The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens

January Observations: Brain Freeze


No, I’m not eating ice cream (not even banana ice cream as I continue with a Plant Power lifestyle minus meat and dairy). I was walking outdoors in an extremely cold climate. Walking behind my cute furry bear-of-a-dood (golden doodle), Mojo in nearby Grass Point State Park.

Even Mojo suffers from cabin fever.

Even Mojo suffers from cabin fever.

The wind was blowing head on and I am sure I gasped at the cold exposing my upper palate. Then suddenly my eyes were tearing and I was suffering from brain freeze or sphenopalatine ganglion, trying to pinch my forehead with thick mittens. Understandable, considering the extremely cold temperatures we have been enduring in this extremely cold climate. Mojo needs outside time but honestly since that day, he has been cooped up inside with the rest of us! The temperatures overnight have been as low as -30 F!

Around here people are saying we are having a “real winter” like the good(?!) old days. In fact, even the St. Lawrence River has frozen over like it used to always do. You won’t catch me out there but you might catch a Pike in this video filmed by one of our locals of black ice on the river – you can hear the ice crack, too. And though this is definitely not the South, some people travel by air boat over the ice to get to the islands as in the aforementioned video – a sure way to catch brain freeze, I’ll say.

Rumor has it the newly updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map put us in the Zone 5 range, but it actually lists my zip code as USDA hardiness zone 4b (-25 to -20 F). I always buy plants listed with a hardiness to Z4 (ignoring the a & b designations), thankfully, which puts plant survival in the -30 F range. All my plants should survive this “old fashioned” Winter in spite of my fretting that they won’t whenever I dare scrape off the frost to look out a window.

It is however, possible that the invasive Emerald Ash Borers will not survive: at extended periods of -30 F they will be “brain freezed” to death. And the crazy roller coaster Spring to subzero rides should help. Hopefully, our densely populated deer, or blacklegged tick herd will be thinned out as well as rates of Lyme disease increase – I know three people who contracted this disease in 2013! There is a warm, sunny side to everything.


Author: Kathy Sturr

Artist, master gardener, plant-based chef. Florida's Nature Coast / Indian River Lakes, NY

11 thoughts on “January Observations: Brain Freeze

  1. They have shut down all colleges, public, private, + all activites for two days in this “brain freeze”…it is crazy! I am in illinois, so we are getting hit pretty badly for the next two days. This is AWFUL!!!! Our animals are not wanting to be out in it at all. Today it was almost 39 degrees, but 6 hours later here it is down to 3 degrees! In the negatives for the next two days, I sure hope it does not blow our lines down so we have no heat!!!! Good old days, hmm baa humbug-lol

    • Oh no, hope you “weather the storm.” Maintain power at all times. I miss our old house in ME – we were set up with generator and woodstove because we would lose power frequently. It was comforting to know that we could go without power for awhile. Here – we would not have any heat but we’re working on that. We have a generator in the garage but it is not wired into the house. If it warms up here, it snows, like now – holy blippin’ blizzard batman! If it is clear, it is c-c-cold! I guess we have all forgotten what a good old fashioned winter is really like. I bet Florida sees a boom. Oh wait, now the sun is out …

  2. And I was complaining because we are headed back into the low teens, just like it always did back in the days when we had our own “real winters”! I am a bit concerned over some of my less hardy plants, such as confederate jasmine and Japanese pittisporum, but we needed some real cold to diminish our summer bugs. I can’t imagine going out for a walk with your temperatures. You and Mojo stay warm!

    • I have given up on walking outdoors for awhile Deb! If it does warm up, the wind is blowing and it’s snowing. Spring should be glorious! I’m sure your plants will survive – after all your garden is paradise – they won’t want to leave!

  3. Yes, I hope the EAB is at least slowed down by this weather. But I also worry about what it will do to overwintering butterflies and other beneficial insects. Not to mention my tulips, fingers, and toes!

    • I am always amazed what survives our Winters – especially when you are gazing into a blizzard/white out. I’m sure much has died this Winter and I am close to adding to the tally with major Cabin Fever – ha – stay back! Any tulips that do survive will be eaten by my rabbit herd, I’m sure. Spring is so much better following a Winter like this!

  4. Here in the Healing Garden we say that sometimes the North Wind blows into our Garden the things from around the outside world. These are like heaping snow and wind on fragile twigs and leaves. Sometimes the danger is from the inside traveling outward. Choosing a variety of plant, where it is planted and how it is sheltered. It is the nature of time and healing that these outer dangers will pass. On the other hand, an untreated case of cabin fever can linger a long time. Healing ourselves on the inside helps adversity pass. – The Healing Garden gardener

    • I love your description of the North Wind. I’ll say it blows! I will begin planning my Potager soon and ordering plants and seeds and starting seeds – all very healing. Cabin Fever doesn’t stand a chance! Thank you for your kind words and the beautiful photos of your Healing Garden.

  5. I am always concerned for you up there Kathy when I see the weather…snow headed further N to you today….this weather has left me sick for a month now….it does remind me of the ugly winters of the 60s and early 70s. Not sure I am liking seeing the good old winters again. My birds survived and are back and the deer here are still hanging around with the rabbits. Hardy bunch!! Stay warm and safe. Cool video BTW!!

    • Oh, thank you Donna. Interesting that you mention 70s because I heard from Captain Jeff’s wife that he hasn’t seen the river this frozen over since then! I am missing the Titmice that visited me all last Winter – didn’t come back. My Master Gardener class was canceled today and I am seriously bummed – but not when I look out the window! I really enjoy that video – looking down through the ice is so interesting. It looks very shallow but I know where he was, and the channel runs deep for the freighters. You stay warm, too, and keep enjoying your fresh growlings!

  6. Pingback: What’s the Plan Mojo? | The Violet Fern

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