Thursday, December 23, 2010

Light Up The Darkness

Thursday, December 23, 2010

22° here on the mountain, a 4 mph wind and 3" of fine snow that arrived sometime after midnight. Seems dark for after 7 AM as the front moves quickly overhead. I have reached the threshold of snow in the driveway and think today I'll have to mount the plow on the truck and clean things up for Christmas.

It's nice to reach the point where days get a little longer although through January and February our focus is on how deep the snow gets or if the weather will warm and freezing rain will replace snow. But in summer, daylight hours are important to gardeners as they fill in every available hour with planting and grooming their gardens. This is especially true in a state such as Vermont where seasons can end with a hard frost anytime after Labor Day.

Long ago our friend Harold from daylily land in Morrisville mentioned how he gardens half the night with a headlamp. He works all day at a regular job and cares for some of the most beautiful gardens in Vermont the rest of the season. This requires nightly work after the sun hides away when sometimes the moon provides the only other source of light.

Now you have to understand that Gail and I think working all day is quite fine and our commitment ends at dinner time. From June through August this often translates to sitting down to eat at 8 PM. That's ok because that's when we are finished but with Harold and his headlamp, 8 PM is when he often just gets going. If you chance to see the gardens he and Leila have created, you'll understand why he needs a day stretcher to find the time to maintain and of course expand the diversity they enjoy.

Last year I was shopping at a sporting goods store and just after the decoy section was a huge display of headlamps. My mind flashed back to duck hunting on the Black River in Newport and setting up decoys in snow squalls when one twisted anchor line could have benefited from a headlamp and a few less expletives at 4 AM. Headlamps were on my mind anyway because I had just finished an early evening tractor repair the night before and admittedly my old eyes and limited light made the final reassembly a chore. I looked over the choices and bought an Energizer brand labeled by the battery people with that rabbit that never stops running.

For whatever reason, the headlamp ended up hanging from my dresser mirror and never got used until this fall when Gail was walking Karl the Wonder Dog just after ten and the sound of a bear in close proximity suggested to her that carrying a flashlight might make sense. Gail is fearless about the dark but decided to try the headlamp. She was instantly converted to the opportunity to walk about in hands-free fashion....and maybe at least see the bear. Harold had succeeded in his recommendation.

Since that time I can't say that we have done any night time gardening. I don't think we will. But if you need a small gardening gift with lots of uses, buy a headlamp. They have an adjustable head band and have 3-4-5 adjustments for the amount of light/number of bulbs you have lit. For that Christmas tree effect there are even red lights for when you need "light without the shine". The gift is also great for runners, hikers or campers but to me the strength is good light in a hands-free format. I noticed that LL Bean and Cabelas now sell baseball caps with the same concept built into the visor. Those are around $20 each, this headlamp was $14.99. People might roll their eyes with the thought of a headlamp but once they use it, you'll hear about it again and again. Guaranteed!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where later on snow plowing will be replaced by a final list of groceries and then home for the holidays.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Using social networking to spread good gardening thoughts. On Facebook at George Africa and also at Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens; On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

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