April 15, 2007
Heavy snow coats the trees, bending their branches low. We've had about five heavy inches since this morning and it's changing over to ice now. The two-day storm is predicted to cause power outages so we've filled the kettles in anticipation. I'm another cranky New Englander looking for signs of spring and barely finding any. I've not heard spring peepers yet (I often hear them before the end of March) nor phoebes who should be singing away as they build their nests. The gold finches are still pale lemony yellow and most of the birds at the feeder are still our winter friends. I have to squint my eyes to see any sign of golden color in the forsythia or swelling in the buds of the red maples.
It's probably for the best though.....a late spring usually means that tree fruit flowering is delayed and less vulnerable to spring frosts. Maybe we'll get some Damson plums this September......
Spring's magic is evident in the grow room downstairs, alive with trays and trays of peppers, tomatoes and flowers. I had expected to move into the greenhouse last week but I'll hold off a bit longer. All the seedlings are doing very well and I'm trying varieties from my old standbys Johnny's Seeds and Park's as well as Tomato Growers Supply and High Mowing Organic Seeds of Vermont. I wasn't looking for a new seed source, but the folks at High Mowing called to find out what we grew and offer some samples. They were so generous I placed an order and I've been extremely pleased with the germination and vigor of the plants their seeds produced. When I told them that I've loved growing heirloom tomatoes of sausage shape for our Tomatoes Rustica they recommended another to try named "Gilbertie" . It's a funny name, but so are "Opalka", " Polish Linguisa" and " Jersey Red Devil" - all of which we loved when we grew them last year.
Some returning pepper varieties include "Socrates" a tremendous producer of big red bell peppers, "Giant Marconi", "Carmen," and "Corno di Toro," the rich, sweet Italian grilling peppers, as well as three jalapeno varieties and our usual chilies, cayennes and habaneros.
Outside, a mountain of work awaits us. It's been too cold, snowy or wet to prune any of the berries yet so we're still looking at two weeks worth (at least!) of pruning the raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and currants. I had expected to have that all but completed by now, and we've hardly begun. We have worked in the Damson Plum trees, though, and removed the limbs damaged by the porcupines and shaped things up a bit. The Seckel Pear trees and Reliance Peach trees all appear to have fruit buds so we'll hope for harvests from them this season.
Our shipment of new elderberries and currants arrived in yesterday's mail and Ralph promptly unwrapped the package and set the plants in the only diggable soil he could find - the compost pile - so they're in a good, safe place until we are ready to plant them. Since they're going into beds that have been all prepared, once things warm up and dry out a bit, planting should be fairly easy. Our source for these plants was St. Lawrence Nursery in upstate New York, a farm producing heirloom fruit and nut trees, grapes, and berries. Their catalogue and planting guide contains great information about growing fruits in cold climates and sound horticultural advice.
In the woods the big excitement is the rushing water in the streams. Our walks typically take us over a half dozen streams and rivulets, but this time of year water is running everywhere and that number easily doubles. Barley the pup (now at 100 lbs almost as big as me!) insists on running through each one. He also has a grand time swimming in the pools and ponds - always jumping into the water, swimming and splashing, and then plunging into the nearest snowbank and rolling around in it upon exiting the water. Rosie shakes her head and gives me the look that says, "Oh that kid.........!"
The whole family has had a quiet spring together enjoying the wood fires and walks in the woods. Auggie the kitty is Barley's other best friend and the three animals cuddle together regularly. We found an old second-hand piano (a 1933 Monarch upright with a beautiful sound) and brought it home in February. My friend Carla, a talented 17 year-old who has been playing for a dozen years, taught me some exercises, scales and chords, and I picked up a book with songs I knew (classic themes and 60's pop). Although I haven't played in decades, it's coming back to me and I love to hear the sound the piano makes. Barley does too because he lies against the bench whenever I play at night. Ralph is extremely tolerant, always kind when I play.
The last piece of news is about this newsletter. Steve, our web-wizard passed along a digital camera to me so I can send along a photo of the garden with each issue. That way, when I write about the heavy snow on the trees, the unfurling fiddleheads, the plump ripening berries or the brilliant October sky, you'll get to see it! Right now I'm still reading the manual and playing with the buttons and trying not to break anything......