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A Killing Frost

November 16, 2016
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

Last Friday night, the first killing frost set upon the land around our home. We have had a couple of frosty mornings, and the light frost seemed to do very little damage to the plants around the yard. But, that all came to an end as the outside temperatures dipped below 30 degrees.

I wondered how a light frost does not kill the plants. But, then a heavier frost turns them dark before the sun touches them in the morning. You would think frost is frost, but I guess a light frost is when the moisture in the air freezes and settles like a layer of dust on the plants. But, a killing frost is when the moisture in the air freezes, along with the moisture within the leaves of the plants.

The area in which we live often has early killing freezes. I traditionally wait to clean off my garden until the first heavy frost. But this year my green pepper plants and a couple small tomato plants were still producing a few vegetables - that was until Friday night. For me, this has to be the best green pepper year I ever had. I am not sure what type of green pepper I purchased this year, but they were hardy and prolific in the production of green peppers. Thanks to the extended season, we will have green peppers all through the winter from our garden.

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Not only did the delay in a late frost help my garden, it prolonged Mary's flowers. Of course there were a couple of nights she covered them with old sheets, to help keep them warm. I asked her, why the effort to save the flowers when inevitably cold frost would kill them? She explained that she was trying to keep them alive, at least until Thanksgiving. It was important to her to keep her flowers alive long enough to greet family that joins us for the day. I guess we can cover them for a few more weeks

If you are like me, I dislike the time change and the shorter days. Watching the sun set behind the hill at four-thirty is disheartening to me. Working on my tractor, the sun's rays are just warm enough to keep me comfortable. But, just the moment it falls behind the western hills, the cold sets in and I know darkness is not far behind. By the time Mary comes home after work, the darkness hides what I did outside that day on my tractor. I try and do something each day to keep the farm looking good. After all, Mary still works hard every day, and I don't want her to think I lay around and watch soap operas and eat Bon Bons.

Even with the time change, in a few weeks she will leave for work before the sun rises and then come home when it has long gone. I wish the good Lord had seen fit, when he was dividing the day from the night, that he had kept them at least equal all year long.

Last week, a couple of days before the killing frost, I was tending to Mary's outside flowers. I watered them and removed the dead blooms. A yellow strawflower that she kept this year has done especially well, and is still full of bright blooms. So much so, that it seems to be the only real flower left in our yard. Its bright blooms seemed to attract all the remaining insects in the area. My honey bees, along with a small spotted moth, joined a green katydid to enjoy the flowers nectar that warm day.

As I watched the collection of insects I noticed, in particular, one last butterfly that was visiting the flower. It was not a brightly colored butterfly that you might see in the warmer months. No, it was small, dull brown in color, along with a fuzzy body. It had no distinctive colors or markings. Just a small brown fuzzy butterfly. But, nevertheless, the small creature went about its busy work, visiting each of the yellow flowers. After a while, it visited most of the flowers and then it flew away. But, in a few minutes it returned to begin its search for a meal of nectar once again.

I wondered at first if maybe it was not the same butterfly I had seen earlier. But, watching it return several times, I decided it must be the same one. After all, how many plain brown fuzzy butterflies are left this late in the season? Most butterflies have already headed south to Myrtle Beach. I thought maybe this butterfly will join the thousands of red lady bugs hidden inside the boards on the sunny side of the barn. Never minding the coming weather, the brown fuzzy butterfly went about its work, seemingly to take little notice of the coming killing frost.

It is a wonder to me that nature has such a plan for the smallest of creatures. The brown butterfly does not understand its life is about to end. It simply goes about gathering nectar to feed itself, like it has every day of it's life. And at this time of year, Mary's strawflowers are the last of the year's flowers for the brown fuzzy butterfly to visit.

But, you know what is really great - next year, Mary will once again hang out her flowers and a whole new generation of brown fuzzy butterflies will return. They will not know how a killing frost ended the lives of this year's butterflies. In our hurried lives, we seldom stop to think about the many wonders that take place around us. In a few weeks, the world will go cold and the quiet of winter snows will cover the land. The world will look empty and dead to our eyes. But, below the snows, Mother Nature's next generations sleeps and waits. In the spring, the sun will return, and its warmth will touch the earth. That touch will spark to life the next generations of brown fuzzy butterflies. Each will awaken to play their small part in the seasonal cycle of our world.

If you think about it, in some ways we are a little like the brown butterfly. We each play a part in the world. But, unlike the butterfly who has no thought of what is to come, we each have the ability to look forward and say, "I'll make tomorrow a little better than today." I will miss the brown fuzzy butterfly, until his decedents' return next spring, Through the Lens.

 
 
 

 

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