Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Bees in Trees!

Peach blossoms were in bloom on this spring evening of soft air with a breeze hinting of a little chill. Late working bees buzzed in the tree as the sun sank -- honey bees and bumblebees. We might have peaches again this year. Maybe I'll get them before the squirrels do.

Over by the cabbages a bumblebees worked the sweet blossoms in a patch thick with henbit.

My leeky garden bed. Yes there is room for carrots in there, too.
I wandered to the other garden area to view the newly planted rows of leeks. A total of 270 tiny leek plants are now in the ground. By fall the tiny things will become thick white bulbs and stems topped with green. I love leeks in my soups. This is more than twice what I planted last year. We'll see if that's enough.

In another bed I discovered the purple daikon seeds had started sprouting.

Are those tiny lettuce seedlings? And arugula!

Tomorrow-frail seeming lettuce seedlings, radicchio and fennel will go into the garden. 

Then rain will come (that's what they say, anyway; we missed the last two chances) and start to fill our rain tanks. 

Yesterday I planted 11 cabbage plants to replace the ones taken out by (grrrr%$##&) cutworms. Tonight I discovered one more had succumbed. The toilet paper roll cutworm collars aren't quite as effective as the newspaper collars. They worked fine last year. I guess the cutworms weren't as populous then.

But the cabbages are growing fine otherwise. Tonight I found another cabbage had bit the dust. I've got one more plant to replace it. If anymore get taken down I'll have to head to the nursery.

The raspberry plants (black and red) are waking up. It's time to prune. But first the early planting must be done.

Everything seems to be running on schedule, or even a little ahead. The weeds certainly seem to have gotten a running start. The only certain things in life are death, taxes and weeds in the garden.

But there are bees in the trees and leeks in the garden. All is well.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Spring Keeps Popping

Forsythia in full bloom! The redbud trees can't be far behind.

Did you know that the flowers of both are edible. Make a pretty salad.

And our rain tanks are clean-ish. They've been sitting all winter with four to six inches of water in them (just can't get them fully drained) and growing algae. Today I plopped (literally) myself down inside the 1,500-gallon tanks and lifted bucketfuls of water and algae up to my husband. I'm glad he likes me because I can't get out of the tanks on my own.

For a few years I could stand on a five-gallon bucket and power myself up and out. No more. Better get back to doing P90X!

Or not. But some strength exercises wouldn't hurt.

In the meantime I'll hack at the weeds and maybe eat some forsythia blossoms on my salad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Season's Firsts

The vultures have returned.

No, this is not a joke. The turkey buzzards have returned from their winter vacations in the south.

Before you go ewwww! and make some joke about certain members of our governing body, I love vultures. I love watching them soar and swoop and rise on thermals. I love walking down the road and having a shadow glide down the road in front of me. I love when they swoop so low overhead that I can hear their wings cutting the air.

Vultures mean Summer.

I thought I saw the first one on Saturday, but it was so high and far away that I wasn't sure. On Sunday I saw one clearly enough for a positive ID. On Monday I saw two soaring together. This evening as we sat on the porch eating dinner, eight of them swooped and soared over our homestead.


Among other firsts:

On Sunday was the first harvest of the season: nettles, chickweed, dandelion greens, and wild lettuce, yummy nutritious wild greens.

On Monday I got my first tick bite. Tick checks every night now. I am much more likely to contract a tick-borne disease than one transmitted by other humans right now.

The photos are of kale that made it through the winter beneath a little protection, and now it's going gangbusters. This is Red Russian kale, aka Ragged Jack. It's my favorite variety, as it does well in cold and heat and I love the flavor. In a week or so we'll be harvest kale along with our wild greens. The green all around the kale is mostly henbit. Yes it's a weed. It popped up as winter set in and I let it grow because I didn't have any hay, so it served as a cover crop to keep the soil covered and the beneficial microorganisms therein happy. Late last week I chopped it down, which was quicker than pulling it all. It will pop up again, but I'll deal with that then.

