Spring and Memories

One summer day about 20 some years ago, while visiting my Dad, he was showing me his gardens and what he had planted that year. He loved his flower gardens and had a vegetable garden at the home I grew up in and tried at the home he and my stepmom bought after they married, but it was too shady for too much success. As we walked around from bed to bed, tucked between a couple of large azaleas, spilling blossoms from pots was a tipped wooden wheelbarrow. I loved it and commented on it to learn that he had made it himself. Fast forward a couple of years, and we had just sold the house that we had owned in Virginia Beach in preparation for the construction of this home in the mountains and we had moved into a rental house. He showed up in early summer, maybe around Mother’s Day with a wooden wheelbarrow he had made for me.

I followed his example and a similar idea seen in a magazine, spilling a partial bag of potting soil from the tipped barrow with potted blooming plants cascading out and filling the remaining space. The barrow was used in that spot for two years, and then it was time to divide and move. Much of the furniture was moved with me to an apartment in the mountains, the rest to an apartment for younger son and his Dad in Virginia Beach until his retirement and move here with me. The outdoor items and gardening tools moved to the barn on the site of our current home. The barrow got broken as smaller items were wedged in the truck. It was 15 months before I got into the new house and fall and winter were looming, so the little barrow sat in the barn, mostly forgotten and in need of repair. It was finally brought down to the house, and repaired, but my repairs were not strong enough to last but a couple of years. Last year, a better, sturdier repair was made and it was moved up on the front sheltered porch and held the houseplants summering out along with a pot of a flowering something.

We had finished re-staining the porch surfaces and putting down mats to prevent the pups nails from marring the newly re-painted porch.

Yesterday, the year’s dust was hosed off the floor and wooden porch furniture and the summering plants put out on one of the folding wooden shelf units by the front door. The little barrow was wheeled off the porch with the plan to again fill it will flowers to help dress up the front that took a beating this past winter between the cold, wind, and scratching hens. All of the Nandina bushes looked like they had died. All are beginning to show some new leafing out but mostly are brown masses of sticks. This evening, we stopped at Lowes and purchased a flat of red and one of while impatiens and a flat of the trailing sweet potato vines. When we got home, all of the empty terracotta pots and a left over hanging basket pot from last year were potted up and the little barrow again filled with flowers.

It is going to take some TLC while they settle in and grow to fill the pots and trail over the edges, but it brings back fond memories of my Dad and his gardens.

The morning in the vegetable garden yielded a harvest of radishes and asparagus. The 7 remaining hens are providing 3 or 4 eggs a day and as long as they do, daughter and I will be okay.

As there was already a bag of asparagus in the refrigerator, these and enough of the refrigerated ones were cut to quart jar length and the first seasonal preserve started, a jar of fermented asparagus pickles.

While out mowing yesterday afternoon, baby apples and baby Asian pears look plentiful. Unfortunately, there will be no peaches, plums, or figs. The peach and plum trees are leafed out, but their blooms came out just with a freeze. The fig bush just did not survive the winter at all. Figs not in a greenhouse are very iffy in this planting zone. I nursed it along for 4 years and got fruit for one.

We are looking at contouring the beds in front of the north facing porch, adding more shrubs while hoping the Nandinas come back and covering with a good layer of mulch. For 16 years we have discussed a walkway from the front stoop to the driveway, so that too is being considered. We may have to recruit a couple of strong grandsons to help get it done.

Spring in the mountains

Spring is always fickle, this entire winter has been though. It was subzero for a week of nights around Christmas with single digit days, and there have been weeks of late spring/early summer temperatures with nights that didn’t drop below 50f. Flowers and fruit trees bloomed early. Fearing our pear trees wouldn’t produce fruit this year because there were blooms before another week of deep freeze temperatures, as it became time for them to bloom, there were more blossoms. Three of the apple trees are blooming heavily, one lightly, one not at all. There will be no plums, it bloomed way too early and all the blossoms froze.

Seven years ago we awoke to snow. Last night we had our first frost in weeks, but today it will be 60f and by later this week, almost 80f. Friday, though the Hummingbird tracker doesn’t show them here yet, I hung my feeders and yesterday saw our first one of the season feeding on the more popular feeders.

The hens have dug out under their fence, holes filled, hay layered to fight the mud, but today with the Forsythia nearly leafed out, though there were hardly any blooms, I have again given them free range. They will hopefully hide under the foliage of the shrubs or the cedars for their safety. I hope not to lose anymore, but they can’t stay penned up in a run only slightly larger than their coop.

Two of the remaining Marans foraging the front yard this morning.

The yoyo weather seems to have taken a toll on the row of Nandina bushes along the north front porch. Not a single one of them retained any leaves this winter though the one in the protected breezeway nook did. If they don’t grow out new leaves, and that looks doubtful, a decision will have to be made as to how to treat that area. It is not great soil, but the Nandinas had thrived there for about 15 years until this winter. With the chickens scratching up the soil there, growing grass might be a challenge unless I can block them off until it is established. A few large pots with evergreen shrubs scattered along the edge is a possibility or even low growing evergreen juniper planted in the soil.

The other victim of this winter might be my fig. It produced fruit for the first time last year, but I see no sign of life in the form of new leaf buds.

