Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wintry wonders and watery windows ~

Poplar tree in front of a macrocarpa
I love winter.  Everything is stripped back to essentials, withdrawn from the bustle of the summer into a season of  inner reflection.  It's quieter too, with neighbours being indoors more, which suits me just fine.  I need the space and quiet to think my own thoughts, a different sort of creativity from labouring in the garden, harvesting fruit and vegetables and going on expeditions.  The frost gives the air a particular zest and I sleep better, all of which is good.  We have had no snow yet this winter, a relatively unusual occurrence this close to the coast, so this image is from an earlier year.

Further inland where winters are more harsh there have been glorious sights as these articles in the local paper show.  Be sure to click on the images to see them enlarged:
Deep freeze - ground temperature of minus 12.1 degrees Celcius
Skippers canyon - waterfall of ice
Glacier ice lift

Winter does of course bring with it mundane considerations which require practical attention:

Keeping warm indoors:
New Zealand houses are notoriously poor at keeping warmth in and cold out, and electricity, the main heating fuel, is relatively expensive.  The Community Energy Action website gives useful information about heating issues.  The World Health Organisation recommends that living areas be kept at 18 to 21 degrees Celsius and bedrooms at 16 degrees.  That sounds like luxury to me!  For many low income households this may be impossible. 

Dressing warmly is essential. 
I usually wear three pullover jerseys, polar fleece trousers as well as full length thermal under garments, fleece socks and shoes roomy enough to accommodate a bit of warm air.  Sometimes I wear a headscarf as well.  The effect might not be glamorous but usually I'm warm enough, which is the main thing!  Wearing this number of layers might sound excessive but is  fairly common this far south.

 Wiping condensation off the insides of windows helps reduce indoor moisture levels.
Regular readers may recall the mention of an implement which I recommended for keeping shower walls and doors dry.  It is also excellent for removing condensation from the insides of windows in the mornings. The water is then easily mopped up from the sill with an absorbent sponge or cloth.
Although our home is relatively dry, in winter the insides of the windows often acquire sheets of condensation overnight.  Here is a photograph I took one particularly cold morning when I found it had frozen!  

Despite all this winter can still be appreciated both indoors and out.  Throughout the months of heavy frosts and quite a lot of rain, the garden here has stayed fairly green and tidy.  Now however, it is looking decidedly shabby as the seed heads and long growth I left to stand over winter finally begin to decay.  In her book "The winter garden", Val Bourne emphasizes the value of leggy old plant growth which can  provide homes to insects wintering over.  She encourages gardeners to leave a selection to stand for this purpose.  I've enjoyed her book very much and now have much to consider about designing for future wintry elegance in my garden.  Meanwhile, my tulips are above ground and we may yet have snow!

Book shop details for interested NZ readers:
Fishpond.co.nz
The Winter Garden: Create a Garden That Shines Through the Forgotten Season

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