What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, those of us who call west-central Minnesota home had 3 ft of snow on the ground already. This year we have none. When we do get snow, it’s only a dusting and the above normal temps, quickly melt it.
Our area has a 90% chance of “enjoying” a brown Christmas. A white Christmas is defined [by our local TV weather guys] as having at least ½” of snow on the ground (often referred to as snow-pack). If you view our webcam from time to time, you can plainly see that we have no snow. Any white we experience is usually nothing more than the frost each morning.
No snow makes it quite nice for those of us who hadn’t quite gotten all of our fall duties done. It does, however, bring concern for next spring. How will the lack of snow effect the soil moisture content for next spring’s planting and growing season? Also, snow helps insulate the ground and helps prevent the production of a deep frost line. The problem with frost going too deep is that our buried water lines can freeze. Here in MN, our average frost line is usually 3-3½ ft. Anything deeper and we have a very good chance of losing our water to the barn and our automatic waterers for the cattle and the goats, here on the farm. The area of concern is under the driveway. It is so compacted that little air is left in the soil. In 2008, we had a cold winter with little snow – our water line froze in Feb or March and didn’t thaw until May. Back then it wasn’t much more than an inconvenience, but now… it would be catastrophic. I’m not sure if it would be possible to water all the livestock, using 5 gal pails, as we would need to collect water from the hydrant near the well – 100′s of feet from the nearest animal enclosure and over a 1,000 feet from where the cattle are. Just to lose our water supply to the barn would be devastating.
Another concern is our small vineyard and new hops bines. Winter-kill is huge cause of vine & bine causality. Without moist ground and plenty of snow-cover, the root system of the grapevines & hops plants dry-out. The plants then die. Our first winter with grapes was a tough one. We lost nearly 40% of our vines, due to winter-kill. We really don’t know how hardy our hops are, since this was our first year with them.
Brown will give an odd feel to Christmas this year if we don’t get snow. That’s for sure. Maybe we’ll get a few flurries. That’ll be better than nothing.
Rich & Carol