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Previously in Patti's Garden

May 27, 2005

It's the eve of Memorial Day weekend, traditional planting time in New England, but our plants will spend at least another week in the greenhouse before going out this year, then a few days out in the air before planting. It's been cold and raw and rainy all week and everything is coming slowly. That's OK with me...the beds will be well hydrated for transplanting.

I have been able to do a bit of planting, putting in some new perennial herbs and flowers and moving things around in the beds. I also planted a new seckel pear and four peach trees. Our friend Tom has been growing peaches for years, and that's what we use for our Dancing Bear Peach Preserve. But peach trees are short-lived in New England, especially organically grown ones, and Tom only has a couple remaining. It will be about five years before we get any peaches from these young trees so I hope his survive till then.

I just returned from my walk through the woods via the orchard, and can finally smile and say that yes, we will have Damson Plums this year. The trees were in full bloom two weeks ago when temperatures dropped into the 20's. Forwarned, Ralph had set up our kettle grill under the French Damson by the house and an old trash barrel between the two oldest trees in the orchard. He got up at 3AM and lit wood fires in each, keeping the trees warm. Since he was up anyway, he routinely hosed down the younger trees in the side orchard with water so that their temperatures wouldn't dip too low. Until today, we hadn't really seen signs that his efforts had paid off, but sure enough, I have found that some fruits have been set. It's still way too early to tell what kind of yields we may see, certainly, only a percentage of blossoms ever set fruit in any year. The cold affects blossoms differently at their different stages of development which is why some survive while others perish. The weather hasn't helped the efforts of our pollinators either - even the ever-busy bumblebees have been absent. I'm counting on the tiny wasps that we often overlook to do the job.

The big old Mama bear visited the hives again since my last writing so Ralph and Will have erected yet another electric fence with a fortified charger. (The night after the hard freeze we were so tired we forgot to blast the radio toward the hives....she visited, gorged herself, then threw the hives down the hill into the lavender).

We just removed the floating row covers from the strawberries and they look beautiful. Just at about 10% bloom right now, they're lush and healthy. We must cover them with netting right away before the bunnies meet for a feast. The earliest raspberries, a new variety we're trialling called Killarney, is in bud and buds are also forming in the Taylors growing alongside them in the new rows by the greenhouse. The Taylors that run perpendicular to everything else on the farm (hence, the ones we call "the perpendicular row") have filled out but not budded, and the three oldest rows of Taylors at the bottom are still filling out. It's really interesting to see what a great role location plays in the berries' development. (The Taylors are all related....I simply start new rows by moving excess plants into new places.)

I'm also seeing the beginning of buds in our Teddy Berry Blackberries! As with the plums, it's too early to tell what kind of year it will be - I'm just happy to see buds at this point. Of course the blackberries in the woods are loaded with buds already, but they are small, seedy, sad relatives of our luscious Teddy Berries.

Speaking of Teddy, our Teddy Bear is doing just great. He sleeps for about 23 hours of every day, the time punctuated by his becoming alert and barking "What's that? What's that?" After he forgets what awakened him, he's pleased to receive another peanut-butter stuffed bone and a drink of water then returns to his dreams. He often awakens yawning, which becomes singing when Ralph and I laugh. He sang the intro to my favorite NRBQ song the other day.....

Blueberries look superb. They're just bursting into bloom right now. For years I bragged that they were over my head but now they're higher than conventionally-sized people as well - quite spectacular. Ralph built a frame over them from which we need to drape new bird netting. We trialled two kinds of bird netting last year, one for the raspberries and one for the blueberries and discovered that the Bird-X worked far better than the old cotton netting. Bird-X is a synthetic and the birds really hated the feel (I agree with them). The cotton wasn't repellent to the birds and they would work for hours to unravel the threads, sucessfully tearing holes through which they could reach the berries. We had never realized how much damage the rabbits were causing the blueberries until we netted them against the birds and discovered that the rabbits had been eating all the young shoots the plants put up to bear future crops. (Those bunnies again.....!)

Rosie reports that beaver reconnaisance is going well - pretty soon there won't be any more trees in the wetland below the farm. She's also busy watching out for bunnies, chipmunks and squirrels and is the vital cog in the defense against mammals wheel. She wishes she could get a little active help from Teddy, but in any case his very enormity helps. Surely all those little mammals know that there is some kind of really big creature up at the house and they don't want to get too close.

Farmers' markets have been a lot of fun. Every week I find an old friend in Greenfield, and Sunday's event in Waban felt like a reunion. Tom has heard through our friend Maeve about an event in Newton Highlands on June 12. When I know more about this, I'll let you know.

Hey! The sun's out! I have to get to work!




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