April Warming

We are going on the fourth day of glorious April warm weather, with yesterday hitting 79 degrees, a record for this area of New York, with a wonderful balmy, humid wind, exactly the stage of muggy I like. (Although I like all muggy weather in general, for which I am told I am strange.)

I have been turning over beds in the main garden with the fork and the soil is soft and easily worked. The buried compost areas are ready to plant and although my worm count in general is good, in these areas the count is super high.

My bag of potatoes was sprouting so I planted a row in the garden, in a ditch covered with old straw and some soil. I felt so good after doing that I planted a row of Swiss chard seeds and found that there was a use for the dried sunflower stalks after all. They make perfect marker stakes, being thick and strong. Since the sunflowers were about nine feet tall last year, there is abundant material for stakes. I even used a few of the shorter ones intact and stuck them in the ground for beans or peas.

My March-planted optimistic spinach seeds have not sprouted under the plastic, which I removed, so either the ground was still too cold for germination or they had not survived. I will give those two rows some time to decide which it is. The only way to test the limits of frost is experimentation.

I also planted three types of lettuce in the old metal tub container on the deck off the south side of the house. It is warm and protected and maybe I can get some optimistic lettuce.

The peepers and other frogs and toads have been a very loud chorus over these last nights, a wonderful way to go to sleep for me. The peacocks’ door has been open and they are free to go in and out of their yard as they choose, so they are very glad of this warm spell.

The wind dries clothes quickly on the line and they smell really good. The sunshine makes everyone feel better.

Enter Spring

The advent of Spring yesterday, Sunday, March 20, was remarkably uneventful due to the dreaded weather triad of cold, damp and grey. I celebrated Spring by putting down a few plastic strips on my garden soil. (I knew last season when my large plastic sheets started to disintegrate that I should cut them into strips and keep them.) I bustled about doing chores in just a hooded sweatshirt even though it was cold and hurried back in the house, to spend the day with computer ramblings separated by the luxurious Sunday ritual of reading the Sunday New York Times, all with PBS in the background, extolling the wonders of nature, the woes of our global land use and the hand-wringing terrible but necessary details of Japanese radiation direct from NHK.

The last two days have been cold-damp-grey, contrasting sharply with the prior two days of warm-bright-sunny and even though I knew better, I couldn’t help but hope for a continuing warmth and sun. After all, it is Spring, right? It would have been so much better to read the Times out on the deck as I did on a recent Sunday, when the main section, the Week in Review, the Book Review and the Magazine were savored with the sun in my eyes and some warmth on deck, even though the few drivers passing by must have wondered, “What the heck is that person doing sitting on a deck outside reading the paper with the snow piled deep all around on the ground?” I may have been an optimistic topic of conversation at a few dinner tables that night.

But, no, the onset of Spring seemed uneventful, even grim.

Wait, rewind. Reframe. The beginning of Spring was heralded the Saturday night before by a beautiful big and bright perigee moon, huge in fact, the biggest in-your-face moon in many years, reminding those of us with a scientific bent that the moon’s orbit around Earth is an ellipse and so the moon is nearer to the earth at that part of the oval which is, well, the nearest, the perigee. So much closer, so much larger, it was amazing to see the difference.

One of the male peacocks decided that it was springlike enough to fan out his voluptuous tail and did his froofy dance for the ladies. Of course they ignored him. But everyone has been honking noticeably more and you know what that means.

The snow is all melted and the grass is green but dry and that of course is a cause for celebration. The little chartreuse green shoots of the tiger lilies are poking up through the soil to say hello and I saw the little buds on the raspberry bushes when I pruned them the other day.

So, Spring is eventful after all. You just have to take notice.

Early spring?

March 18–mid 60s, sun with some clouds, wispy, hazy ones, fabulous!

Was outside much of day. Hung clothes on line for second day in a row, what a luxury! Peacocks out all day in their yard, looking for bugs and things in the soil.

Gardening is so relaxing. I watered my spinach seeds and started to clear borders in the old garden. I have planted marigolds, one of my favorites, for the last few years, collecting seeds from dried flowers and this is what I started clearing out in the borders of the old garden, which is now mostly devoted to perennials with some plantings, since the willow tree grew so large as to shade some of it. The newer garden is farther back on the property and is where the spinach seeds are.

I heard the robin and I also heard and spotted a male cardinal that is probably the one that has been around since winter. We have a vigorous and vociferous bird population, always have. They love it here and I love that they love it. On the Google maps, this area is labeled Bird’s Eye Hollow and I really like that name and have kind of appropriated it for our humble two acres.