This is Penny, she is a jumper, belongs to our neighbor as one of her herd, and she thinks our grass is greener than the fields on which she lives. She visits in the spring time, leaving her calf for a little while to go over the 4 strands of barbed wire to come graze. She is a welcome visitor, it amuses me to find her munching away on the tall grass that will become hay in a few months.

Her sister was a jumper also and used to visit, sometimes bringing friends.

The tomato, tomatillo, and 2 of the varieties of pepper starts are thriving. This week, they will begin daytimes on the back deck sheltered initially, and later full on in the sun to harden off for planting in about a month. Yet again, I seem to have started them a couple of weeks too early.

Today is Easter Sunday and when we have family here, there is usually an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, even for the teens. Last year, daughter created an escape room sort of series of clues to lead the older ones from hidden large egg with the next clue that eventually led them to small baskets of goodies, mostly of the non edible kind. This is always followed by a meal that has traditionally been ham, au gratin potatoes, asparagus, another green for the haters, deviled eggs, rolls, and some sort of dessert. This year it is just the two of us and hubby will get his favorite home cooked Mexican food fiesta instead.

Maybe tomorrow, we will venture to the plant nursery to check out the herb selection, to Tractor Supply to add wild bird feed and suet cakes and if I can find one, a third Bluebird house. My carpentry skills just aren’t up to building my own.

The peas and radishes are beginning to emerge in the garden, the lettuce in the large pot on the back deck is growing, and I await the asparagus that have yet to show in the garden. Last year about this time we added the 4 hives of bees that did not succeed. Two nuks of bees with marked queens are on order for early May and two hives will be started again, hopefully with more success. While I await their arrival, new excluders for the openings will be ordered and sugar syrup will be fed inside the hives this year. I am really raising them as pollinators and not looking for much honey, but some would be a bonus. There is one capped frame of it in the freezer that survived the demise of the last hive. I really don’t know what to do with it, it may go in one of the new hives as starter feed for them.

Spring is officially here, though the chance for a frost lingers until the first week of May.

Let the Season Begin

With the strong back and strength of a 16 year old assistant in the form of a Grandson, several farm issues have been addressed in the past 5 days. He fortunately is very amenable to and volunteering to help, in the garden or the kitchen. He is being kept busy and well fed.

On Saturday, we attacked the wire grass that was trying to overtake the spot in the garden where the comfrey grows. The grass was so high, finding the sprouting comfrey was a challenge. We didn’t get it all, but the comfrey has a fighting chance now. When he arrived last week, he and his Dad had purchased a large dog crate to control their two dogs until Son2 left on Wednesday. The dogs left with him, the crate put in their RV that is parked on our farm. The box is going to become a weed barrier above the asparagus bed soon.

Yesterday, after the three of us went to lunch, a walk, and to the local nursery to get raised bed soil for one of the boxes, we drove down and around the south field to see the new welded wire fence and how much clearing/damage the neighbor did installing his fence. We discovered a very long strand of high tensile fence wire with a long strand of barbed wire dragged into our hayfield but still attached to an uprooted shrub in the thicket on the edge of the field. Fortunately we discovered it before the hay got high and before the hay guy got it tangled in his equipment. Grandson and I spent a couple of hours winding the wire, tying it off with cable ties, cutting it where it was entangled in the uprooted shrub. We then walked the perimeter of the field to make sure there was no more of it out in the grass.

It is a mystery to me, how farmer’s even work with that stuff. It is difficult to straighten, impossible to bend, and acts like a stiff Slinky toy.

After we finished there, he helped me move a couple barrows of compost to two beds, and spread the bagged raised bed soil into one.

That bed needs one more barrow of compost and it will be ready to plant. Today we purchased 4 more bags of raised bed soil and 6 bags of composted cow manure for the long bed.

This bed received a barrow of compost yesterday and was planted in peas, radishes, carrots, and spinach today. They should have been planted 3 weeks ago, but it is what it is. The long bed had as much Dead Nettle in it as the square bed behind this one.

This afternoon after planting the bed, the weeding of the long bed was begun and the 4 bags of soil and 4 of the bags of composted cow manure were added to it. I need 5 more bags of soil and the remaining two bags of compost added and it will be ready to plant in early May.

That bed is where the mint was a few years ago, it has never had enough soil that was good enough to plant, so hopefully today’s efforts and the addition of a few more bags of soil and compost will make it a healthy bed.

That last little 4 foot bed is being left alone for now as the bees are loving the Dead Nettle growing in it. It will have to be cleared by Mother’s Day to plant peppers and the bed behind it needs a light weeding, but it was covered in old hay over the winter and is in pretty good shape, though it will get fed with the remaining compost. The new pile has been started with the weeds being pulled. The paths will just be mowed or cut with the string trimmer this year. My shoulder just will scream if I try to take on all of that grass and weed pulling.

It was nice to be out in the 70 degree weather to get the garden underway. The garden plan was revisited as I realized there were seed packets purchased of vegetables not worked into the plan. Hopefully, it will be a successful garden and feed us well this year and into next winter. The garden gets more difficult to deal with each year, but I’m not ready to give up yet.