Spring is now turning to Summer and the planting is almost completed. It seems to me as if this year we have gone from a very cold Spring to mid summer and the flora and fauna are all confused. So am I!
I am a bit frustrated this year as it has been hard to get the vegetable seedlings that I want to plant. One nursery told me it was hard to get tomatoes because so many nursery roofs collapsed with all the heavy snow this winter. I decided to keep to a few reliable vegetables this year instead of diversifying so much. For the first time I realized that if I want leeks or patty pan squash or my beloved borage I need to keep the seeds. Frankly however as I was processing hundreds and hundreds of waiting tomatoes last Fall I had no interest whatsoever in keeping the seeds. I wonder what I will do this Fall.
Last summer my garden was eaten up by every creature with four legs within 10 miles or so. Every morning I would go to check the damage and there were days when I cried.
I know that many others would use chemicals or traps or shoot the culprits. I tried pepper spray only to learn that mammals love a hot pepper or two in their diet.
This year I have skunks, porcupines, ground hogs, squirrels and a mother doe with twin fawns – The list of diners has increased and most of those animals have taken up residence in my out buildings!
There is damage prevention and control and lots of my time has been spent trying to figure out just what to do – It is a hard tug between the soft spot in my heart and the practical cost of living and sharing your property with the critters.
Each day there are a few solitary turkeys that come to the garden to eat on their daily route- I cant wait to see the mothers with their poults this Summer. Today it is raining hard – we need it.
There were no April showers bring May flowers this year- It was still snowing in May!!
Yesterday it was like a scene from Bambi- it was baby day on the farm- baby bunnies were chasing baby squirrels with abandon. Red and black squirrels showed off their fledged young and bumblebees filled the air visiting all my flowers. I have discovered that they prefer the lupin at this time of year. I am thrilled to see it spreading as they are one of my favourite.
I decided to reclaim a piece of garden and populated it with plants last fall and it is wonderful to see them sprouting up. My strategy is to transplant what I have- it is free and I already know that the soil works for them. I am keeping a gardening diary— I suggest everyone does that – it keeps track of all the changes you have made and it makes it easier to look for them the next Spring. Make it a photo diary if you prefer. I do both- I garden most of the time with my camera around my neck. Yesterday I spent hours following the bees to get close up shots.
Each Spring you take stock of what has changed over the winter and this year, after the harshest winter in decades it came as no surprise that some of my plants and bushes did not make it. My snow ball tree was devoured by beetles, my Japanese maple withered and my columbine did not do as well. It is still early and the first group of peonies has bloomed and I am waiting for the next ones to bloom – the ants are working hard!
The baby robins and starlings have already fledged and the wrens that serenade me morning noon and night are very busy- they seem to love the honey suckle tree. The indigo bunting and rose breasted grosbeak have not visited one of my many feeders in a week or so. I suspect that they have altered their diet to protein filled insects to feed their chicks. The resident pileated woodpecker still comes for suet and as I inspect my property I see evidence of all their wood working!
I have harvested rhubarb twice and made BBQ sauce and the most delicious almond rhubarb cake. We have enjoyed pancakes with rhubarb compote each and every weekend with family over the last three weeks. The onions and herbs are doing magnificently and it looks as if the black raspberries look promising. The grape arbor did not fare so well and there are far fewer leaves than last year. I have become accustomed to things changing with no notice. You have to roll with what nature deals you – Did I mention the steady arrival of asparagus that seem to grow three inches over night ?
Now to my biggest enemy – the strangling vine that threatens the trees, grape vines and every thing else it can strangle. Friends and family marvel at how I set my eyes on this plant enemy and giggle as I hang like Jane – Tarzan’s love interest from the vines. Last summer I nearly lost my eye fighting this vine and on mother’s day this year I fell and impaled my hand when pulling with all my weight. Yes we ate the lobster for mother’s day – but a trip to the hospital was required.
Next enemy is Poison Ivy – last year we all got the rash and it was really really bad- My son ended up at the hospital and so did I. While in the waiting room another patient warned me Midland was the poison ivy capital of yes – the WORLD. She also mentioned people have been infected in the Winter! This year I actually am wearing gloves and pants instead of my usual “gardening dresses” that my children chide me for. I have learned that farm accidents happen very easily and I have had cuts and eye injuries that I should have been more cautious about.
This summer I have lots to do and I plan to be safe so that I can enjoy the bounty! One last thought- I bought lots of seedlings- hundreds in fact.
I know that I should have started my own but the late winter and the decision to stay in the West so that we did not return to snow made it too late to do that even then I came back to three feet of water in the basement and we were left in below freezing temperatures- yes freezing in late April/May – and no hot water for almost a week. Another set back. Did I mention that the roof of my out building collapsed and that part of my enormous fence collapsed by a neighbours tree? I have struggled with farm/neighbour etiquette. Do I mention this or just go break it down? Is it legally his tree or mine? At the end of the day when we mentioned to him – his reply “ No big deal” and left on his golf cart that he uses to navigate his property.
The seed potatoes were planted yesterday- it was to be the beans today – but there is heavy rain. I need to harvest more rhubarb and make mint sauce. There is always something to do. I have learned that it is all about prioritizing and being kind to yourself when most of your to do list never gets done.
I did take the time to make small batch apricot jam. I have learned that small batch is best- you can leave out the pectin giving you a much clearer fruit flavour – I cooked this batch down – with the pits of course for 5 hours.