Snow came much more quickly to Erebor, in the Northeast, than it did to the Shire, and when it came, it blanketed the earth far more quickly and more heavily.
During Bilbo’s first winter in Erebor, this was of little concern to him. He set foot outside far more rarely than he would have liked, but he was needed at Thorin’s bedside, and only the most basic necessities of his own health could part him from his beloved.
During future winters in Erebor, when Bilbo had the leisure to garden and the benefit of long residence and familiarity with the climate, he was able to plant and harvest accordingly.
But his second winter had been something of a nasty shock. It was only Winterfilth, the Shire joke being that the month was neither wintry nor filthy, full as it was with the gentle falling of leaves, sunny days, and weather that was pleasant even as it slowly cooled.
In Erebor, Bilbo rapidly discovered, “Winterfilth” properly lived up to its name. Fall, such as it was, had hardly begun—a month early, no less—before it was over and frosts threatened his plants. When snow flurries began to fall a few days into Winterfilth, it was time for Bilbo to salvage whatever he could from his garden, which was still new, still experimental, and very much in danger of going awry.
Thorin, for his part, had resolved to keep out of Bilbo’s garden. He had constructed the little terraced space for him, but otherwise left Bilbo to it. He was curious about whatever tasks could so entrance and occupy Bilbo there, but some terribly sentimental part wanted Bilbo to feel like the mountain was his home too, like he had a real stake in it. And, from what he knew about Bilbo’s habits, that meant giving him privacy.
He was considerably surprised, then, when Bilbo came up to him and dragged him by the sleeve towards the garden.
“The pumpkins,” said Bilbo, pointing at a tangled mess of vines, covered in snow. “The squash! We must get them in now, if they’re to be saved at all. They can’t handle any more frost, let alone snow. This… this is just uncivilised weather, Thorin.”
Thorin raised an eyebrow at Bilbo, about to protest that nothing about Erebor was uncivilised in the least, but the look of panic on Bilbo’s face was genuine, and his offended eyebrow slowly lowered itself back down into its usual position. He made sure the rest of his face remained steady—not surprised, for example. Dwarves weren’t really the type to panic about vegetables.
But Bilbo was. So he moved foward and laid his hands on Bilbo’s shoulders, taking a deep steady breath that he hoped Bilbo would imitate. “What needs to be done, love?” he asked, voice steady too.
“We need to get all the pumpkins and squash inside, so they’re not all ruined by the snow,” repeated Bilbo, a little more calmly this time. “Then to someplace sunny inside the mountain, to finish ripening.”
Someplace sunny inside the mountain? Well, they could take this one task at a time, whilst Thorin thought. The mountain, as Bilbo well knew, didn’t have many sunny places. “Let’s get them in here first,” he said, then called to the page at the door to send for Bombur. Out in the garden, Bilbo carefully snipped each great bulbous vegetal thing that he was trying to save from the vine, and Thorin carried the surprisingly weighty produce inside. By the time they were done, Bombur had arrived.
“Oh thank goodness you’re here,” panted out Bilbo, his face appealingly flushed from the cold. “We’ll need a wheelbarrow or two I think, and then do you know of anyplace where these could ripen in the sun? Surely Erebor must have a greenhouse?”
It had literally never occurred to Thorin to wonder whether Erebor had a greenhouse, but Bombur nodded along with Bilbo’s words and they sent the page off again for wheelbarrows whilst they surveyed Bilbo’s premature harvest.
“They look a bit like rocks,” said Thorin kindly. “Some of them are beautifully mottled.”
Bilbo glared. “They’re meant to look delicious.”
“I’m sure they are,” said Thorin, who busied himself dusting any lingering snow off of Bilbo’s… things. “You’ll just have to show me.”
This put a soft smile on Bilbo’s face. “Once they’re ripe,” he agreed. “I think you’ll like them. It’s… very hobbitish I suppose, but actually, we um, we carve the pumpkins—the big orange ones—and make lanterns out of them. They’re filled with seeds and flesh that also taste rather nice, and of course we find ways to cook those, but the carving, well—highlight of the year in the Shire, in some ways.” Bilbo shook his head, laughing at himself a bit. “Nothing a hobbit likes better than being able to show off the ability to grow mighty fruit and decorate it at the same time. I was never very good at the carving though.”
“Ah,” said Thorin. “You’re amongst dwarves now. If you want beautifully carved pumpkins Bilbo, you shall have them.”
“Only if you do the carving,” laughed Bilbo. “Or maybe Bifur. It wouldn’t be any fun if you had some dwarven master come in and carve my pumpkins for me.”
“Bilbo Baggins,” grinned Thorin. “If I ever thought you didn’t appreciate how dwarves feel about their crafts, I would feel very ashamed of myself right now. Of course we must do it ourselves.”
Bilbo surged up to kiss him, a wave of contented and happy hobbit that threatened to knock him over, but he was saved by the arrival of the wheelbarrows, which safely carted the pumpkins and the… remaining, unnamed plant-things away to safety and warmth.
About a week later, Bilbo paced his way back to his chambers. Thorin still had work to do, but it was dark and cold, and he was tired and had the luxury of retiring early. He was surprised to find a candle burning by his bedside, when he entered; more surprised by the geometric patterns that flickered on the wall with every jump of the candle’s flame.
Bilbo moved over to his bedside to sit down and inspect the source of light; what he found was a beautiful filigree lantern made out of what had been one of the tiniest pumpkins from his garden, with a little note tucked underneath it: “I’ve been practicing.”
Bilbo smiled. Perhaps he could survive this cold Winterfilth after all.