The Garden is Prepped

Yesterday and today have been great days for the garden. Yesterday I took the scuffle hoe to the boxes to knock down the weeds beginning to sprout in them and I used the garden fork to clear the back aisle of weeds thinking I would plant the potatoes there. Then I moved back up to the area where the mint was and using the fork, dug everywhere a sprout of mint had emerged. I got a wheel barrow full of roots and sprouts, but I am winning.

This morning first thing, I took the cut potato pieces out and it took me about two heartbeats to realize that the area I cleared yesterday was much too rocky and compacted for potatoes. The 4 X 8 foot bed that had the failed wren nest in it was the next option. It turned up nicely and is adjacent to the area the mint was, so there is lots of good soil beside it that I can use to make the mounds as the potatoes sprout, so they were planted. The garlic, onions, and asparagus were weeded and a couple dozen dandelions dug. After lunch, I was determined to get the rest of the garden ready to plant and to move the “gate” opening down to the wood post so I can hang a real gate on it. That meant moving a T post and I remembered that I had loaned the T post pounder to my daughter. Instead of pounding in the post, I dug it in as it doesn’t carry a load. The aisle below my comfrey plants was extended down all the way to the south fence line. Two wheelbarrow loads of weeds were dug out of the area that will be the three sisters garden and the weeds dumped in the chicken run for them to scratch into compost. I got weed mat down on the south and west edges of the garden, but I ran out of energy before I got all the spoiled hay down. There is a wheelbarrow load of small rocks that need to be relocated, but the hay will have to be another day.

Before lunch
After an afternoon of weeding

There is a bit of fence moving to be done this week, but I need to get the post pounder back. The spoiled hay needs to be put down on the cardboard and weed mat. And I need to wait out a few chilly nights this week, but next weekend may be planting time for the garden. I still need to clean up the edges some, but I feel good about what was accomplished this weekend. During the war, folks were encouraged to grow Victory gardens. This year, my expanded efforts will be a “Pandemic” garden.

True Spring is Here

We are 3 days from our last average frost date. Now I know what average means and to get that date, there has had to be frosts later than May 5, but looking ahead 10 days in the forecast, it looks as though the arrival of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds at the feeder and our last frost occurred on April 20. I will wait another week from tomorrow to plant the tomato and pepper starts in the garden, but I did put a few of the puny ones that I tried to start in pots on the south deck. Their primary leaves were red rather than green and they came from a packet of mixed hot peppers, so I am curious about what they might be. Because it is a truly gorgeous day, I took advantage of the alone time this morning to remove the barrier fence from in front of the Daylily bed as they are large enough now to discourage chicken scratching, and moved it around the back of the garage to protect the Calendula and Echinacea seedings there as well as taking a hoe and knocking down all of the Lambs quarters that have sprouted in those beds.

I need a part for the line trimmer, line and fuel so I can edge those beds. The Bearded Iris look like they need to be thinned this fall, so I will have to get busy on my garden inside the stone wall to have a place to put some of them. I need to trim the grass down in there again with the line trimmer, then put down a weed barrier and fill it with soil.

First thing after chores, I realized I hadn’t seen Mama Wren flitting in and out of her nest in a day or two, so I took a peek and the 5 tiny birds have fledged.

Bird’s nests fascinate me that such a tiny creature can locate, move, and construct a birthing house. After having had several chicken hatches here and seeing that within half a day they are up, moving around and looking for food, and comparing them to other birds whose eggs hatch into large mouthed, nearly naked creatures demanding food, caused me to look up incubation and fledging times. A song bird sits on her eggs about half as long as a chicken, then the newly hatched birds spend the next two weeks demanding food and growing into their head size and growing feathers before they fledge. Poultry type birds sit on their eggs longer and their young peck out of the eggs more fully developed. And I already have a broody mama-wanna-be Oliver Egger hen. Though I love their green eggs, they are such a broody variety that I will not get Auracana, Americana, or Oliver egger chicks in the future. I spend my spring and summer trying to discourage the natural behavior. Maybe I should just get some fertile eggs and let her sit. I think I want to return to a tried and true breed and only have one breed when these hens are replaced, perhaps in the fall. If I could get fertile pure Buff Orpington eggs, I would put them under Broody Mama. I need to mark her so I can see if she is the only one or if all of the Olive Eggers take turns.

Now that the Wren is gone, the day stellar, more gardening will be done and the overgrown Barberry bush pruned back.

The Circle of Life

Last summer, two does stayed on or near our farm and each had twins. One doe had a thicket behind our barn and we would often see her leading her spotted fawns across the driveway and into the thicket. Sometimes, they would cross the road and go up on the hill behind our mailbox. The other doe was hiding out lower on the property with her two, but occasionally as the fawns got bigger, we would see the two does together with all 4 fawns tagging along.

The other evening, I was socially distance visiting with our neighbor who grew up here in the mountains, hunted, and loves to watch the wildlife. He has taught me so much about behaviors both of the animals and those that hunt them. I asked him when the does would run last year’s fawns off and he said they usually birth their young in May and if they have last year’s fawns still with them, they will separate from them just prior to having the new fawns.

As we were sitting down to dinner, I spotted 4 young deer coming up the field from the hay field, across the upper field and around one of the many huge rock piles. One by one they came through the tall grass right up into the area I just mowed yesterday and walked along the edge toward the creek. It appears that the 2 pair of twins have joined up for now as they finish learning the ropes into adulthood.

I waited to get up and take the photo until I was sure they wouldn’t spot my movement in the house.

In early spring, the flocks of turkey are large. We have seen up to 22 or 23 at a time. The toms strutting around posturing, other toms either challenging or moving away as the dominant one tried to get a hen.

The hens have all gone to nest now and we don’t see large flocks. One hen comes out of the edge of the woods, closer than these 4 were early spring when I took this shot, she feeds in the now tall grass then disappears back in the same direction. She must have a nest nearby. A pair of toms wander around in that back field feeding and if you are outside, you can hear them gobbling down there or over in the woods. The neighbor says a hunter will listen for them and move quietly toward them. This is “Gobbler” season, when they can hunt for the males, easily distinguished by the beard you can see on the one far right. Soon, we will see the hens herding a brood of poults along, cute as chicks when they are small and gangly and scruffy as they become adolescents.

As soon as it is warm enough to sleep with the windows open, we will hear the coyotes as they hunt for food at night. There will be lots of noise some evenings and we have been told they will often run male pups from last year off in the spring, though most coyote packs are matriarchal.

With spring, flower shoots sprout, the perennials filling out and greening, then buds form and flowers bloom. This morning, our first Bearded Iris bloomed, the old fashioned blue ones.

We no longer have a rooster, so we won’t have any chicks this year, but we are seeing nests of songbirds and some fledglings being fed on the porch rails, fence posts, or down in the yard.

It won’t be long before we see fawns and turkey chicks.