col Fending off winter's advance is a futile fight

It's mid-October, there's been at least one rock-hard frost in these parts, and yet some folks are still trying to stave off the inevitable. They're tucking in their flowers and tomatoes under old bed sheets and blankets at night with the hope of keeping them alive at least one more day, or one more week.

My backyard vegetable garden succumbed to the elements a couple of weeks ago, as did my wife's flowers in front of the house. In past years we've taken extraordinary measures to prolong the lives of our annuals. But this time around, when the natural growing year extended into October, we adopted a "do not resuscitate" policy for our plants.

They've lived good lives, we reasoned. They've beautified our lawn, fed our children and provided dozens of hours of exercise opportunities as we tended to their care. But now it's time to let nature take its course.

May they rest in peace, break down quickly and provide good compost in the spring.

Still, I can relate to the folks who want to hold on to the last living remnants of the summer season as long as they can. I'm one of you. The fact is, Christmas is only a little over two months away, and we'll be shoveling driveways, salting sidewalks and getting roof rakes out of the rafters before we know it.


Don't get me wrong, I love the holiday season. But the trouble with December in Minnesota is that it is followed by January and February. So, like the folks who cover their plants on nights when the predicted low is in the 20s, I spend the first few weeks of October in denial, which admittedly causes me to behave in some pretty strange ways.

Here are some examples.

The other day I turned the furnace off when I got home from work because it was about 70 outside. But it got down to 27 that evening, causing the main floor of our house to cool to a meat locker-like temperature. (My annual signal to leave the furnace on for good is when my kids complain that they can see their breath when they wake up in the morning.)

Last week, I rode my bike to work without a jacket even though it was about 52 degrees, windy and misting rain.

My fingers were useless for the first five minutes I was at my desk, but I had my reasons for not wearing a jacket:

1. I believe it's a sign of weakness for a guy who grew up in Minnesota to surrender to an outer garment when it's warmer than 50.

2. I'd forgotten over the summer how nippy it can feel at 50 when the wind is blowing at about 30 mph.

3. I couldn't find my jacket.


A few nights ago when two of our family's three television sets were occupied by teenagers with differing tastes in mindless reality shows, I wanted to catch a few innings of the Yankees-Red Sox game. The only TV left was the one on our unheated porch. Problem was, it was downright December-like out there. Any logical person would have given up, or at least pulled rank on one of the kids and sent her off to do her homework. But not me, I put on my ski coat and insulated gloves and watched the game in 38-degree comfort.

Finally, I was forced to renege on a promise to my wife on Saturday night to feed her pork roast for supper when, at 10 p.m., the roast still wasn't done. Turns out it takes a lot longer to cook something on the grill, using the indirect heat method, when it's 35 degrees outside than it does when it's 70. She was nice about it, though, and complimented me for picking out a good microwave dinner for her.

This is hard for me, but I now recognize that the time has come to admit that summer is over and that no amount of global warming can keep our state from drifting into its annual frozen, monochromatic stupor. So tomorrow I'll wear my winter coat to work even though I know that's probably overdoing it.

I still can't find my jacket.

Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at

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