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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmMay 15, 2008

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, 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 pals.

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!


Patti (and Ralph!)



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