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Darkshore
11-29-2011, 07:51 PM
The world where my novel takes place is sort of in a state of constant Winter. I was just trying to think of what kinds of things could be grown to sustain life in such a climate? I know there are things, just not sure what exactly besides maybe a bit of wheat could be grown and turnips, onions.

lbender
11-29-2011, 08:06 PM
I'm not a plant specialist but, in this world, some of the colder areas get warm spells (short spring, summer) where the plants go crazy. Without the warmer times, you have places like the Antarctic, where there are no terrestrial plants.

It would probably depend what you mean by 'constant winter'. Does that mean it never gets above freezing? Does it mean that you occasionally get warm spells where it goes all the way up to 40 degrees fahrenheit?

With constant freezing, the only way I can think of to make use of plants would be greenhouses with imported plants, or underwater farming, if you have an underwater environment.

Darkshore
11-29-2011, 08:10 PM
Just sort of a perpetual Snowfall and constant struggle to survive the harsh cold of the environment. I suppose I could write in that warm spells do occur, or if all else fails I guess I could make-up some kind of winter plant-life. Just wanted some ideas hehe.

Archerbird
11-29-2011, 08:15 PM
Yup, what Ibender said. It really depends on what you mean by constant winter.

L.C. Blackwell
11-29-2011, 08:17 PM
In most tundra environments, even where the snow pack is gone for part of the year and mosses or small scrub bushes grow, agriculture tends to animal husbandry--people herd reindeer, etc., and use their animals as a main source of food, clothing and other needed items.

Crop farming requires a summer season--even if it's the short Alaskan type, where the days are very long. Otherwise an enclosed, heated, lighted space with unfrozen soil is necessary. Some crops can overwinter under the snow, but they will not grow, and they will usually die if exposed to wind, etc.

Edited to add: if your people live near a coastline, they can depend on fishing or whaling--possibly seal hunting at the right times of year.

Darkshore
11-29-2011, 08:31 PM
I've got that part all figured out :D, but I'm sure to survive the people would need some kind of vegetable right? You can't survive on meat and fish alone.

sunandshadow
11-29-2011, 08:35 PM
Seaweed, if the ocean is nearby. Pine nuts from evergreen trees, perhaps, or invent an evergreen tree which has edible needles. Some kinds of cabbage are very cold-hardy, as are some kinds of grasses/grains.

Archerbird
11-29-2011, 08:37 PM
People that live in the Northern areas have mostly lived on fishing/hunting/keeping animals and plants that occur in the wild. Even in the "warm" northern parts (like Finnmark and Lappland) there's not much farming, except for things like barley and potatoes, but not even that will survive in perpetual winter.

boron
11-29-2011, 08:38 PM
There's a farmer in the middle of the Alps in Austria/Europe:


Amid average annual temperatures of a mere 4.2 degrees Celsius (39.5 Fahrenheit), Sepp Holzer grows everything from apricots to eucalyptus, figs to kiwi fruit, peaches to wheat at an altitude of between 1,000 and 1,500 metres (3,300 and 4,900 feet).
http://www.celsias.com/article/permaculture-miracles-in-the-austrian-mountains/
http://www.krameterhof.at/en/index.php?id=holzersche_permakultur

Taryall mountain farms (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sepp+holzer&oq=sepp+holzer&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=1094l4672l0l5121l11l11l0l4l4l0l267l1190l1.5 .1l7l0]Youtube videos about Sepp Holzer[/url]

[url="http://www.tarryallmountainfarms.org/) at 2,700 m (8,800 feet) in central Colorado/US.

Alessandra Kelley
11-29-2011, 08:42 PM
I've got that part all figured out :D, but I'm sure to survive the people would need some kind of vegetable right? You can't survive on meat and fish alone.

Yeah, you can. But it necessitates eating parts of the animals we're not normally happy about eating.

boron
11-29-2011, 09:01 PM
I agree; you can get all essential nutrients (proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals) with animal foods only. Infants survive on human breast milk only for more than a year.

Carbohydrates (sugars, starch) are not essential to human life.

L.C. Blackwell
11-30-2011, 02:56 AM
Yeah, you can. But it necessitates eating parts of the animals we're not normally happy about eating.

