The Mast-Head: January Thaw

   You can’t even really call it a January thaw, since December was mild, and, save for a 15-degree night a week ago yesterday, 2012 has had above-average temperatures. This has been a very good thing where the Amagansett Rattrays’ gardening, outdoor chores, and playtime are concerned, as we (read: your humble correspondent) let things slide this fall.
    A week or two after Thanksgiving, a guy at the boatyard  in Montauk, where I keep my boat, said, “We dodged a bullet.” And, if you remember what was expected to be in the running for storm-of-the-decade at the end of December 2010, this still seems to be the case. There is still plenty of weather to come, but the break we’ve had so far on this end of the Island has been welcome.
    Saturday was mild enough to let Evvy and Ellis and me spend the morning outside, which was a relief since Ellis, who is not quite 2, has taken a recent interest in painting. Evvy and I laid paper and pots of colored tempera out for him on the brick patio, saving the hassle of cleaning up spills had he gotten in touch with his diminutive muse indoors.
    While the kids were busy, I took on our two small garden plots, hacking back the growing season’s weeds and dead stalks. After that, I pulled the electric hedge trimmer and a pair of loppers out of the basement and attacked the vines along the sides of the raised beds.
    By this time, the kids had become bored with painting and were tearing around in a plastic, battery-operated Barbie Jeep. Ellis had figured out how to get the thing moving, but not how to steer; chaos ensued, but there were no injuries.
    On Sunday, it was a little colder and windier but much the same. The kids played in the lee of the house while I turned the garden soil and thought about putting in a bigger plot this spring and if it were possible to keep the deer at bay.
    According to the National Weather Service, the temperature will fall by the weekend. Saturday and Sunday will see highs only in the mid-30s. This will make for less time in the Barbie Jeep, and the painting sessions will move inside. I’ll still try to get some yardwork in, but it depends on what the kids want to do, which is fine. The garden can wait for another thaw.