Citrus perfection is in jeopardy!
It’s going to freeze here in Lower Alabama. It’s going to freeze! When you live on a farm and you have a bunch of critters to care for, this gets pretty serious. We’re not used to freezing temperatures down here. That freak snowfall we got a couple of weeks ago should have done it for the season for us. Sure, we expect a little cold snap sometime in March, kind of a wintry last gasp before we get blanketed in a daze of fuchsia, purple, and cream azalea blooms. Oh, we get several miserably-wet cold days every year. It just rarely gets cold enough to freeze. But, like Ned Stark would say if he was from around here…”Winter is coming, y’all.”
This cold snap is coinciding with our annual “Where did all the Christmas vacation time go” frenzy to get EVERYTHING done before school kicks back in. Russ is putting up fencing with lightning speed. He uttered the most dreaded words on the farm a little while ago: “I need you to help me attach the auger.”
The auger is a giant metal corkscrew that hooks to the back of the tractor and digs holes. We have a skinny one for postholes and a larger one for trees and such. Attaching it is a two-person job that involves precision tractor positioning, herculean strength, and the very real possibility of bodily harm. Russ promised to try not to yell at me. I promised to try not to squash him. It’s that kind of give and take that makes for a sound marriage, I guess.
So, what happens to button up the farm nice and snug for a winter event? We have some portable heat lamps that clamp onto stuff and a few miles of extension cord. The two well houses will get lamped as well as the chicken coop and the goose pen. Major’s giant dog house will have a lamp, but he’ll probably snuggle down amidst the round bales. The juvenile hens are already inside the barn. Princess Buttercup, the downed cow, will be tucked in tightly between hay bales. Jack the Ass and the bovine herd have a snug straw-lined bedding area in the north pasture. The avian pens are laid with extra straw as well.
We have insulators for all the exposed spigots scattered about the farm, but my main worry is for the kumquats. We picked the rest of the satsumas, but the kumquats are not quite ripe. If you’ve ever tasted a kumquat I’m sure you’d agree they are well worth saving! They’re little bites of sunshine! If we can’t get a lamp on them, I’ll throw blankets on them overnight. I’ll just have to be sure to remove the blankets once the weather starts warming up so they won’t roast. Too much heat will damage the fruit just as much as too little.
Another option would be to just go ahead and pick the fruit…they’re really close to being perfectly ripe. I could use a little extra sugar and they’d probably marmalade up just fine. If I do that, then I won’t get to pop a handful in my pocket for snacking while I hike around the farm. It’s risky either way…and I WANT those tasty kumquats! It’s times like this I need some old school grandma wisdom, but neither of my grandmothers had the deep, deep South experience of a kumquat harvest.
Wherever you are, Gentle Reader, I wish you warmth as we greet the New Year.