Including marrow and fat. There's a 1950s paperback novel called Two Against the North, also called Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat. It's quite a detailed (though fictional) survival story, and if you can pick up a copy it'll give you some idea of how your characters could cope with their environment.

jennontheisland
11-30-2011, 03:25 AM
Carbohydrates (sugars, starch) are not essential to human life.
No, but some vitamins are. Vitamin C for example, not common in most protein and fat sources.

If they have a short season, they can grow "winter wheat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_wheat)". Plant in fall, sprouts, cryo preserved over winter, finishes growing in spring for an early harvest.

They can always resort to lichen or seaweed if they require vegetable matter. Moving water will also usually have green things in it. Even if they're not near an ocean, a river should suffice.

Darkshore
11-30-2011, 06:48 AM
Thanks all some nice ideas here, and it's good to know that the vegetable side isn't entirely essential, but I do need to find a way for liquor to be freely available. Lots of tavern scenes I'd like to have and it just doesn't feel Fantasy to me without a good ole tavern.

Fenika
11-30-2011, 06:56 AM
If it is only cold weather, not constant winter, you can grow cold weather crops like spinach and lettuce and beets and... broccoli? and whatnots. Most these plants need to be started when soil temps are warmer, but can be helped with cold frames or greenhouses.

In any harsh climate you'll want to rely on what is naturally there- like the pine nuts someone suggested, and wild meat. You can't expect agriculture only to sustain you year after year, though a mix of crops and adding livestock and poultry helps. I'm sure people in various cold climates have their own special vegetables that they survive on, in part.

Also: Pick up Four Season Gardening at your local lib.

Shadow_Ferret
11-30-2011, 06:56 AM
By building greenhouses?

L.C. Blackwell
11-30-2011, 07:09 AM
I do need to find a way for liquor to be freely available. Lots of tavern scenes I'd like to have and it just doesn't feel Fantasy to me without a good ole tavern.

Milk products (I assume that includes reindeer milk) can be used to create fermented drinks like kefir, though grain is used in the process and the alcohol content isn't that high. Also, if you're doing fantasy, you can make up some sort of hardy cow or yak-like beast.

Unless you want your culture completely isolated from outside influences, though, I don't know why they couldn't engage in some kind of trading--by ship, if you don't want them wandering south and overland for some reason.

As far as limiting foreign influence is concerned, Russia and China both have histories of restricting foreign merchants to specific ports and housing enclaves, and discouraging them from mixing with the general population. You could use a similar system as a possible source of tension for characters in your novel.

Darkshore
11-30-2011, 08:06 AM
Ah yes! Fermented milk...first time I saw this in a Fantasy novel was the mares milk for the Dothraki, completely slipped my mind. Good call. Also the people in my novel are severely oppressed by a ruling force so the blocking trade would work as well. Thanks :).

boron
11-30-2011, 11:10 AM
No, but some vitamins are. Vitamin C for example, not common in most protein and fat sources.

Animal foods are not good sources of vitamins C, E, K and folate, but they can be found in human breast milk, dairy products and liver.

blacbird
11-30-2011, 11:40 AM
First, you have to define "cold climate". Now, I live in Alaska, and garden, so I have some background. What works here:

Potatoes
Any cabbage family plant, cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, rutabagas, turnips, kale, mizuna, mustard, bok choi and related varieties. Arugula, sorrel, other greens. Lettuce. Summer squashes.

You can forget tomatoes and peppers, unless you have a heated and lighted greenhouse. Melons are out of the question.

I have a fantasy about growing mangoes and papayas, but it doesn't seem very likely until the global warming really sets in.

caw

SPMiller
11-30-2011, 01:53 PM
Nothing useful grows productively during any winter worthy of the name. A few plants such as parsley will revert to a basal rosette during the winter months, but they need a growing season eventually. A sufficiently low temperature will murder any cabbage variety. There are some edible mosses/lichens that don't die back in the winter, but that's not sustainable. Pine nuts, as mentioned above, are actually a reasonable if time-consuming source of energy, but trees won't produce during the winter.

In other words, you need to have some period of time that isn't winter.

Captcha
11-30-2011, 03:43 PM
Maybe you could have hot springs or something, to create a small oasis from the cold? Obviously the air would still be cold, but it might at least thaw the ground enough for very limited vegetable growth.

