This morning I finally started some seeds for the garden. People may be shaking their heads and thinking it’s late but I have to tell you nothing goes into the ground before the first week of June here. You just never know. I think I will be building a cold frame in the next week or so to give them a little more growing space and sun and ease the hardening off process.
I love planting seeds, they hold such promise. I’m always amazed that for a couple of bucks you can get a little packet of seeds when planted and harvested could feed a hundred people. That’s not to say that every seed I plant will produce to that extent, there are variables but there are also the memories of those years where the harvest was beyond belief. Those I look forward too with a little trepidation. One summer I canned enough beans to last until the next harvest eating them every single day. I was really sick of canning beans.
Into the soil they go, in a few days their heads will be popping out of the soil, a couple of weeks and they’ll need new pots, more sun and more water. A few months, if all goes well, things will be picked and served for every lunch and dinner. Such freshness and flavor is something you will never find anywhere else and the personal satisfaction is something that can’t be beat.
The signs are all there now, the crocuses are blossoming, random garlic is coming up. I say random because I didn’t plant any last fall so there must have been bulbs that I missed. A pleasant surprise. The leaves are coming out on my strawberries which I had given up for lost since they had been totally taken over last year. I figured it being their first year they had been choked out. It gives me an opportunity to weed all around them and mulch, we’ll see what happens. No asparagus yet but the rhubarb is coming out of the ground.
The robins are back and I have to tell you there is nothing like hearing their sweet, sweet song. I always forget how much I miss it until I hear it. There is no more obvious a harbinger of spring for me.
Sugaring is over, the last boil was this past Sunday. I was afraid I was going to miss it altogether and had threatened to boil syrup on the stove to make sugar just so I could smell it. The syrup made over the weekend was my favorite, dark and robust as the grading system now tells you. If I’m going to eat maple syrup I want it to really taste like maple.
Things here are coming back down to a new normal. Everything was in place so the transfer of property was seamless. My father’s name has been taken off of everything. The utilities don’t make anything easy to transfer but in my mind I figure if it all takes a month that’s okay.
Dad’s memorial service is next week. The last thing to be taken care of. Looking through hundreds of photographs over the past few days has given me a greater understanding of what it means to have a good life. Sometimes he didn’t see it but he was charmed.
We all need to look through our lives like they are photographs I think. We only take pictures of the good things. The big family events – births, weddings, graduations. Vacations or jobs well finished. When it all comes right down to it it’s the little moments that make up that whole grand life. When I go I want someone to look at the snapshots and say, “Wow, her life was pretty great.” I know I feel as though it has been and I think it’s because I can drop the bad stuff by the wayside.
Live for the moment, don’t dwell on the past, you can’t change any of it. Just remember all of the little gifts because that is what a good life is made of.
I read with interest yesterday an article about Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, the day halfway between the winter and spring solstices. It is a holiday to celebrate the return of the sun. It was interesting because I was just noticing the lengthening of the days. It’s been easier this year because the winter has been so mild, the temperatures hovering around 50 this week makes it feel like we should be tapping the trees.
This is also when my to do list becomes extremely long and I dare say unrealistic. There is a need to clean out, pare down, remove the cobwebs, air the rooms. It’s like you want to shake off the past year.
I also notice a ramping up of creativity. I just pulled a project from the loom and have three lined up on the table waiting to go on. I have other looms and am seriously thinking of warping all three with different projects. I’m not sure how productive that might be but it’s a thought.
There’s also the rug I continue to hook, the sweater I’m knitting, the teddy bear nearing completion. There are baskets to stain, rooms to paint, furniture to build, cookies to bake. Uhm, yeah, I’m out of control here.
In addition to that a case of wanderlust has come over me. I just want to get into the car and drive, preferably to water (I daresay I’d have to drive to the ocean because everything here is still covered with ice). I don’t even know why the water part matters, I want to visit fiber stores and quilt shops. I want to wind my way through New Hampshire to Maine touching handspun yarn and fine woolen fabric. Looking at looms and shuttles. Changing up the scenery, dreaming up big projects (like I don’t have enough already).
