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Frozen in Tucson

When we were first walking through this house last March, we noticed only one living thing in the otherwise desolate back yard: a small lemon tree.   The poor thing was so dry that its leaves were curled and it had borne just a pair of pathetic lemons.   Since the house was vacant, we took pity on the tree and watered it.

Every time we came back to the house after that, we watered the tree, and it began to respond.   So we asked Jerry the caretaker to keep it happy while we were gone all summer.   Now, in December, the “lemon” tree is lush and green, twice the size it was last May, and bearing fruit — grapefruit. I was a little surprised to find out that it was really a grapefruit tree, but can’t complain.   The fruit is delicious and juicy, and there’s something inspiring to me — a lifelong northerner — to have an actual citrus tree growing in my yard.   I may plant an variety of orange too, when we get to landscaping next fall.

Last night I flipped on the TV to to catch Colin Ferguson doing the Late Late Show and there, crawling along the bottom of the screen was a SEVERE WEATHER WARNING.   Eleanor and I both perked up, because we’re used to those things containing scary news like tornadoes, flash flood warnings, destructive thunderstorms, etc.

The crawl said, “HARD FREEZE POSSIBLE”.

Uh-huh.   I suppose in southern Arizona that’s cause for fear and anxiety, but to us Vermonters a hard freeze is something that comes every October and continues until roughly May.   We don’t even get interested until it dips below 10 degrees during the daytime, which happens every January.   But in a place without hurricanes, tornadoes, levees to break, heavy snow, earthquakes, and only about 12 inches of rain a year, a hard freeze for a few hours may be the scariest phenomenon the TV weatherman has to work with during winter.

So I snorted in derision (try it sometime; the trick is snorting loud enough that other people can hear and yet not blowing anything rude out of your nose) and was about to flip the channel to see what Conan O’Brien was up to.   But then a horrible thought occurred to me: What about my new friend the grapefruit tree?

Images of Florida citrus farmers spraying their crops with water to protect them flashed through my head.     Would our lovely grapefruit all be destroyed by freezing?   Did I need to dash out of the Airstream in my pajamas like a deranged version of “The Night Before Christmas” to collect all the fruit?

Reason won out.   It was already in the 30s, and I was not anxious to go pick grapefruit by headlamp.   They’d have to fend for themselves.   I like my grapefruit but it’s also a fact that the Fry’s supermarket down the street has more if ours freezes.   Besides, Colin was pretty funny last night.

Today I moved the office into the house so I could crank up the new Bose SoundDock while working, and spread out on the dining room table.   I sent Emma out to collect all the grapefruit, and now sitting on the floor next to me is a grocery bag holding a dozen yellow softballs.   During the day I can grab one, peel it, and munch on sweet grapefruit while working.   I also turned the furnace up to 68 degrees.   With that, I think we’re prepared for the long hard winter ahead — all four hours of it.

11 days to the next Airstream trip …

3 Responses to “Frozen in Tucson”

  1. Bill Hakanson Says:


    My wife and I are now happily parked for an undetermined amount of time on five acres of private ground on Casey Key, just west of Nokomis, FL. I set up the Dish, unloaded the bicycles and beemer from the back of the truck, got out the fishing rods, and laid down the outside carpeting. We’ve settled in!

    We camped our way down the east coast – hop scotching from state park to state park – southern culmination being a fey days in the Florida Keys.

    You recall helping me research a place to park this winter that would allow me to wear t-shirts and shorts all season. So far, Florida is it. We still plan to make our way to Brownsville, TX along the coast, however…which will force us further north than we are now…but still below I-10.

    Yesterday the thermometer reached 88 here. Last night we slept comfortably with the windows open and a light blanket at most. A far cry from the 38 experienced by the folks back at our farm in NW PA.

    We’ve been in Florida for several weeks now…the state parks are great! Our favorites include First Landing (VA), Myrtle Beach (SC), Spedaway (GA), Anastasia, Tomoka, John Pennekamp, Long Key, and our most recent, Oscar Scherer. Everyone raves about Bahia Honda, but Long Key was the best beach park we visited.

    Florida residents 65 and over pay 1/2 the published admission fee: translates to about $12.50 average per night in the Florida State Parks. What a deal! And I’m sure you’re familiar with their volunteer worker program. Now that we know the parks, we’ll explore that for next season. Free parking!

    Good health to you and yours and best of success in ’08,


  2. terrie Says:

    good thing you left the grapefruit out over night in the cold…that is supposed to make them sweet…

  3. Terry Says:

    Rich, it was 86 here today, but supposed to get down to the 30’s by next Wednesday, for all of a day and a half. I’ll let you know if the citrus gets damaged.
    Also, a nip of frost will bring out the sweetness in citrus.