It could create an interesting addition to the novel - control of the springs areas would be really valuable, if the plants are luxury goods.

Otherwise, though, I'd look to the Inuit and other northern people.

Buffysquirrel
11-30-2011, 09:48 PM
One of the polar expeditions grew cress around the steam pipes on their ship.

hammerklavier
11-30-2011, 10:41 PM
There are all sorts of vegetables that can grow in cold weather 30-50 degrees F. They can survive light freezes also. These include the cabbage family, turnips, onions, wheat, evergreen trees (their inner bark is a source of vitamin C), and numerous herbs. However, none of these plants will go to seed in such weather, they all go to seed in the spring or summer (so no pine nuts, for example).

jennontheisland
11-30-2011, 11:20 PM
I think some of this may also depend on your definition of "winter".

Where I am, winter means -20C as a daily high, overnight lows that include wind chills well into the -40C, and cold dry wind blowing around lots of snow under a glaringly bright sun.

Where I lived before here, winter meant near constant rain, humidity over 80%, temps usually in the single digits C, one dump of very wet snow, and no chance of sun for a good 3 months.

Those are very different conditions that result in very different flora.

Darkshore
12-01-2011, 06:57 AM
I'm thinking more of a constant "Nordic" type of climate. When I think Nordic I'm thinking constant snowfall, evergreens, the occasional bitter snow storm/freezing lake/river. Not really a Tundra, but not the least bit warm.

Captcha
12-01-2011, 07:10 AM
I'm thinking more of a constant "Nordic" type of climate. When I think Nordic I'm thinking constant snowfall, evergreens, the occasional bitter snow storm/freezing lake/river. Not really a Tundra, but not the least bit warm.

I think you're out of luck if it's CONSTANTLY cold. Constant snowfall suggests no time over freezing... check out the idea of Growing Degree Days (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing-degree_day) on Wikipedia, or Growing Season (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing_season). Most places use a base of 5 or 6 degrees Celsius as the point above which growth may occur.

You could create some sort of super-plant with extra antifreeze, I guess, but I don't think you're going to be able to use Earth plants.

L.C. Blackwell
12-01-2011, 08:16 AM
Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but as far as I'm aware, any place with evergreens does not have constant snowfall, and can't. If you look at old maps of Canada and Russia, some will have a northern boundary marking where the forest, or taiga, ends. Beyond that, no trees.

Since this is fantasy, you don't technically have to play by real-life rules--you could probably even make up some weird climate change phenomenon where there used to be summer season and now there isn't--but if you do want to be somewhat realistic, you'll have to have a summer-type season for evergreens to exist. Even in the high north, there is a summer. It's short, cool, and the days are very long.

To have perpetual snow, you'd have to have a climate resembling Antarctica/the Arctic Circle, in which case, no, you're not going to grow much unless it's indoors/protected.

Edited to add: the other factor in the snow line is altitude. But you'll also notice that not much grows above it, even in the mountains.

SPMiller
12-01-2011, 08:17 AM
I'm thinking more of a constant "Nordic" type of climate. When I think Nordic I'm thinking constant snowfall, evergreens, the occasional bitter snow storm/freezing lake/river. Not really a Tundra, but not the least bit warm.Huh? What sort of Nordic climate? Much of southern Sweden is quite warm, for example, compared to mid-Canadian cities.

jennontheisland
12-01-2011, 09:41 AM
I'm thinking more of a constant "Nordic" type of climate. When I think Nordic I'm thinking constant snowfall, evergreens, the occasional bitter snow storm/freezing lake/river. Not really a Tundra, but not the least bit warm.
Even north of the Arctic Circle in Canada, in the tundra, there isn't constant snowfall. Water runs, and few evergreens grow. You're describing taiga/boreal forest, but with a lot more snow and cold than exists in taiga.

I'm thinking you need to Wiki some "nordic" countries and check what their weather is like. Many of them are considerably milder than where I am right now, and they're much farther north.

Also, constant snow precludes any kind of grain.

If you're going to have people living in this area, you're going to need a damn good reason (like some kind of valuable mineral resource or something) because few humans are willing to bother trying to eke out a living in areas like you're describing.

