Monday, March 01, 2021

Nature as a Partner, Even in Winter

Working With Nature

In winter, with the plant world frozen and the ground cloaked with snow, it's easy for a gardener to feel cut off from the nature that has meant so much to us through this pandemic. It's possible, though, to work with nature even during this season of suspended animation. The elemental aspects of nature are always ready to be tapped. Welcome sunlight through windows to help brighten and warm the house. Hang washed laundry on racks to let the air effortlessly absorb the moisture. Moisten plates in the sink to soften the dirt before washing. To do these things is to participate in a partnership with nature. Snow can be seen as a natural way of recycling light. It brightens the world rather than letting the light be swallowed by the drab browns and grays of the winter landscape.

Nature as Energy Detective

In a way, nature speaks, even in winter, and can offer useful clues to those who listen and observe. The location of spider webs can sometimes indicate where warm air is escaping from the house in winter.  The patterns that snow makes on roofs as it melts tell a lot about what's going on inside. Above the garage of this building is a living space on the left, and a stairwell on the right. Because the living space is insulated, the snow is slower to melt.

The two little spots where snow is melting on the roof of my house suggest heat is escaping there. One of those spots is where the heat duct extends almost to the ceiling in the bathroom, creating a hot spot that could use more insulation above it. 

The ribs on this roof reveal where the evenly spaced wooden rafters insulate the shingles from the warmed attic air.

Massive icicles hanging from the roof of my childhood home were a delight, but looking back with an adult's eyes, their splendor was probably due to heat rising from a poorly insulated house to send melted roof snow towards the gutters. 

Winter Joys

While adults often view snow and ice as an impediment and chore, it's often the kids who serve as conduit for reminding the adult world that snow and ice are really nature's invitation to a good time. 

Skating on Carnegie Lake

It was kids, and the kid in me, that led to these past accounts of skating on Carnegie lake:

2015: "IceLax" -- playing lacrosse on Lake Carnegie

2014: "When Carnegie Ice Melts Memories" -- How Carnegie Lake provided a window into my own childhood.

2010: Patterns in Carnegie Lake Ice -- improbable beauty in the ice, in photos taken from the Harrison Street bridge

2009: Patterns in Carnegie Lake Ice -- more remarkable patterns found while skating

2007: Winter in Residence -- when people flocked to Carnegie Lake in Februrary, 2007

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