The common woodfrog, unlike us, has antifreeze for blood:
Once the first ice crystals reach a wood frog, however, its skin freezes. The frog becomes hard and crunchy. “When you drop it, it goes ‘clink,'” [Kenneth Storey, a professor of biochemistry at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada] said.
Special proteins in their blood, called nucleating proteins, cause the water in the blood to freeze first. This ice, in turn, sucks most of the water out of the frog’s cells.
At the same time the frog’s liver starts making large amounts of glucose—a type of sugar—which packs into cells and props them up.
The concentrated sugar solution helps prevent additional water from being pulled out of the frog’s cells, which can destroy them.
“Inside the cells there’s no ice,” Storey explained. “It’s just really, really, really dehydrated, all shrunk down osmotically and full of massive amounts of sugar.”
I certainly wish I gave a crystalline clink! when dropped, as opposed to giving out a dull thud, as of a heavy, clumsy body bundled into a thick parka. Then again, cold though I might be, I won’t shatter. Though apparently wood frogs don’t shatter either. Amazingly, they can go through their own freeze-thaw cycle:
When temperatures warm and the ice melts, the frogs thaw. Water slowly flows back into the cells, blood starts flowing again, and the frog revives.
In the lab, Storey said, ice thaws in about 20 minutes and the heart takes another 20 or 30 minutes to start.
“Once the heart starts, it pumps the blood around the animal and the animal starts to revive, then it starts to gulp, then it starts to breathe, then it starts to hop away. So it takes a little while to reactivate after you’ve been frozen down,” he said.
According to Storey, the wood frogs can go through this cycle again and again. When spring finally arrives and decides to stay, the frogs hop around unharmed.
Achievement, unlocked! Iguanas, however, are a different story. From a recent NPR interview:
On this program yesterday, I mentioned reports that the cold temperatures in Florida this week have caused frozen iguanas to fall out of trees.
Ouch! I hope that hasn’t happened to you!
SHAPIRO: Magill says if you meet a semi-frozen iguana, treat it as though it could be alive. He told us this crazy story about a guy in Key Biscayne who was originally from Central America.
MAGILL: And in Central America, iguana is a delicacy. It’s something – they’re actually farmed for food. So this gentleman just thought, wow, I just have a bunch of protein here. He’s on Key Biscayne. He’s sort of picking up all these iguanas that appear to be dead on the road that had fallen out of trees. They turned gray and were not moving at all and very cold to the touch.
And he put them into his vehicle. He’s loading them up like he was stocking up for a big barbecue. When they went back into the vehicle, the vehicle warmed up, and those iguanas started coming back to life. And all of a sudden, they started getting up and running around in the car, and it caused an accident.
Lesson learned. If you find yourself thawing out in a vehicle, don’t start running around! So be sure to watch your iguanas carefully, and give your wood frog plenty of hopping room, because this week’s cold won’t last forever, even if it does seem like it will:
By Thursday, however, the thermometer could read in the 40’s — relatively balmy to most Mainers, who for weeks have endured a record-setting freeze that has chilled the state since before Christmas, and gave Bangor its coldest week in 40 years.
Break out the sandals and the Hawaiian shirts! Nevertheless, the thing about a January thaw is that it always ends, and then we have the sixty days of February, and then the mud season, and then another month or so until we can plant on Memorial Day. Soil doesn’t have antifreeze either, at least not naturally:
When the temperature of the ground drops below 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit), it freezes. However, the ground temperature can be different from the temperature of the air above it. Layers deep within the ground may be colder or warmer than layers near the surface of the ground.
The top layer of ground may respond to conditions on the surface, but the layers below may not change as quickly. On a warm summer day, the surface of the ground can absorb heat and become hotter than the air. But the temperature a meter (a few feet) underground may be much lower than the air. In the winter, the opposite happens. The surface of the ground cools, but the layer deep underground may stay warmer than the surface. The upper layer of ground stops heat from moving between the cold air and the deeper layers of the ground. As a result, the ground insulates itself.
The type of soil in an area also affects how the ground will store heat. Loose soils like sand have more space for water. In loose soils with large particles, ice forms more easily. Dense soils with small particles do not have as much space for water. Clay, for example, does not freeze as easily as sand.
How deep the ground will freeze can depend a lot on the length of time that the air is cold. The longer the cold period, the deeper the ground will freeze. But the depth of frozen ground is limited, because Earth is warm deep inside.
