Breaking Out The Redheads

redhead socks 003We are having a run of astonishingly cold weather, as in -12 degrees this morning. Cold weather is fine by me, as long as I can keep my feet warm.  In weather like this, I roll out the redheads.  Basspro makes these socks (in the USA I might add) for people who are outdoors in winter for work or for sport. Should you be a ballet dancer, a librarian, or a Mom who watches a kid play hockey, I would still recommend these socks. Warm feet are good, no matter your job. They are expensive, considering that they are socks. Balance that with a lifetime guarantee. And the fact that they will keep your feet warm-even in below zero temperatures. I would not do without them. They work.

redhead socks 004I only have a few pair-that is all I need. I am not working outside now, but I have a pair of Corgis who want me with them when they go out. Can you hear me sighing?  Howard makes his trips out short-he is not so keen about this weather. But he refuses to be left behind.  I am sure Milo was a sheep herding dog in Cumbria in his previous life. He is happiest outdoors, working.  He has a long fur coat that keeps both water and cold at bay. When the temperature is 12 below zero, he is happy out there longer than I can stand. My best defense against walks in the snow with him-these socks.

redhead socks 005It doesn’t really matter whether I am wearing boots, or tennis shoes.  The insulation provided by these socks is what keeps my feet warm, and dry. Their insulating quality is easy to figure-they are 88% Merino wool.  Some say Merino wool is the finest wool on the planet. Like the sheepskin rug that Milo is curled up on under my desk, certain natural fibers have great insulating qualities.

merino-sheep.jpgThe Merino sheep is raised, and prized for its wool. The annual shearing varies, depending on the country and climate, but suffice it to say a Merino sheep has a wool coat most of the year. Insulation, no matter the source, can protect against heat just as it protects against the cold. If you are like me, wool can be scratchy and irritating.  But Merino wool is very fine textured, and soft. Merino wool socks-perfect for the winter.

merino-is-the-best-wool-in-the-world1Given that this wool comes from an animal that must be cared for every day of its life, good wool is expensive. The lambs get born. They get raised. The sheep graze, but they get counted every day. They get health care. They get extra feed during lambing season. They get sheared once a year.  There is a sheep farmer with a farm and a family behind anything you buy that is made from Merino wool. Chances are, the entire family participates in sheep farming. Any honest work, I support. But I buy the socks because they are of great quality. Wool is a great insulator-against the discomfort of a really cold winter day.

February snow and cold 009But let’s get back to these socks. For this picture, I flipped the top of the sock inside out. I was curious-why do these socks keep my feet so warm? The knit is regular and smooth on the outside.  The inside of the sock tells a different story. It looks dense and wooly – lofty.  As in lots of loft.  redhead socks 011The 88 percent Merino wool has a looped structure on the inside.  These loops hold their springy shape, no matter how many hours I wear these socks.  Those loops create an insulating layer.  The thick wool layer, endowed with a commensurate layer of air the temperature of my body, insulates me from the cold. Am I making a pitch for basspro redhead socks?  No. My idea is to address the idea of insulation, for a gardener.

winter-2008.jpgThough this picture was taken at the shop in 2008, it accurately describes our current snow cover. That thick layer of snow then, as now, insulates the plants against the devastating effects of severe cold and wind.  Just like a rocking pair of Basspro looped Merino wool socks insulates a foot against the cold ground, and the cold air. Plants in my zone subjected to incredibly cold temperatures without the insulation provided by snow will surely show damage come spring. Extended cold and wind will adversely affect marginally hardy plants. Every gardener in my zone learned all about this the hard way, this past spring.  But plants buried under a thick layer of looped ice crystals suspended in air keeps the daily vagaries of the weather at bay. Winter protection has everything to do with steady conditions. If a plant is buried in snow, the daily swings in temperature and wind are not much to worry about. A wild swing in conditions can be deadly. A landscape with no snow cover subjected to vicious cold and wind can sustain considerable damage. My boxwood need their wool socks right now. Happily, they have the socks they need to survive.  I am hoping this cold snap will snap out of it fast. A few days is no cause for alarm. This is a very long way of saying that I am not worried about the effect of this current bitter cold snap on my landscape and garden.  It is buried deep below nature’s alternate version of the gift of Marino wool-the snow cover.

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