost, but those that remained didn't give up until this week's killing frost which of course wiped out everything.


I air-dried the catnip leaves in baskets, laying on paper towels. When they were completely dry and I moved them to a storage jar, I tossed the paper towels in the nearly-full trash can, but on my next trip through the kitchen the paper towels were torn into shreds and strewn around the floor with Collins lying in the middle of them, his eyes glazed over and a silly grin on his face. He must have reached up and pulled the papers out of the trash can.

I had two window panes that we'd saved from the old goat shed when we tore it down, and I thought they might fit on top of the two metal tubs I've been using as planters. They did fit exactly - but the tops of the tubs aren't flat, they have been bent, pulled down, and one tub isn't quite square anymore. There is too much space for cold air to make its way inside, so my cold-frame idea won't be as simple as I'd hoped. I'll need to build a box to fit the window glass. I'd better get busy on that so they will be ready to use in early spring.

The horses and goats hadn't grown much in the way of winter coats until that first frost, but now they have soft, thick, fuzzy coats that will help keep them warm. The barn cats have found warm hidey holes among the hay bales in which to spend the cold nights.

I've pulled the tank heater out of storage and it is keeping the horses' water trough free of ice. I can dip unfrozen water from this large trough for the cats and chickens until our daytime temperatures crawl above freezing again; I've also gathered empty cat litter jugs to use to haul water from the house for the goats.

Stay warm, everyone! The weatherfolk say it's going to be this cold for the foreseeable future.

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