Posts Tagged ‘First Frost’

1. Field

Early last Sunday morning I set out to climb Hewes Hill is Swanzey, which takes you to Tippin Rock. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wore sneakers instead of my hiking boots and by the time I had  crossed the field to get to the trail head my feet were soaked from the heavy dew. One unusual thing about this photo is that there is a cloud in it. That’s been a rare sight around here this summer.

2. Frosted Clover

Dew wasn’t the only thing in the field. The red clovers saw their first frost of the season.

3. Frosted Clover Leaves

Each leaf was covered in ice crystals, but it wasn’t enough to harm them. By the time I had come back down the lone cloud had disappeared and the sun was full on the field, but there wasn’t a sign that anything had been damaged by frost.

4. Trail

The trail was shaded and much cooler than I expected. The steady climbing kept me plenty warm enough though.

5. Mossy Stump

Mossy stumps tell the logging history of this place but it’s still very hard to picture these hills barren of trees as most of them were a hundred years ago.  One very unusual thing about this particular piece of land is its lack of stone walls. I was looking for them but didn’t see a single one. I didn’t think it was possible.

6. Greater Whipwort

You have to look closely at those mossy stumps because not all that is green is moss. I saw several stumps covered with greater whipwort liverworts (Bazzania trilobata.) The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the three tiny lobes at the bottom of each leaf. Though its common name includes the word greater this is a very small liverwort, but the fact that it grows in large colonies makes it easier to see.

7. Blaze

This trail is well blazed but many aren’t. I’m not sure that those who maintain trails understand how important blazing is, especially at this time of year. Though well-worn trails might seem obvious to those of us who follow them regularly, when the leaves fall they cover them-often to the point where they can’t be seen. Without blazes on the trees it’s very easy to lose your way in the fall and I’ve had several people tell me that they won’t go to one place or another because the trails are so poorly marked. I think that people who are unfamiliar with a trail should help blaze it, or at least have a say in where the blazes appear.

8. Face

Sometimes trail blazers get a little carried away, but not often.

9. Bent Tree

This tree started down a crooked path but finally decided to straighten up. Much like a few humans I know, I thought as I continued on up the trail.

10. Tippin Rock Sign

In the past when I’ve done a post about this place I’ve mentioned how “Captain Obvious” must have put this sign up, but I can’t get a good shot of both the sign and the rock it points to to prove it.

11. Tippin Rock

The sign is mere feet from this 40 ton glacial erratic boulder, which would be real hard to miss even in the dark. The boulder gets its name from the way it rocks (tips) back and forth if you push it in the right place. I’ve never been able to move it but I’ve talked with someone who saw a group of kids all stand on one end to make it move. If you look closely at the underside you can see that it comes down to a point like the keel of a boat. Someday I’ll meet a group of younger people up there who’ll be frantic to make it tip.

Meanwhile though, I think I’ve finally solved a mystery about this rock that has bugged me for quite a while. A photo from circa 1900 show this face of the boulder covered with lichens, but as you can clearly see in the above photo there is hardly a lichen on it.

12. Old Photo of Tippin Rock

Here is the photo that I’m speaking of. This is the same face of the boulder as that seen in the previous photo and it’s covered with rock tripe lichens (Lasallia pustulata.) The mystery was, how did they all disappear in 100 years? Lichens don’t do that; there should be more of them, not fewer.

I’m not sure who the lady in the photo is but she illustrates very well how big this stone really is. I’d guess that it’s about 8-9 feet high, 18-20 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.

13. Wire Brush

Anyone who has worked in a park or a cemetery knows that the easiest way to remove lichens from stone without harming the stone is with a wire brush, and here is one tied to this tree just a few feet away from the boulder. Really, I wondered, someone has that much free time? I appreciate their efforts and I know their heart is in the right place but a naked rock looks a little out of place and unnatural when all the other rocks in the neighborhood are wearing lichens.

14. Rock Tripe

Rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) is a large green lichen that fades slightly and turns crisp like a potato chip when it dries out. It sticks itself to stone by way of a single, navel like attachment point. The rest of this lichen hangs from this central point and when wet enough feels like a cooked egg noodle. I can imagine that scrubbing them off stone with a wire brush would be challenging.

15. View

I came here early in the morning because last year I climbed in the afternoon to take photos of the fall foliage and I was disappointed that the bright sunlight didn’t let the colors come through very well. If you stand where I was standing when I took this photo the sun shines directly at you in the afternoon and the camera doesn’t seem to be able to cope with such blinding light, even if I underexpose. This morning light from the left is gentler on the eyes and colorful foliage should be much easier to see.