BardSkye
12-01-2011, 11:40 AM
I think if you're going to have constant snowfalls and no warm season, your people are probably going to have to depend on water life like fish and seaweed to survive. I'm not too sure about the constant snow, either. Most very cold places like the Arctic and Antarctic don't get much snow in a year. What they do get just builds up over the centuries to ice sheets. Constant snowfall would require a clash of warm and cold air to bring on precipitation, wouldn't it?

skylark
12-01-2011, 12:10 PM
Another question would be whether your location has seasons at all. It's not just temperature which triggers plant growth, it's light levels. If it's cold for the same sort of reasons that the Arctic and Antarctic are cold on Earth, you will have a summer. It may not be warm, but it will be warmer and it will be much lighter.

The more north or south you get (which on this planet at least is where and why you get the colder temperatures), the more extreme the seasons are.

You simply can't grow anything (in the ground) if you have constant snowfall - like someone else said, constant snowfall = icesheet.

Darkshore
12-01-2011, 04:27 PM
Thanks all. I think I got a little to overboard with the vision in my head, and it does kind of make sense to have a summer season. Also, I know "Nordic" areas aren't really like that I was just sort of trying to help get a visual. I'm not sure why, but I just really want this place to be coated in snow and ice for a good part of the year at least. This would be kind of due to the odd phenomenon that occurs with their ocean. It's black as night and is cold enough to freeze, but doesn't, because of "magic mumbo jumbo". I just thought that if the magic had that effect on the water, the water would have an effect on the temperature of the area.

jennontheisland
12-01-2011, 06:50 PM
The magic mumbo jombo of oceans not freezing is actually due to water's specific heat capacity. That's why ocean side areas tend to have more temperate climates. They also have more snow because of the moisture levels. Rivers don't freeze solid either. Even the ones with thick ice sheets on top have running water under them. And if your majic mumbo jumbo is going to prevent water in general from freezing despite it being cold enough, you're not going to have much snow. You're going to have a lot of slush.

There are lots of places coated in snow and ice for a good part of the year, and few of them are Nordic. But all of them have summers. Where I am, the -40C winters are complimented by summers with temps well into the low 30C at times. (this is a bit of an extreme area)

If you want winter to be significant (might want to think about that and what it symbolizes in various existing cultures and in yours, and how it and the other seasons are celebrated) there doesn't have to be constant winter, you can just have your significant events take place during winter.

Darkshore
12-01-2011, 07:18 PM
It's more like the water itself is completely still, no waves, and its cold enough that it will almost freeze human flesh if it touches it. Kind of like a lesser form of liquid nitrogen. But as you can tell this is all still in the planning stages, so I'm willing to bet some of these ideas aren't as cool as I thought hehe. As in supernaturally cold, not regular ocean cold in which they do ice over a bit.

skylark
12-01-2011, 07:51 PM
If your ocean isn't exactly "water" for some magical reason, having it freeze at a lower temperature than ordinary seawater is pretty good pseudoscience, and would be consistent with still getting frozen snow and ice on the land (since they'd be formed from ordinary water).

jennontheisland
12-03-2011, 12:12 AM
Completely still water will not be aerated.

Darkshore
12-03-2011, 01:21 AM
Didn't think of that...so that would kind of mean that no plant-life nor any kind of aquatic life could live there. I think I have a solution for this, but I'm not sure.

jaksen
12-03-2011, 06:13 PM
Maybe you could have hot springs or something, to create a small oasis from the cold? Obviously the air would still be cold, but it might at least thaw the ground enough for very limited vegetable growth.

It could create an interesting addition to the novel - control of the springs areas would be really valuable, if the plants are luxury goods.

Otherwise, though, I'd look to the Inuit and other northern people.

Ah! An area of hot springs would allow you to grow many sorts of things.

In New England, near the school where I taught for eons there were broken steam pipes under the ground outside. In the middle of winter, in below freezing temperatures, there was grass growing all over this area, and birds were pulling worms out of the soft, warm soil. The snow melted away when it fell there and it was a little weird out-of-place ecological oasis that I and my students found fascinating. Seeds from the bird seed we put out sprouted in the middle of January.

Hot springs is the way to go.

