Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Talking in their sleep

We've recently had a couple of hard frosts, leaving the fields crisp and white and the taps frozen. It meant cold fingers when tending to the livestock first thing in the morning and filling the water troughs a bit more of an irksome task than usual. Now is the time the sheep become distinctly more interested in the hay put out for them. It looks like we are in for another cold spell towards the end of the week.

Although plants that are on the tender side that have not been given any protection will now start to suffer there are some benefits of a hard frost. In fact mild winters, which are increasingly more common, are concerning for gardeners. For those with heavy soil the action of frost helps to break down soil clumps after winter digging. Frost helps to eliminate many pests such as aphids and white fly; the fewer that survive the winter the better. Blackspot and fungal canker diseases can also be killed off after a protracted period of cold weather. Some seeds, notably those of hardy perennials, need a period of cold ('cold stratification') to break their dormancy in order to germinate. Garlic needs a cold spell to help induce the bulbs to form cloves. Brussel sprouts and parsnips reputedly improve their flavour having been frosted. 

So all is not lost. Speaking of which, here's a poem by the American poet Edith Matilda Thomas.

Talking in their sleep

“You think I am dead,”
The apple tree said,
“Because I have never a leaf to show—
Because I stoop,
And my branches droop,
And the dull gray mosses over me grow!
But I’m still alive in trunk and shoot;
The buds of next May
I fold away—
But I pity the withered grass at my root.”

"You think I am dead,”
The quick grass said,
“Because I have parted with stem and blade!
But under the ground
I am safe and sound
With the snow’s thick blanket over me laid.
I’m all alive, and ready to shoot,
Should the spring of the year
Come dancing here—
But I pity the flower without branch or root.”

"You think I am dead,”
A soft voice said,
“Because not a branch or root I own.
I never have died, but close I hide
In a plumy seed that the wind has sown.
Patient I wait through the long winter hours;
You will see me again—
I shall laugh at you then,
Out of the eyes of a hundred flowers.”

Edith M. Thomas (1854-1925)


  1. We have had no frost here in Ireland yet just weeks and weeks of rain. I think frost is good for breaking down newly dug soil in the veg plot and for killing off all the nasty creatures.. Great poem.

  2. Raining here right now Dave. I think where you are you have the benefit of a milder climate but have to deal with a lot of rain.

  3. Lovely poem. I must check out more of her stuff