Last night I thought that I heard peepers for the first time, but the bedroom windows were closed and I was drifting off. Tonight I definitely heard that familiar sound. I always get excited at the beginning of their vocal season. I have fond memories of lying in bed as a child in my grandmother’s house and listening to them. Very relaxing and peaceful. Definitely one of my favorite sounds.

I am not looking forward to it getting colder again. These last two days were so wonderfully warm and that spring smell is starting. I heard or read somewhere that that smell is the smell of the earth warming up. Wonderful.

Green and green

(Note: this post is showing up late due to wordpress problem)

Well, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and when better to start the planting of the green, in this case, spinach. First crop of the year and going by the book (The New Victory Garden by Bob Thomson), I am starting early in outdoor planting. We shall see. My plastic stands ready in the garage.

The raised bed was soft and richly brown when I hoed the two rows (I am humble in March.) I need to get peas, onion sets and plus or minus, shallot sets (these latter I have never grown and the price will determine if this is the first year.)

March 17–high of 61 degrees, sunny with some clouds, a gorgeous day for this month. Bring it on!

Win-win: Nature and me

What a great day for nature! In the late afternoon I went out to close up the peacocks in their coop, today being only the second day that they have wanted to stay outside in their fenced-in yard more than five minutes. I had decided to rake out the garden and after getting the flexible leaf raker, which is very good for superficial surface clearing, I spotted my first robin of the year. Very auspicious.

I have been itching to work in the garden for weeks now and was so happy to be out there that I stayed a lot longer than I had planned. It gave me a chance while I raked to see the framework of the garden and think about what I wanted to do and where. The bare bones of the garden looked excellent, raised beds were in good shape and the dried remnants of the extremely tall sunflowers were leaning all willy-nilly. I did not have the heart to pull them yet. The birds still sit in them and survey the ground.

When I was done to my satisfaction, I went back to the house and while in the bathroom, I happened to glance out the window and saw one, two, three, then four white-tailed deer emerge from the evergreens at the back of the property and start grazing on the grass. We have a border of grass mowed back there around a section of hay field that we have left grow wild from when we moved in so long ago. It is an agreement with the rabbits, I think, because the one year that we finally cut down this section was the only year that they started investigating the gardens way farther forward toward the house. After that, we let it grow again and have had no further problems. Easy solution. The deer seem to like this area also.

Hoping for an early spring.

End of Spring garden report

With summer only a few days away I wanted to put down some garden notes. I started planting much earlier this year and it is proving successful. I have already eaten a couple varieties of lettuce and now some Italian mixed greens. Have also eaten peas which are continuing to produce. The spinach is all eaten and I need to plant more. It did not bolt even with the early very hot weather.

The potatoes should be flowering very soon. I planted them in March and used plastic. (Lot of work.) But it is very cheery to see the big green plants and know that very delicious things are beneath the ground.

The cabbage is getting very big. With the very hot weather and all the rain this spring they grew so fast that I have not had a chance to space them out, but I am going to try.

New lettuce is very tiny. Planted from seed.

Brussels sprouts plants are all in and are doing well.

All pepper plants are in and growing nicely. Several varieties of both hot, sweet, bell. I also put a few peppers in pots to see how big they would grow and be able to take them in in the fall. Last year I dug up pepper plants and brought them in after picking crop before the frost, but only got a few extra peppers and got to watch aphids crawl around on the plants.

All tomato plants are in, several varieties. I also planted a row of seed outdoors to see what would happen. No lights setup to start them indoors in winter. Maybe next year.

I have marked off a few self-seeded plants that appeared. A few tomato plants, potato (must have left it in the ground, missing it in the digup) and lots of either squash, pumpkins or cucumbers (they all look very much alike). I decided to let these latter grow, but might not get anything edible if are hybrid squash or pumpkins, but will get gourds in that case, still good.

I am trying different types of digging. Regular dug rows. (I use composted straw from peacock yard in some rows.) But I have tried a modified version of French double digging on other half of garden. It was very impromptu and started because I put tomato plants against fencing so I could tie them there when large enough instead of using my very old tomato cages.

Tomorrow I would like to put in some rows of onions.

The weather this spring is so amazing I can’t believe it.

Farmville Farm of the Week submission

Latest in the Farmville addiction: learning to take a picture of my farm and submit it to the Farm of the Week contest. Today is Farmville’s first birthday so for my second picture taken (I took my first one yesterday of the farm on that day) I made a design to celebrate. Here it is:

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