Darkshore
12-03-2011, 07:02 PM
Ah! An area of hot springs would allow you to grow many sorts of things.

In New England, near the school where I taught for eons there were broken steam pipes under the ground outside. In the middle of winter, in below freezing temperatures, there was grass growing all over this area, and birds were pulling worms out of the soft, warm soil. The snow melted away when it fell there and it was a little weird out-of-place ecological oasis that I and my students found fascinating. Seeds from the bird seed we put out sprouted in the middle of January.

Hot springs is the way to go.

Very cool! I'll have to make use of that for sure. Or perhaps some form of steampunkish technology that works the way those broken pipes did? Hmmm. Still great ideas all. I'm glad I brainstormed here, since it gives me a chance earlier on to catch my stupidity and hopefully fix it...hehe.

Flicka
12-04-2011, 10:46 AM
I know I'm late but I just wanted to chime in with my experiences. I'm Swedish and like someone said, we have a better climate than we should considering how very far north we are due to the Gulfstream. My ancestors were Sami, a people found in northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. They traditionally lived off hunting, gathering and fishing but at some point they started keeping herds of reindeer. They didn't grow any crops, but like many circumpolar people they were nomads, following their reindeer. In the inland of Lappland (Lapp is an old word for Sami) you could expect snow from Oct/Nov to May. Later on, Swedish settlers grew potatoes etc in the area (in the lowlands) but it's not great for farming. Not farming didn't mean an entirely animal based diet for the Sami though since they gathered things from the wild. You get wild berries like lingonberries, blueberries and cloudberries for instance. Timbering is done on a big scale these days (lots of pine) and the Sami has always traded furs (the area has lots of wildlife, including bears and wolves). There's also mining, in Kiruna for example.

ETA: Even short summers could allow for growing crops. If I were you I'd look into Russia, which have very long, cold winters and extremely hot summers.

Hot springs would be useful. You could look into Iceland which have plenty of them. If you want a steampunky feel, how about using coal-heating?

As for the sea; sorry, but H2O just doesn't behave like that. You could have the sea open due to currents etc, but you'd still get waves and it freezes at 0 degrees Celsius (that's why it was picked as point zero for that scale). If it's colder, it's solid. Chemical fact. Otherwise you need to add something; a salt perhaps? Our seas have NaCl, but what is a fantasy sea had some other salt? I'm not a chemist so don't ask me what it might be, but it might be worth looking into.

One thing people not being this far rarely think about is: why is it so cold far north in the winter? It has to do with the sun, so it also means it's dark. Here in Stockholm, right now, the sun rises about 9 am and sets right after 2 pm. Places like Kiruna don't get any daylight in the dead of winter, so of course the water is black. Everything is black. If you haven't lived it, it's hard to explain but sometimes it feels like you're suffocating, like the blackness is everywhere and it almost gets hard to breathe. Then again, in the summer, you don't get any real nights at all. Northern Sweden has daylight 24/7 in June.

As for taverns, do you really need alcohol? Muslim countries don't use alcohol but the still have places where people get together like coffee houses. If you want some sort of stimulant, could they grow or import some sort if drug? 'Shrooms, for example. Some mushrooms can be grown in dark and damp places and they could be sold exclusively at your 'coffee houses'. Like cannabis in Amsterdam.

Anyway, I don't know if that was in anyway helpful, but feel free to ask if there's anything I might help you with!

Flicka
12-04-2011, 11:21 AM
Since I'm kinda proud of my Sami heritage and few people outside the Nordic countries have heard of them, I like to spread the word. Here's a video, featuring footage from a movie that depicts a Sami rebellion in 1852, in Kautakeino in Norway (it ended with the leaders being beheaded). Inspiration for what life in a cold climate can look like:

http://www.artistdirect.com/video/mari-boine-kautokeino/86862

(the song is performed in a Sami dialect by artist Mari Boine, who is the most famous Sami singer at the moment)

Domoviye
12-04-2011, 07:13 PM
For alcohol you might want to consider Spruce beer. Its made from the branches of conifers which are fermented in liquid with various ingredients. No grain or domesticated plants needed, and all the ingredients can be found in Northern Ontario which has 5 months of winter, and another month or two or cold weather.