16. View

For now we’ll have to imagine the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. And if we’re real lucky a purple might appear here and there.

17. Rock Outcrop

There are some amazing outcrops of stone up here, with cliff faces so high and sheer that rock climbers come here to climb. The one pictured was small compared to the one the rock climbers use, and it was as big as a 2 story building.  That’s a full sized white pine tree standing there; I’d guess 50-75 years old.

18. Scattered Rock Posy

The rocks have lichens like this scattered rock posy (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) all over them. I was surprised to see the orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia) considering how dry it has been here. This is a small lichen that looks completely white or grayish unless you look closely.

19. Toadskin Lichen

I couldn’t come up here without stopping to say hello to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) They’re beautiful, interesting little lichens and I like to visit them when I can but they don’t make it easy; the only place I’ve ever seen one is on top of a hill. They are a cousin of the rocktripe lichens and the two often grow side by side. I think of them as rock tripe lichens with warts. They fasten themselves to the stone in the same way, and you can see the navel at the top center of this example. The tiny black dots are their spore producing structures (Apothecia) which they seem to have year round.

I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful. I want to be the one who feels it. ~Marty Rubin

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Last Saturday morning I had errands to run but I also wanted to see if the weathermen had been correct with their frost predictions.

It was clear that we had had a good frost, but I wasn’t sure if it had been a freeze. A surface has to have a temperature colder than the surrounding air before water vapor will freeze on it to become frost. Frosts can happen when the air temperature is above freezing and are usually brief-happening just before sunrise and then melting quickly. A freeze happens over a longer period of time, and the temperature falls lower. The temperature might be 36 degrees for a frost and 28 degrees for a freeze. Below 28 degrees is considered a hard freeze.

Everything was coated in white. 

At the town landfill I spotted this colorful pile of crushed glass shining in the sun.

My second stop was the Ashuelot River, where nearly every plant had a coating of frost. This is a Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii.) this small, prickly shrub was introduced as an ornamental from Japan in 1875. Of course, it has escaped cultivation and now grows in forests all over New England. I like the way the frost formed a rim of needles around almost every leaf. 

These goldenrod blossoms looked like they had been snowed on. 

The asters looked the same-covered in ice needles. 

But when the sun touched a plant the frost disappeared quickly. 

What I didn’t expect to see was the native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooming, because the flower’s ribbon like petals are temperature sensitive and only unfurl when it is warm enough. On this morning it was about 30 degrees but the sun was shining brightly and the witch hazels were getting plenty of it, so it must have warmed them up enough to bloom. Since it is an understory shrub the leaves of the trees above it also kept it from getting frost covered. 

I probably won’t be seeing any more Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) until next spring. 

The ripples under the bark of the muscle wood (Carpinus caroliniana) tree are what give it its common name. It is also called American hornbeam, blue beech, and ironwood. It’s in the hazelnut family and it will take a lot more than frost to hurt this tree. My last stop was at a local lake and the ripples in the sand echoed those of the muscle wood. This shot, taken through about 6 inches of water, shows how brightly the sun shone and how still and clear the water was. It was warming up quickly and that meant I could head into the cooler, shaded woods, but that’s another story for another day.

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn

Stand, shadowless like Silence, listening

To Silence ~ Thomas Hood

Reminder: It is turkey and black bear hunting season here in New Hampshire. Be safe in the woods.

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Since I am both a gardener and allergy sufferer I was of two minds when I saw white patches on neighborhood roofs yesterday morning;  I don’t like to see our gardening season end, but I’m all for a good freeze wiping out the annual ragweed infestation. By the afternoon however, when I saw bumblebees buzzing among the still blooming impatiens, I knew the frost I had seen earlier was light and scattered at best. 

Gardeners and allergy sufferers who might have been thinking that the gardening and pollen seasons here in Southwestern New Hampshire seemed to be getting longer weren’t imagining it. Our average first frost date is September 15th and the chance of a hard freeze on October 7th stands at about 50%, but here it is October 8th and we haven’t even had a real frost yet. Temperatures this weekend are supposed to soar into the 80s and remain above average for most of the week. So what is going on?

Twenty researchers at the National Academy of Sciences, documenting pollen data and daily temperatures in Canada and the U.S. over the last 20 years, found an increase in the number of frost free days and a shift in the timing of fall frosts, which means that spring now begins earlier and fall later. In some areas the span between the last frost in spring and first frost in fall has lengthened by as many as 27 days.