Feels like a serious case of spring fever to me, or maybe just an effort to shake off what has been a harrowing month. Then again it could be something like a mid-life crisis only well beyond the mid-point. Let’s see how this all shakes out.
Finally. My sister commented the other day how she felt like she was coming out of a coma. I understand.
Last evening I did a walk about checking for signs of life. This the time of year when I’m anxious to see what made it through the winter. As everyone knows this past one was particularly cold but we had a pretty good snow cover so I’m hoping that insulation helped everything survive. It’s particularly concerning to me because I put in so many new gardens last summer. The waiting has only just begun, some plants won’t show signs of life for weeks.
At the end of my walk I saw the leaves popping out of the canes on the raspberries. My raspberry bed is in a sad state, overgrown with crabgrass (the bane of my existence). I started to pull things out – dead or alive. If it wasn’t a raspberry out it went. Being a spur of the moment weeding event I didn’t have gloves with me. The soil was the perfect texture – not too wet, not too dry and the perfect temperature. It’s been 7 long months since I’ve had my hands in the dirt – seven months!
There’s an article that my sister and I pass back and forth about digging in the dirt acting as an antidepressant. I don’t think I needed a scientific study to tell me this. All I needed was a long, cold, sleepless winter. After just an hour of digging in the dirt I slept like a baby. I’m addicted to dirt.
Nothing says spring to me like the sound of a redwing blackbird. The past few days they have been in my yard by the hundreds
They’ve been cleaning up around the feeders.
Although there’s safety in numbers they are a cautious lot and spend much of their time landing and taking off.
The sight and sounds are amazing. Add it to a 60 degree day and I can almost breathe a sigh of relief but there’s still way too much snow. Mud season has only reached my driveway.
Sunrise this morning looks the same as most of the sunrises have for a while. It was 9 degrees. Yesterday’s high was 27. The sap has yet to start running (other than possibly one afternoon last week) but everything is ready to go. The snow has compressed some so the wind that has been blowing for the past few days is not whipping it into your face when you’re outdoors.
My chickens went on strike over the weekend. At first I was worried they were eating their eggs but there was no evidence. They are simply sick of the cold as well, I’m sure. They started laying again yesterday, much to my relief. I didn’t think I would worry about my birds as much as I have this past winter.
It feels as though I am in a state of suspended animation. I know spring will get here but at the same time I wonder if it really will. I’m waiting for the lamb part of March and we’re getting dangerously close to the end of its days without it really feeling like spring. I haven’t even planned the garden. I’ve been asked a few times these past few weeks what it will look like this year. I have a vague idea because there will be some big changes this year but haven’t commit anything to paper. Haven’t ordered my seeds, haven’t even checked out what I have. Guess I should do a germination test on some.
I think today I’ll do that, get out the seed, draw out the plan, dream about summer. The sun is brightly shining and quite possibly I could see some mud in the driveway before late afternoon. When I feed the chickens this morning I’ll close my eyes and listen to the birds singing their spring songs and dream about hummingbirds and orioles at my feeders. With that I may even start some tomato seeds just to see something green growing, even if it’s only on the window sill.
I always know when spring is here – the Clivia blooms. I would recommend this plant to anyone who truly believes they cannot grow anything – this plant thrives on total neglect. Before writing this post I did a little research and read all about how to get your Clivia to blossom. Cold temperature, no water, timing – yeah, I do none of that except forget to water it for most of the winter. That and never, ever repot the thing. This is the lazy man’s ultimate plant.
It sits on a table on the north side of the house. I still think it blossoms when the days get longer, that’s all it’s waiting for. It’s been in hibernation for the winter, like me, that’s probably why it’s not watered during that period. It’s always the middle of February that I start to notice the days are getting longer and I give it a drink figuring it will notice too. Like clockwork those orange blossoms open up the beginning of March – it knows. That’s the beauty of having houseplants, they tell you spring is coming well before you think it is. You see that new growth where there has been nothing for months. The plants begin to demand your attention, they are telling you the seasons are changing.