Darkshore
12-04-2011, 07:33 PM
Thanks again everyone for all the replies. I'll have to do a bit more research on the subject. I appreciate the realistic answers as I would like to keep this world as realistic as possible, but in the end it is fantasy so I may allow myself a few exceptions (such at the ocean, since my story has a lot to do with old gods sealed away under it).

dirtsider
12-06-2011, 01:56 AM
Someone already mentioned using evergreen bark for Vitamin C. I seem to recall that there's at least one pine tree whose needles could be boiled for a tea that contains Vitamin C. And don't forget roses. They're also a source of Vitamin C, both the flowers and rose hips.

blacbird
12-06-2011, 08:41 AM
I think if you're going to have constant snowfalls and no warm season, your people are probably going to have to depend on water life like fish and seaweed to survive. I'm not too sure about the constant snow, either. Most very cold places like the Arctic and Antarctic don't get much snow in a year. What they do get just builds up over the centuries to ice sheets. Constant snowfall would require a clash of warm and cold air to bring on precipitation, wouldn't it?

This, exactly. People living in very northern climes depend on hunting and fishing and maybe some gathering of wild foods like berries for subsistence. And high Arctic locations actually get very little snow each year. It just gets colder than Dick Cheney's heart for six months or so. Cold air cannot hold much moisture, which is why it doesn't snow when it's really cold, anywhere. You need temperatures not much below freezing and a clash of cold dry air with warm moist air to create conditions for significant snow.

Darkshore
12-09-2011, 11:08 PM
I see...perhaps not a constant snowfall then, but I would like it to look like this....

http://static.desktopnexus.com/thumbnails/642298-bigthumbnail.jpg

....at least most of the time. I believe I have a solution for farming in such temperatures, just to add a bit of a difference from simply hunting. Calling them the "steampits", basically an area that works like the piped someone mention, but it's naturally occurring. Like a hotspring type of thing, providing a sort of Oasis area for crop growth. Not sure how technically sound this is, but it seems cool.

BardSkye
12-10-2011, 01:21 AM
That picture looks more like the result of ice fog than snowfall to me. You would get that around hot springs.

Darkshore
12-10-2011, 01:33 AM
That picture looks more like the result of ice fog than snowfall to me. You would get that around hot springs.

Interesting. I'd actually never heard of ice fog before.

BardSkye
12-10-2011, 01:42 AM
It's quite common in Calgary. I think it has to be extremely cold for it to form (without hot springs, that is), so while its effects are beautiful, they're also miserable to deal with.

Google: images, ice fog for some spectacular pictures.

blacbird
12-10-2011, 08:45 AM
Interesting. I'd actually never heard of ice fog before.

Vary common in northern locales, like where I live in Alaska. Looks like ordinary wet fog, except the microscopic water particles are crystalline solid, not droplets. Very nasty to drive in.

caw

Flicka
12-10-2011, 12:00 PM
I've never heard of ice fog either but that is the look you get when frost forms and you also have plenty of snow.

Like I said, in Northern Sweden you can easily have snow covering the ground from November to mid-May. In inland climates, you get supercold winters and hot summers, but in coastal areas the temperature doesn't vary as wildly because water is slower to change temperature. I suppose your fantasy sea could account for some peculiarities in climate.

Random thought - I don't know how familiar with snow you are, but it looks and feels very different depending on temperature. While it may be hard to determine temperature from the air (depends on wind and humidity) I can usually determine temperature very accurately by touching the snow.

BardSkye
12-10-2011, 07:34 PM
You've probably seen how ordinary fog wraps everything,even delicate things like spiderwebs, with beads of water? Ice fog does the same, only the wrapping is ice. As blacbird says, horrible to drive in, not much better to walk in.

Flicka
12-10-2011, 07:48 PM
Doesn't all fog do that in winter? I thought ice fog was something you only got at extremely low temps, not just at, say, measly -10 degrees Celsius. But even then fog makes ice crystal on everything...

BardSkye
12-10-2011, 08:19 PM
Can't say for sure as we don't get a great deal of "normal" fog here. Yes, ice fog forms at very low temperatures, -30 or -40C. Adds to the sheer misery of waddling around wrapped in so many clothes you can barely move. :)