New Beginnings

The hummingbird report puts first sightings at the Virginia/North Carolina line, less than 80 miles from here, so the feeder was filled and placed outdoors to invite the tiny hummers to visit. A second feeder was purchased and filled when we went to buy chicken feed earlier today. Todays spinning challenge word was action, thus the spindle sitting with the feeder. The feeders are at opposite ends of the front porch.

The tomato seedlings were ready for pots, so they were pulled from the hydroponic starter and put in paper pots with seed starter soil mix, but not yet put outdoors, though it is very mild today, we will have several days of very chilly weather and 3 freezing nights. Once they have passed, the seedlings will move out to filtered light during the day and back inside at night until either it is time to put them in the ground or they outgrow the starter pots and have to be moved up to larger clay pots until they can go in the ground. The lettuce starts are getting leggy, but they can’t go in the ground until after the freezing nights. The spinach and Komatsuma were transplanted into the ground greenhouse then rained on yesterday. Some more spinach starts were purchased at the local nursery today and added to the green house and overwintered spinach picked for tonight’s stir fry. The greenhouse will be closed up tonight and left that way each night until it warms back up next week. The pepper seedlings are beginning to get secondary leaves, but aren’t ready to move up to pots yet.

The tomatoes in the pots perked back up by this afternoon, not suffering too much transplant shock.

As soon as the peppers are transplanted, that unit will be scrubbed out, refilled with filtered water and restarted with salad greens. The herb hydroponic was totally out of control, so Genovese sweet basil, Thai basil, chives, and rosemary were pulled and potted, set just inside the dining room doors or kitchen window sill until warm enough to move them to the back deck.

That hydroponic was scrubbed out, refilled with filtered water, given a starter dose of fertilizer and reseeded with 3 sweet basil and 3 Thai basil pods to be transplanted into the vegetable garden when the tomatoes are planted out around Mother’s Day. After that, it will sit idle until autumn when the pods will be replanted with herbs for winter cooking.

Though the original plan only had four tomato plants this year because of the glut still in the freezer, a couple of commercially grown starts or a couple more from seed may be started to added variety, but I am committed to control this year by pruning and training even at the cost of some fruit.

This afternoon, with measuring tape, graph paper, and pencil in hand, the garden was measured and drawn out to scale instead of guesswork and the plan penciled in to a photocopy of it after the margins were inked. The original blank was stored in the binder so it will be available for future years.

While at the nursery, a purchase of more starter pots was made so the cucumbers, huckleberries, a couple more tomatoes, and maybe the first run of beans started soon so they can be planted out at the correct time for our zone. The peas and sugar snap peas can be planted in the ground next week. It is exciting to see it coming together for another year.

And the exciting news for the day is the bee hives are being delivered tomorrow afternoon and the bees will follow in a few weeks. Son 2 and I will have to erect the electric fence around them once they are unpacked and set in place. First a 4×4′ post needs to be purchased to mount the solar charger on.

It’s Official (on paper)

Spring officially arrived in our little corner of the planet on the coldest windiest day we have had for weeks. The Forsythia is showing yellow, the Lilac buds are swelling, the little plum has a few blooms though we have yet to get fruit from it. I fear the apple and pear trees will bloom this week which has warm days and mild nights just in time for the weekend deep freeze. The wind finally died down overnight after howling and producing uncomfortable wind chills all day yesterday.

Some years we get lucky and get fruit, some years, the trees bloom and get hit by frost and there is little or no fruit to enjoy fresh and to can. Our elevation is almost exactly that of town, yet with all of the pavement, buildings, and parking lots a university town has, it is always a few degrees warmer there and the trees and flowers show spring sooner than in the hollow in which our little farm sits. However, this hollow is often a few degrees warmer than the farm at the bottom of the mountain. Maybe we will get lucky and it won’t freeze or the forecast will improve as the week progresses.

The plan had been to transplant the greens into the little ground greenhouse this week, but with below freezing temperatures expected for at least 3 consecutive nights, it might not be a wise plan. Perhaps the spinach and Komatsuma would be okay getting moved out, but not the lettuces. The herbs in the Aerogarden are overwhelming the counter in spite of frequent pruning and heavy herb use. They too need to be moved to the gardens. Last year the hydroponics sat idle during the summer and replanted in early fall before the frost came. This year, the larger one will grow salad greens that don’t do well in hot weather, rather than taking up space in the garden for frequent resowing to stay ahead of the heat and bitterness. The garden plan hasn’t been redone since the greenhouse was added, but some plans have changed and some produce will go in large pots or half barrels instead of in the ground to allow the planting of more 3 sister’s garden and potatoes which were fairly successful last year but not in this year’s plan. There does need to be a better storage system for them however. The basement stays cooler than the rest of the house as we don’t run the HVAC system down there most of the time, but the area where the shelves are build also houses the chest freezer, air handler, water heater, and pressure tank, so it stays a bit warmer than ideal for storing potatoes or apples and as it is less well ventilated, the potatoes and apples don’t do well in there together.

The Swallows are back so the hummingbirds aren’t far behind. The Swallows are checking out the nesting boxes in the gardens and always get them before the Eastern Bluebirds. There is one that hasn’t been mounted on a pole yet, so once the Swallows settle, it will be mounted for the Bluebirds. Soon it will be time to make the syrup for the hummingbird feeder and maybe add a second one this year.

And spring will bring two beehives to the farm. Son 2 has had them shipped, ordered the bees and will come up to set up the hives and be the basic maintainers of them. He will have to show me some basics and together we will erect electric fence around them to thwart curious bears. We don’t see them often, but we do see them occasionally and last year, one got my bird feeders at night and destroyed them. It is time to move back to bringing them in at night as the weather warms and the animals start to wander more.

We are still weeks away from the last frost date, but getting closer to getting back to gardening. The last of the paths were cleared over the weekend and some of the beds that had already been done, hoed to clear the recurrent weeds. There is still a Creeping Charlie issue around the edges of the garden and beginning to move into the path that surrounds the boxes. It is an annual fight that I guess will continue into this summer.

That time of year

Every year around Thanksgiving, children draw, color, and make turkey’s, always puffed up with their tail feathers fanned. Every year I chuckle as that is a behavior only of Tom’s and only during spring mating season.

The season has begun, the hayfield fills several times a day with a dozen birds. Most of the year, they look like feathered armadillos with head and tail down, back humped up as they slowly march across the field looking for grub. Then the mating clock chimes and flocks of Toms gather posing for each other with their chest puffed out and their tail fanned, later doing their strutting little dance trying to attract one of the Hens. It is a fascinating process to observe.

I didn’t see my first wild turkey until 35 or 40 years ago, and they were difficult to spot in the woods of the mountains when we hiked. The most we have ever seen at one time here is about 18-20 and they aren’t very fearful of people or cars. They are such muted looking birds until you can get close and see the irridescence in their feather.

It is amusing, the misinformation our kids learn. Probably most of their teacher’s don’t know that the classic Thanksgiving turkey pose is actually a spring mating dance.