SeeSaw days

Typical spring here, hot and humid one day and chilly and gray the next, but the garden grows. Except for the corn. Out of 4 rows in a 12 X 4 foot bed, only two seeds sent up blades. We were due for thunderstorms a couple of days ago, so the bed was reseeded. This may be the last time I try corn. Year before last, there was nothing, last year some came up, but the harvest was pretty paltry for the space it consumed. The only year that corn has ever been “successful” though marginally was the year of the popcorn.

The seed starts for squash, tomatillos, pumpkins, tomatoes, and peppers were all successful and are doing well planted in the beds. The cucumbers failed on first start, but there are several strong seedlings putting out secondary leaves that are currently being hardened off and soon they will be planted in the last bed.

The motivation for the garden has been hard to come by this year, and since I am currently unable to be out in the sun due to a chemo cream use on my face, I have to heavily cover with mineral sunscreen, wear a huge hat and limit my exposure. Sunburns as a kid camping with family, as a young adult working as a lifeguard, have come back to haunt me. Usually, anything found by the dermatologist is zapped with liquid nitrogen, but this time is wasn’t in a place they want to spray. At any rate, early or late, very protected sessions are being done. As an adult, I wear long sleeves nearly year round and always wear a hat with a brim when we are out walking. Sun damage from years ago revisits as we age.

Peas are heavy with blooms and though they are supposed to be a free standing variety, they have toppled all over each other. Soon, peas will be harvested. One of the varieties of spinach is bolting as is the lettuce. The beans are up. The tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash, and tomatillos have been mulched with clean straw, thanks to a friend that was able to get me a couple of bales yesterday. Part of a bale was used to clean the hens coop, a few flakes as mulch and the rest set back in the dry garage for further coop cleaning and garden mulching.

Now if I can just get the paths under control, figure out how to kill off the smartweed and creeping charlie, I will be happy. As it is upper 70’s today and tomorrow with bright sun, the paths were all sprayed with white vinegar and dish soap. If that shows any level of success, it will be repeated until I win, vinegar is cheap and safe. A truck load of wood chips would be great to have, to put about 4 inches between all the beds. The other frustrating area is the tall grass that grows up the welded wire fence. The line trimmer can’t get under the fence and if it hits the wire, it breaks off the trimming line. I don’t want to use chemicals like Liquid Fence, nor do I want to take down the fence and reset it an inch or two off the ground so I can weed under it. I envy neat gardens with no weeds, no grass in-between beds, no fence needed to thwart the deer, groundhogs (saw one today in the yard), and free ranging chickens. Perhaps the electric mesh type moveable fencing that can be moved away, allow mowing, then re-set would do the trick. I already have the 6V charger. Maybe if the vinegar trick works and I can get woodchips, cardboard can be slipped under the fence wire, heavily mulched on both sides out maybe far enough to keep an edge would work.

The bees are again protected from the resident bear. A new battery for the 12V charger was ordered and installed. Tested on the deck, it showed a strong charge, so it was taken back to the bee yard, rehung, and attached to the electric fence wire. When it was turned on, it showed only marginal charge on the fence. Because it was a new solar charged battery, it was left alone to charge for a couple days and still only marginal. This morning, the piece of line that connects the wire to the charger was replaced and the fence is again hot. Hopefully, 12 V will deter the furry beasts.

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.

Planning and family time

Grandson #2 is still with us for another week, so last night, we had our daughter, her partner, and their three “kids,” 11 to 18 over for dinner. Daughter and I have a team routine to make empanadas and tostones together, plus I had assembled a large salad of goodies obtained at the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning. My spring lettuce, radishes, carrots, etc. are still in barely sprouting stage as the garden was a bit late getting started this year. I love cooking with her and love having the extras over to visit and eat.

While they were here, granddaughter asked me to again do a garden plan for the 6 four foot square raised beds we added to their yard a few years ago. I have been her garden planner since inception. She has been very dedicated to keeping her garden watered and weeded and her Mom enjoys putting up peppers and tomatoes, dilly beans, and any other extras it produces. After they left, I pulled my binder and realized that I failed to keep a copy of last year’s plan, but her Mom texted me a copy this morning along with the wish list of vegetables to grow. Her plan has been drawn out, scanned, and emailed over so their early veggies can get planted out or seeds sown. Later in the spring, we will likely go together to the local nursery to get her tomato and pepper seedlings, and for me to add a few peppers that I only want one of. The plan to fit on the grid leaves out the paths, but she knows that and has learned my shorthand for filling it in.

I get a kick out of helping the 11 year old to learn to garden. We have been at it now for 4 years.

She also plays in a under 12 co-ed soccer team, so we spent an hour after our daily walk out in the sun by the field watching her team, coached by her Mom in their first game of the season. It was a little chilly and breezy, but standing by the field, some spindle spinning was accomplished. That is my daughter/team coach under by hand on the left. One of those speck on the field is granddaughter.

After having lost 4 hens to the Cooper Hawk this early spring, and having at least 1 who has not resumed laying, the egg supply is providing only enough for daughter’s family, us, and a friend getting a dozen every now and then. There were really too many hens in the coop and 9 seems to be plenty as long as eggs are for personal use and not to sell. The hens are approaching 3 years old and a decision will have to be made come late fall whether to replace them with chicks to be laying by spring. If so, how many. If not, the supply will continue to dwindle as they age out.

We experienced the east end of the storms that raged across the US this past weekend. It rained very heavily on Friday, all day, washing ruts in our very sloped dirt and gravel driveway again. Yesterday the wind kicked up and the gust were strong, reaching up to 60 mph during the late afternoon and overnight. We were fortunate not to have any tornados, hail, or loss of power like thousands in our region. There are some branches down, but as our south neighbor recently cut down the dead Ash trees along our south property line and on his side to install new fencing, I don’t see any trees down.

The rest of the week is very spring like with many April showers to help the seedling grow. On toward the last frost date (still a month off) but the weather prognosticators thinking April will be warmer than usual, so maybe this spring will be an anomaly and we won’t see another frost.