Greetings on this splendid spring day!
We've had the most amazing run of weather - perfect growing
conditions this season. March's cold weather lingered a long
time, and it seemed as though spring would never arrive.
By mid-April though, the temperatures had shot up into the
unlikely 80's and the buds began to swell.
With a lot more time and effort than it takes to describe
it, Ralph moved the greenhouse from its site for more than
15 years to a little plateau just beyond the west side of
our house. He disassembled it and rebuilt it - a sturdier
version of its old self - with recycled boards, pipes, doors
and windows, and a new plastic covering. Infinitely more
convenient, it's just a few steps down a slope from the house
as opposed to down a long hill and up another. The last thing
he moved was a huge slab of marble he had recovered from
a demolition dump which serves as the threshold's stepping
stone. We moved in on Shakespeare's birthday (April 23),
carrying trays of baby tomatoes and peppers and flowers,
and started the first wave of basils to celebrate some more.
The new location is just above our ponds and I need no radio
because the ducks and frogs make such pleasant music to keep
me company as I pot up the plants. (Barley has fun chasing
the ducks when they land on the nearest pond, but has no
luck at all actually catching them - thank goodness!) In
addition to several kinds of ducks, a pair of great blue
herons also visit.
Temperatures remained high for several more days, then turned
cold just before the fruit buds began to open. The baby plants
were safe and snug in the new/old greenhouse (we ran a heater
on a few cold nights), and the cool-down helped put the brakes
on the tree fruit development. A few rainy days provided
the perfect opportunity for beginning our newest endeavor,
grapes. We planted 20 mixed varieties of Concord-type grapes
on an upper terrace above the heritage raspberries where
we had previously grown lavender. The woods around us abounds
with grapes. They are everywhere, growing up into the tallest
trees' branches, their vines as thick as Ralph's arms. I
checked on the new planting today and was glad to see that
all were starting to grow. We also took advantage of the
rain to transplant some raspberries into places where bunnies
had feasted, and planted four more Damson Plum trees because,
hey, we can never have too many Damsons!
With the coming of the new moon in May, clouds dispersed
and the sun brought out the first of the cherry blossoms.
Fat bumblebees and honeybees enveloped the trees, buzzing
loudly as they worked the flowers. We transplanted more lavender,
French tarragon and Greek oregano on the herb slope beneath
the cherries while the bees buzzed away above us. The pear
blossoms came out next and have held on and on; it seems
very likely that we will have Seckel pears this year to preserve.
The Damson plums came next - plum blossoms come and go quickly,
but the weather was ideal for them with lots of bee activity
and little rain that leads to rot. Today I discovered fruit
set on 2 of the plum trees! We have fruit! We're over the
first hurdle....now, to escape plum curculio, brown rot,
black knot and that dastardly foe, the porcupine......
Peaches are blooming now - we grow the stellar New Hampshire
variety, Reliance, a late-blooming peach that usually escapes
late spring frosts - and the trees are loaded with lovely
pink blooms. Last year's harvest thrilled us because we expected
nothing and actually harvested quite a bit. We've got our
fingers crossed on this one. Our lovely standard Cortland
apple is also bursting in full bloom - the scent intoxicating
in today's heavy air.
Ralph and Ricky spent a lot of time clearing some back land
that had grown up into pine. (Actually, our friends the beavers
began the clearing process two years ago when they took down
the birches, poplars and scrubby trees that were growing
up in the old field. The pines were all that remained.) The
new/old field is probably about three acres. We've decided
that the best way to get the stumps out is to enlist more
animal friends, so we're bringing in pigs to root out the
stumps. I raised pigs many years ago, and have great affection
for these friendly and sensitive animals. That said, though,
these animals have a dual purpose - they will wind up in
the freezer after a wonderful season spent rooting the new
field by the pond and enjoying the bounty from our gardens.
We've even decided to grow more vegetables than originally
planned - especially the quick and easy ones like greens,
beans and zucchini - to ensure a surplus for our porcine
The bird feeders came down after the visit from the bear,
but many of our old friends are visiting, including the melodious
orchard orioles and the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeaks.
I've seen a ruby-throated hummingbird at the flowers of the
holly and he surprised me when I sighed with delight at the
fragrance of the apple blossoms - my noise startled him and
his movement startled me.
In the woods the leaves are filling in, obscuring the long
views but offering such intense green energy that who could
complain? Fiddleheads are unfurling, the trout lilies blooming.
The dogs and I are enjoying at least an hour in the woods
every day right now because I know our rambles will be curtailed
once the fruit starts coming in. I justify the time spent
as training that I need so that I'm able to pick all those
berries - up and down, up and down, up and down.......
I've got to get back to work!