Wednesday, November 19, 2014

LIVING ON THE FREEZING EDGE IN NORTH FLORIDA


It's freezing outside on this mid-November night.
No, I'm not just cold-whining Floridian style.
It really is freezing, just at 32 degrees F and the predicted low for this long night is 22 degrees F.

I've just come in from an hour or so of running around in the dark doing the things that we do here on the DMZ of the Tropical and Temperate worlds.

Step One: All outside faucets must be set to a slow drip.
Normally, I'd try and find one of my LED headlamps for this work, since I need my hands free, but this freeze is giving me a chance to try out the "light cap" that Emma and Kyle gave me last Christmas.
The verdict?
AWESOME!
A warm head and illumination in one step.
I love it.

After the faucet dripping was completed, I needed to take care of the citrus.
I only grow cold-hard citrus like kumquats and satsumas here on the edge of citrusnicity.
Although there are rumors of a grapefruit farmer in a mythical northern kingdom called "Ohio", North Florida is pushing the limits of the orange kingdom. So, when it freezes, you must act.

I covered an older kumquat with a big tarp and carried in a baby satsuma that I had not put in the ground yet. The goji berries were still in pots also (a new purchase) so they came inside as did one datil and a few pineapple starts.
Our dining room looks like a mini-greenhouse right now.

Tonight, because it will be SO COLD for so long, I decided to not just cover the newest kumquat, but to use the high heat capacity of water to help my baby 'quat make it through the night.
As you remember from your science classes, water has an extremely high heat capacity.
In plain English, it heats up slowly and cools off slowly.
This is why, right now as I type at midnight, Cedar Key is a balmy 44 degrees, while here at PFHQ, just a few miles away, the temperature is 32 degrees.

To make this happen, I would need a large amount of water that could hold lots of thermal energy. Being the chowder king of the Gulf Coast, I immediately knew what to use.
This was a job for my Tybee Island low country boil pot, aka my seafood festival chowder pot.

I filled the pot to the top and fired up the propane cooker. Once the giant pot of water was at boiling vigorously, I transferred the huge pot to a rug that I had placed near the fruit laden young kumquat.

After that, it was a matter of a couple of layers of plastic ... which kept trying to float away due to the convection coming off the pot of hot water.
A little twisty tying and weighty weighting later, the whole apparatus had the look of something that might just work.
It was super toasty in that plastic, which is nice, but all it has to do is stay above 28 in there and that kumquat and its precious cargo should survive.

If you're still reading, you are probably thinking, but FC, what about your datil peppers?
Yes, I had to do an emergency total harvest of the peppers.
(Yet another task where the lighted cap was invaluable.)

T
he plants are expendable at this point. They are simply holding peppers, not blossoming and were living on borrowed time, awaiting this first real freeze.

In the dark, I stripped every pepper I could find... the purple blush ones, the green ones, and the ripe, full term seed bearing orange ones.

Those are the most precious to me.
They contain the mature, viable promise of next year's datils, one more link in a family heritage that snakes back through time to the late 1700's here in Florida.

So, that's about it. I'm up way past my workweek bedtime, but some things need to be done when they need to be done, not later.

It's a cold night here in north Florida.


15 comments:

Pablo said...

I'm glad you don't get a lot of freezing nights down there. That's a load of work you had to get done.

All of the vulnerable plants are in the house here, so when the deep cold (10 degrees) and snow threatens, about all we need to do is make sure the bird feeders are full.

Good work on the datil peppers. I hadn't realized they were actually part of your family heritage. Extra points for that!

Marilyn Kircus said...

These two storms have really left the country scrambling. But I can'g fathom 22 degrees. Hope all your plants made it. We only got to 39 in Galveston, TX and I was house sitting for my friend and didn't think to bring in her tropicals. I think only the Cuban oregano died back. And the Satsuma tree that takes up about a fourth of her little back yard is fine and the fruit is ripe enough to eat. But it will get sweeter through January.

I wanted to come visit your place while I was at Okefenokee last winter but thought you lived in the keys. I must have driven near your area on the way to Crystal River.

threecollie said...

Sounds kind of like home to me. Great idea on the cooking pot!

Julie Zickefoose said...

You. Poor. Man. Oh, so very well do I know the drill of trying to make sure all one's charges are warm enough. I got more than a few chuckles out of the kumquat rig. And doing all that in the dark?? Thank goodness for the Light Cap!
Makes me think how, while 22 is a drag for us, we expect it, and drag EVERYTHING inside or expect it to die. To have tender stuff planted out in the ground all around, and to see a freeze like that coming, clearly awakens one's inner squirrel.
Footnote: Grapefruit has dropped almost all its leaves. Resents the wide temperature swings in the Groanhouse. I'm afraid I'm overpowered with this new heater. It's always somethin'. Good luck tonight, and the rest of the winter. Hope you don't have to disinter that kumquat, quat a shame that would be.

robin andrea said...

Great work there, especially considering you did it in the dark of a very cold night. Looking forward to updates on how these precious plants fared.

R.Powers said...

The kumquat looked great this morning when I unwrapped it. The water in the big pot was still warm at 7:00 am.
I think the temperature hovered at or just below 32 last night at my place, so the dreaded 22 degree bullet was dodged.
Whew!
Cold again tonight and then we creep upwards.

Kort said...

Keep warm. Sorry for the hassle for you, but the Datil harvest looked tasty. I really need to get some seeds from you next season. Here is S. FL we're better off, but I harvested kumquats the other day just in case.

Kort said...

Actually, I wouldn't mind ordering some from you now if you still have them available, just give me the info. Thanks!

Mark P said...

I see you didn't make it to 22, fortunately. Did you have clouds or was it clear?

Mark P said...

Oh, and the shot at the top of the page is magnificent.

R.Powers said...

Kort,
I have lots of seeds from this year, fresh and ready to go!

R.Powers said...

Mark, we hit 25 today, Thursday, but I repeated all of the prep work last night so I hope we are okay. Thanks for the osprey appreciation!

R.Powers said...

Marilyn,
Homosassa is about 40 miles south of me.

Kort said...

R. - sending payment now.

Kort said...

BTW, just what is that Datil heritage you speak of? I'm aware of the St. Augusting prominence of these peppers, but little else. Thanks.