A report whose lead authors include Lewis Ziska of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Christine Rogers of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst says “There was a highly significant correlation between latitude and increase in the length (days) of the ragweed pollen season over the period from 1995 to 2009.” Since ragweed is an annual plant that is killed by frost, this means that annual vegetables and flowers also have a longer growing season.

The aerobiology committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says:  “As we’re seeing warmer and warmer weather, fall gets warmer and longer and the effect is that there’s no frost to kill the ragweed and end the allergy season. Rising temperatures have produced a similar lengthening of the spring allergy season, which is now starting about a month earlier than it did decades ago.”

I can’t speak for allergy sufferers, but gardeners have known for a long time now that something was afoot-we didn’t really need scientists and politicians telling us that. But what is there to do about it? As I see it, all we can do is plant our gardens earlier and then take our allergy pills and harvest later, but a more long term solution might include voting for those who don’t deny the reality that surrounds them.

Photo of the Earth and Sun is by NASA

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I had written something else for today but I since frost is the hot topic I thought I’d talk about the weather instead. I know-everybody talks about it but nobody ever does anything about it!

All the signs were pointing to frost yesterday afternoon but we dodged a bullet here in suburbia. It’s mighty nippy out there right now at 6:00 am, (about 38°F) but I’m not seeing any frost. Since it’s always coldest (and darkest) just before dawn, I think the danger has passed. Yesterday we had falling temperatures through the afternoon with clear skies and no wind last night, and these are usually sure signs that frost is on the way, so I’m surprised. 

Clouds act like a blanket and keep temperatures from falling too fast, but clear skies allow radiational cooling, which just means that all the warmth escapes into the atmosphere. Wind stirs up the atmosphere and keeps cold air from settling and staying in one spot, but on windless nights the cold can pool in low spots and cause leaf surface temperatures to cool rapidly. When the surface of a leaf reaches 32° F water vapor can form ice crystals on it, and that is frost. Because cold air sinks, a thermometer 5 feet off the ground might read 40° F, while at ground level where plants are it can be freezing. This is when people ask how we can have frost when it’s so warm.

 A fact I find interesting is that cold air flows downhill much the same as water does. I once had clients who lived at the top of a hill and their first frost was always a week or two later than the unlucky folks at the bottom of the hill. I was also able to plant their vegetable garden much earlier in the spring because their higher elevation warmed earlier.

Speaking of vegetables, I hope everyone has their tarps or sheets ready. There was light snow on top of Cannon Mountain up in the White Mountains yesterday morning at an elevation of 4,080 feet, so it won’t be long before we see frost.

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From now until May, all bets are off!

I have already posted most of this in the September gardening guide on nhgardensolutions.com, but in case any of you missed it:

Though you may hear that it’s anywhere from the 11th to the 21st, tomorrow, September 15th is the traditional first frost date for this area and weathermen are calling for nighttime temps in the 30s by the end of this week. Though usually light and scattered at this time of the month, frost should be expected from now on. On average, in Keene, NH on September 15th the chance of frost is about 50%. By September 27th it is closer to 90%.

Gardeners should watch forecasts carefully and be prepared to cover their tender vegetables like tomatoes, annuals, and other tender plants with tarps, sheets, or even newspaper at short notice.  Hardy crops like those in the cabbage family, any root crops, most perennials, and garden mums will be fine uncovered.

If you are overwhelmed by green tomatoes and don’t want to cover them, pull the plants up by the roots, (or dig them) knock off all loose soil, tie some stout twine around the base of the stem and hang them upside down in a shed, garage or basement. Any bits of soil remaining on the roots will help keep them moist. Most of the tomatoes will still ripen in spite of such harsh treatment. This should be done before a frost kills the foliage, and they should be in a place where temps won’t fall below 32 degrees F after they are hung.

Over the previous two weeks house plants should have been slowly acclimated to growing indoors once again by being brought in over night. If not they should be brought in now or at least put undercover on a porch or in a garage.  Tropical houseplants will suffer any time the nighttime temperatures fall much below 55 degrees F and even a light frost can finish them off, so they shouldn’t be outside at night. Leaving the windows open during the day after they are brought in will also help them adjust.

Those wishing to do more planting or transplanting of spring bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees shouldn’t despair because there is still plenty of time for new plantings to establish good root systems before the soil freezes solid in December.  It may seem like we’ve had a lot of rain lately, but new plantings should still be watered deeply at least once each week and more often if it hasn’t rained. Plants can lose a lot of moisture in winter and soil moisture amounts can be very deceiving at this time of year, so they should be monitored to make sure that soil is good and moist when it finally freezes. Don’t rush to put those hoses away!

I found the photo of frost rimmed leaves on a website that offered free nature screen savers .

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