OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto: Crossroads Ida Bay Preserve

The “Winter Deniers” here at Crossroads are eating their words. Winter really really is coming. We didn’t earn a bye by surviving last winter. The temperatures are dropping, flurries are in the forecast, and the geese are flying south. It’s time to get ready for the cold season.

Trees have been getting ready for the cold for some time. The shortening days and dropping temperatures have signaled the trees to start shutting down–to stop growing and  pretty much close for the season.
In winter, trees are just about as cold as the air. And that is a problem if the temperature is below freezing because even though trees seem solid, they can be as much as two thirds water.  And we all  know what happens to water when the temperatures go below freezing. Actually, in a plant, water has to be somewhat below 32 degrees F to freeze.  But when the freezing occurs, water expands and turns to ice crystals–sharp pointy crystals.
Expanding sharp ice crystals can poke through cell walls. Not good. When living cells get disorganized, they  die. And if this happens to all of the cells in a tree, the tree dies. But remember last year. Some trees suffered winter burn, but most of our native species survived our visit from the Polar Vortex.
This time of year, many changes occur in a tree. Leaves and older needles are shed and chemicals move around.  Much of the food migrates into the roots. 
Then a really strange thing happens. The water migrates out of the wood cells.  Without water inside, the cells become smaller and the spaces between them become larger.
If the water between the cells freezes—and it does– nothing much happens. No wait. Something does happen. The ice attracts and pulls even more water out of the cells, leaving a concentrated solution of sugars and fats that act like antifreeze.
It gets more complicated. References state  “this is not well understood” and it certainly in not “well understood”  by me, but apparently, when it gets extremely cold, the water freezes without expanding or forming crystals.
Some trees—especially if they aren’t “from here” never harden and just don’t make it. Even a tree that is a native species,  if it came from a warmer climate [like where most commercial nurseries are] may never harden…..which is a compelling reason  to buy locally grown stock. Most native trees from here are hardy enough to survive here.
And that’s why the Master Gardeners Fall Seminar on Saturday, November 8 is called “What’s Hardy? A “Perennial” Question”  The speaker, Nancy Nedveck, is the co-owner of The Flower Factory in Stoughton, Wisconsin,
The morning session will explore  Door County’s unique growing conditions and focus on the use of hardy grasses as a part of a landscaping plan.  After lunch, Nancy will discuss the perennials most likely to do well in  Zone 5. Preregistration and payment are required and space is limited..The cost of the program is $15, which includes the box lunch.  Anyone wishing to attend must contact Bill and Sarah Freyman at 868-1749 or via email at doorgardener@gmail.com to register.    
Some folks actually are eager for winter. And to meet the needs of Winter Sports Enthusiasts, Crossroads, in collaboration with Door County Silent Sports, will conduct  Volunteer Training for this winter’s Ski and Snowshoe loan program on Wednesday November 5, 6:00-7:00 or Sunday November 9, 1:00-2:00 at the Collins Learning Center.  Volunteers will learn how to assist new skiers who come to Crossroads borrowing skis and snowshoes for use on Crossroad’s five mile trail system. Register for the one of the volunteer trainings at  920-746-5895.
Potential and loyal Crossroads  volunteers should plan  to attend the Friends of Crossroads meeting on Tuesday, November 11 at 6:00 at the Collins Learning Center. The Group will prepare for winter and holiday activities.

Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor and volunteer supported preserve welcoming learners of all ages for programs in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center, located as 2041 Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, is open 2:00-4:30 daily and during scheduled activities.

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