Arctic express

We’re bracing for a chilly visitor coming this week from the Great Lakes and although we’re not exactly rolling out the red carpet for her, we’re stocking the cupboards and making sure there’s plenty of cocoa on hand.  When we’re told that the temperatures are going to dip into the single digits with forecasts of windchill in the negative 20’s my anxiety gene kicks on.  I start worrying like I’m told my great grandfather did, over the fate of our precious plants.

The greenhouse has a sophisticated system of furnaces that keeps the temperature of the houses within a very reliable range and the structure is as solid and tight as anything made mostly of glass and aluminum can be.  The only thing we’re lacking is the assurance of a good back up heating system in the worst-case-scenario of the power going out.  What we do have is a temperature sensor hooked up through the phones lines and set up to call us at home if the greenhouse temperature plunges.  And there’s a heater or two ready to go that will probably send out enough heat to keep the houses from falling below freezing.  What would be more reassuring of course is having a generator that could power the furnaces – but that’s a pie in the sky for another budget year.  For now, we’ll bundle up, crank the heat and cross our fingers and toes that our arctic visitor goes back to Canada without stealing any of our stuff for souvenirs.  And since our “stuff” is a large priceless part of what makes the Blithewold gardens the Blithewold gardens and represents hours, days, months, years, decades of work, it’s no wonder that Gail and I get nervous about the worst case scenario.

How do you prepare for cold weather?  Do you worry excessively (like me)?  Do you have a backup plan?

5 thoughts on “Arctic express

  1. I take the fatalistic approach….”It’s got two chances, it will live or it will die”!

    Layanee, Sometimes, that’s just the way it’s got to be. Stay warm! -kris

  2. I’m with Layanee, but then I don’t run a public garden! We had an ice storm in December that took out the power for three days (a first for us), and I worried and fretted about frozen/thawed/burst pipes. Thankfully, the temperature in the house didn’t get below 40°F, a relief. However, I had to come to the realization that there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about the situation other than wait for the power to come back on. I’d love to invest in a generator, but, as you say, that’s a line item for next year’s budget! Hope all remains well with you!

    Thank you, Jared. That must have been an awful 3 days – glad you and your plants didn’t freeze! -kris

  3. What’s going to come in at our house came in months ago. If the power goes out, we all go down together! For me, I go visit the Cornell greenhouses and breathe in the humidity. That takes the edge off of 6 degrees (a bit). That, and go into a near-vegetative state playing around on youtube. s’pose I could be doing yoga 😉

    I imagine youtube would be a dangerous distraction this time of year… And my plants at home are in the same kind of boat as yours. -kris

  4. It really doesn’t help to worry. But there are some compensations. I used to hate winter because nothing was growing in the garden. But now I’m determined to experience the best of nature in the winter. There’s always the surprise visitor at the bird feeder, the sight of an animal tough enough to live out in the snow. Keep your eye out for ways that nature compensates for the bleakness of winter. Visit my blog and read “Nature in Winter.” Enjoy!

    Selma, I agree – there’s a lot to love about winter. I wouldn’t mind the contrast of a beach vacation to make me fully appreciative though! -kris

  5. I’m a hydroponic grower in southern California (San Diego). As such, I don’t battle cold weather, but in the unlikely event of a hard freeze, I have devised a very simple way to keep the greenhouse safe.

    My solution is a heater that works using propane gas from a small tank (the kind used with a hand-held soldering torch) and electricity from a battery. The whole contraption (large enough to warm the air in a small to medium-size greenhouse) can be built for under $100.

    If you’ve an interest, email me from my web page ( or here:


    Thanks, Bert! That actually doesn’t sound very different from the solution we’ve got now but our propane heater is probably a little more powerful (it would need to be if we ever lost power on a single digit night) and run with a gas powered generator. -kris

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