For those of us now anxiously waiting for spring yesterday was not what we needed to see. It snowed, it snowed like crazy. Those torrential downpours you see in the summer? Yeah, that’s what happened here only snow. Six inches in less than three hours. We just cleared away four or five in our yard on Sunday. I’m just tired. And cold.
This morning the sun was shining brightly, it was 18 degrees. I opened the door to take Chester out for his walk and the first thing I noticed was birdsong. Not just any birdsong but spring birdsong. Robins, woodpeckers, chickadees all singing their spring twitterpated songs. A robin was sitting on a branch of the cherry, a flicker was chipping away at an old maple in the backyard, cardinals were fighting over territory (there’s nothing more beautiful than cardinals in the snow). Chickadees were singing their spring phoebe song. Sigh, they know. Even though there’s over two feet of snow in my yard today and most of the tree limbs are covered just hearing them makes me smile and think warm thoughts.
Time to stop listening to all of the bad weather hype and listen to the birds in your backyard, they’re telling you that spring is just about here.
The rain has stopped – for now. In doing my morning walk about I noticed how well the fruit on the property was doing. The blueberry bushes are loaded this year, last year I didn’t get a single berry. It warmed up to abnormal temperatures in February 1012. A week or more of 70’s and 80’s fooled every early flowering plant, tree and shrub into thinking spring had arrived early. The temperature then dropped to below freezing (where it should be that time of year) and froze every blossom on the fruiting trees and shrubs. It also completely messed up our sugaring season. In 2011 we made well over 100 gallons of maple syrup, in 2012 maybe 30. Our pear tree had 3 pears, the deer ate two and my sister picked the last one.
Losing your entire fruit crop is distressing in many ways. You’ve already made plans for what you are going to put up based on previous years and suddenly you realize there will not be any fruit of any kind. This year the pear tree is loaded once again and I’m making plans for what to do with the hundreds that will be available (barring any extreme weather event from now until frost). I often wonder about people who plant 5 or 6 of a kind of fruit tree. This one tree, in a good year, produces enough for a few families to eat fresh and preserve. I find that at times it has really stressed me out because I feel like I’m wasting good food by not putting more up but honestly you can only do so much. The deer eat the drops and the ones hanging from the lower branches. I try to give them away.
I have to say that one of the favorite games for the dogs involves that pear tree. When the fruit starts to drop onto the ground we go down to the tree and I toss the pears as far as I can in rapid succession in different directions. Buddy will chase a couple, then settle down to eat one. Sophie will run after one, tag it and run back. Chester will fetch them all day long, every so often taking a bite out of it but always bringing it back and dropping it at my feet. The only problem is he likes the game so much that he continually goes out in the field and brings pears up to the driveway and the lawn. A lot of fun when you’re mowing the grass.
Fruit is always a long term endeavor. I planted a row of raspberry plants that Carmen had given me last year. I got a couple of berries in July (I probably would have picked more but caught Chester picking them, apparently he finds them tasty as well). This year the patch is twice as large – raspberries propagate readily sending shoots up all over the place once the plants get going. I will probably have enough berries for a couple of pies and maybe a small batch of jam. I transplanted more canes this spring doubling the number I had. I’m looking forward to a crop large enough to put up for the winter. Now that I can see the potential for this patch of fruit I’m happy that I did it.
Growing these types of long term crops can be a difficult decision to make. You always have to create a new bed for them and put it in a place that you know will be dedicated to that fruit. Trees are the same way and even longer term considering how slowly they grow and the years it can take before they bear fruit. Once that tree is planted it has to stay there, that’s a commitment. I planted a bed of asparagus this year at the end of my vegetable garden knowing full well that it will effect how I till for years to come. I will not be able to eat anything from this bed for another two years but once it’s going I could potentially have a healthy asparagus crop for another thirty. I’ll take that and leave it to my kids.