I remember my first spring in Maine, when I got over-excited about planting because the soil seemed soft, until I put a shovel in it and hit something solid about three inches down. What is the problem? the city boy asked himself, until I hacked the soil into chunks and saw how the white pore ice showed the soil was still frozen. Oh!
Unfortunately, my carefully sheet-mulched and layered soil was wrecked last summer by a fool of a tenant with a dirt bike; and though the garden was a notable success, it wasn’t a success in terms of vegetables grown, because I didn’t have time to rebuild the beds. The glorious stands of volunteer sunflowers didn’t help either, since sunflowers give off toxins to prevent other plants from competing with them.
However, I had planned to give the garden a rethink in any case. I have, and will still have, a “grandmother’s garden”:
[M]y garden is informal and ragged round the edges, although edges it does have, and by design: People like to talk to me, but they’re on one side of my living fence, the raspberry bushes, and I’m on the other, the ideal existential position for an INTJ, curb appeal or no. But informality means I don’t have to weed, which is work, which I don’t like, so I just mentally reformulate “weeds” into “future mulch” and rip the bastards up when I think they might give rise to comment in the town. I don’t know what my rose-growing grandmother would have thought of that attitude, which could matter since, as it turns out, what I’ve created is a grandmother’s garden:
ELLSWORTH — Bachelor’s buttons, borage, sweet peas, foxgloves, pinks, bee balms, larkspur, comfrey, hyssop, rosemary and more, would have been found in gardens of yore.
The Ellsworth Garden Club invited Heirloom Garden of Maine to speak at Woodlawn Museum Monday about the Grandmother’s Garden movement [Really? Hmm….] in American history.
The term Grandmother’s Garden is used to describe a style of garden in America between 1865 and 1915.
Grandmother’s Gardens would be enclosed, informal gardens close to a house and tended by one woman [or person]. They were often framed with rosebushes.
Well, that sounds an awful lot like my garden. I’ve underlined the similarities; borage (hat tip, insanelysane) was the first one that jumped out at me. And my grandmother Strether was a great one for old-fashioned roses.
This is the best material [on grandmothers’ gardens] I can find. I’ve included two images from the Alabama Cooperative Extension, and prose from the University of Vermont Extension. The flowers I’ve grown are underlined….
… Many of the plants and the gardening styles today are similar to those of a century ago, giving credence to another saying that nothing is really new, just rediscovered. This gardening style and accompanying plant palette is a trend often known as “Grandmother’s Garden.”
It is really the American cottage garden, an old-fashioned garden of hardy perennials, annuals (many self-sown like Johnny Jump-ups), and native American plants. Although native plants are increasing in popularity now for reasons such as helping pollinators, a century ago they often were more readily available than new introductions.
I am going to abandon vegetables altogether, and abandon the whole concept of beds. I’ve already taken the concept of self-seeding to an extreme, as both my tomatoes and my sunflowers are volunteers, as are borage, bee balm, Black-Eyed Susans, poppies, and other wildflowers. When a patch of something I like pops up, I transplant to a place where I would like it to be (and where I think it will be happy). Vegetables are right out, at least annual ones, because I did fine when I was starting everything from seed, but when I told myself I was too busy, and bought flats, I got bugs, and the year before last lost an entire crop of winter squash to squash bugs. Well, dealing with bugs is work, and I don’t like work. And I never really closed the permacultural loop on canning or storage, so I end up giving the vegetables away anyhow. Farewell vegetables! But I would always get too ambitious and over-order the seed packets anyhow. In any case, I’ve discovered that the purpose of my garden is not to supply food, but to supply beauty and life (pollinators, birds, and, necessarily, an apex predator: The cat. (The cat has left its summer home for its real home across the street, the dear creature)). And so I can sit with my laptop at my desk in the garden and work, in the midst of beauty and life.
So I have already planted a small oak tree in the center of the area where the beds were (and I hope the tree, which also has no antifreeze, survives the transplantation process and the winter). Then, a couple of weeks before Memorial Day, I’m going to get a couple of yards of soil, spread it round, and seed it with a couple pounds of wildflower mix. That should take care of the beauty, and encourage pollinators. Then, as the wildflowers grow, I’ll see what I want to add; perhaps a water feature, perhaps some more bushes to attract birds. And maybe I’ll need to move all the toxic sunflowers away from everything else. We shall see!
Something to think about walking home in the dark at 4:30 p.m. Do remember that we passed the Winter Equinox when we celebrated Saturnalia, so the days really are getting longer. There will be more light. Be sure to look up at the sky and not, all hunched over with the weight of the darkness and cold, down at the ground. Against the sky, twigs with buds will one day appear. The earth is always in motion.