In the meantime, Welcome back, turkey buzzards.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Business as Usual

On Monday the planting frenzy began. Thirty four baby cabbage plants went into the ground -- just the first wave. The goal is 80.

Yes it was too wet. Don't care. The forecast gets wetter. Fortunately today's wet forecast didn't manifest -- much. So I cleared the area where another 30 or more cabbages will go, planted peas, lettuce, radishes, beets, and arugula.

And tomorrow's forecast is dry, and Thursday's. But Friday gets damp again, so the next two days are plant, plant, plant. There are all those cabbages, plus broccoli, radicchio, fennel and celery, and seeds, seeds, seeds. I love it.

And while you all were making silly memes about using the cardboard cores of toilet paper rolls as "seeds" for more toilet paper I was actually putting those cardboard tubes in the garden. I cut them in two (two short tubes) and put them around each little cabbage I put in the ground to serve as cutworm "collars." The intent is that they will keep the cutworms from snipping off the little plants at ground level. At least an inch of the collar must be below ground and at least an inch above.

Cutworms are not "worms" but the larvae of a few species of moths, one of which we always called "millers." The larvae live shallowly in the soil and tunnel through popping up at night to wrap themselves around tender stems and cut them off, usually at soil level. They may or may not eat more of the plant. The larger the plant stem, the less likely it is to be nipped off, as the cutworm must be able to wrap completely around it to do its dirty work. If you see a plant nipped off by a cutworm, dig around the ravaged plant and you might find the squishy larvae that feasted on it. Or it might be by a nearby plant, waiting to eat it when night falls. Or you might not find it. They often are camouflaged so well that they are difficult to see in the soil.

Because they have to wrap all the way around a stem to cut it off, some people will stick nails or sticks right of against the stem to prevent the wrapping around. I've tried that. The stems are never straight enough and I couldn't get the nails to stay against the stems. One other method that does work that I have used is wrapping damp strips of newspaper around the stems as I plant them. Again part of the wrap must be below soil level and part above. Wrapping the stems with damp paper is more tedious and time consuming than using the toilet paper cores, but I use it when the cardboard tube supply runs out.

Also, yes, when you have to "mud in" your plants, you still need to water them in, even though the soil is wet already. Watering them in settles the soil in place.

We had some sun this afternoon, so tomorrow the soil will be drier, although still on the mud side. We do what we have to do. Tomorrow I plant. Thursday I plant. Friday I watch it rain again.

It's all business as usual.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


On the last Friday of February I was planning to head into town for the regular Final Friday art walk, looking forward to seeing interesting art, hearing some music, and maybe running into friends. But about the time I was thinking of getting ready to go I received a call from the Fire Chief.

He wasn't warning me about a fire, but proposing to set one. He'd just mowed the fire break around our field.

"Well let me know when you are going to burn," I said.

"Tonight," was the reply. "In about an hour."

"OH! OK." My plans changed quickly.

A small red cedar tree catches fire.
So an hour later I changed into something more appropriate for viewing a fire, grabbed the camera and walked down the hill. We had been wanting to burn this field for the last two years -- last year the weather did not cooperate, the year before I waited too late to contact the fire department. Since we'd waited so long, I was not at all disappointed in the change in plans, I was ecstatic.

The firefighters went around the perimeter of the field, spraying water on the mowed fire break and setting the dried grass aflame. It was glorious.

Fire is such an exciting entity. It feels alive; it "eats," moves, multiplies, then dies. I love fire. I think pretty much everyone loves fire. It is my belief that firefighters love fire, too. They respect it and strive to understand it. We all are drawn to fire, for comfort, for warmth, for companionship. Build a campfire and you will have visitors.

The fire lasted until after dark. At one point fire burned fiercely on both sides of the driveway where I stood. It was exhilarating, but really, really smoky. So I moved to clear air as quickly as possible.

Burning a field helps suppress woody plants and encourages grass. With the field blackened, the soil warmed quickly on sunny days and the field is now covered in a green fire that will continue for many months.

Fire destroys, and transforms, renews and regenerates.