Spring has finally landed in New England with a brilliant
bursting of blossoms and return of some of our favorite birds.
In the orchard, cherries, pears and Damsons are in full
bloom. Apples are just opening; so are the peaches. Redwing
blackbirds led the homeward migration, epaulets flashing,
followed by our favorite Rose-breasted grosbeaks and Orchard
Orioles. In the woods, thrushes are singing and all kinds
of ducks visit the ponds. A mallard male made us laugh by
roosting on top of the raspberry trellis, looking like an
out-of-place folk-art adornment.
Here's a short run-down of what's happening in the gardens:
- came through the winter looking great. We'll be picking
from a single, two-year old bed this year, so our harvest,
although small, should be easy to take care of. We planted
a new bed of 250 plants that have already taken hold and
begun to grow nicely.
- are leafing out well. The stout Killarneys look exceptionally
vigorous. My favorites, the Taylors, are a longer cane
and more vulnerable to winter injury. They also bear fruit
later than the Killarneys and may simply be a bit behind
in putting out leaves. We renewed half of our old Heritage
bed by removing the old canes and weeds that had grown
around them, and replacing them with babies from the edges
of the row. We also put in a brand new planting of "Caroline" raspberries,
a relative of Heritage that bears fruit earlier but of
the same high quality as its parent.
- look very good and some are even in bloom, pollination
courtesy of those hard-working bumblebees we are blessed
to share this hillside with. (The wild blueberries that
thrive here are also in bloom and their presence probably
explains our large numbers of bumbles.) We did lose some
large limbs of the eldest blueberries when the frame for
the netting collapsed in December's ice storm, and some
branches winter-killed, but overall the planting looks
vigorous. We planted another 20 blueberries last week which
have done well in the cooler, wet weather.
- All of the plants have new life pushing out of the older
canes and lots of young growth at their base so I think
we'll have another fine year of these magical flowers and
fruits. We look forward to getting to know them better
with each passing year.
- Both red and black currants are exploding with new growth
and are even beginning to flower. Stand back! Unless something
goes wrong, we should have lots of these jewels this year.
- Woe is me. I can't be sure, but it looks as though these
dear fruits took the biggest hit in the ice storm. They
didn't snap then and there, but have been very reluctant
to show much green tissue yet this year. So far, they are
only out about 10%. It's not surprising, I know that we
are on the northern range for these black beauties and
I'm just grateful for the wonderful harvests we've had
over the last three seasons. (I don't believe that the
roots have died - just the canes that would have borne
this year's fruits. If nothing comes out, I'll just prune
them out of the way for the new canes that will yield next
- Peaches, Pears and (Dear old) Damson Plums
- All are flowering and I have all my fingers crossed.
This is very early in the season to not expect another
killing frost or two or three....... The good news is that
the bloom seems to be staggered over many days (meaning
that individual flowers are at varying degrees of vulnerability
to the frost, and also giving more bees more time to visit
more flowers). Pears can stand temperatures much lower
than the peaches and plums so I'm not as worried about
them. I gave into my plum tree addiction by planting two
new varieties with irresistible monikers: Blues Jam and Jam
- all wintered over well and we've begun construction of
the arbor/trellis that will support their future growth.
In the Greenhouse
Things are looking OK after a rough start. We'll have plenty
of peppers - three kinds of Italian red "corno di toro" varieties,
three kinds of red-ripening bells, and plenty of hot jalapenos
and cayennes. Since we've planted more garden to yet more
berries, we've limited our tomato varieties this year to
three favorites for our sauces - Anna Russian, the
deep, rich ox-heart, Gilbertie, the sausage-shaped
paste tomato, and Mama Leone, the classic Italian
paste. We've also started waves of our favorite basils, nasturtiums,
zinnias and sunflowers. We also have some winter squashes
and pumpkins and melons to plant in a new area Ralph has
been working on just above the beaver pond.
Kitchen and Pantry Notes
Ralph and I have spent most of the spring putting up preserves
and mustards so availability is generally good. That said,
my farmers' markets have begun and stock is flying out to
our stores as well. We usually try to plan so that we run
out of preserves just as the new season's fruit is harvested.
This year, I think we may run out of both raspberry and blueberry
before we begin picking those berries in late July. We're
good on blackberry for a while, but we may harvest very few
blackberries this summer. Elderberry, Damson plum and peaches
are all well stocked now and will hopefully last until their
harvest in September. We have a few Black Currant Preserves
on hand but no Red Currant. We're very low on both JazzBerry
Salsa (we will make more this month) and Tomatoes Rustica.
We have only Blenda d'Italia and Green Garlic Vinegars and
Queen of Hearts Raspberry Vinegar in the 375 ml bottle. We're
trying to get new corks for our petite champagne bottles
and at this time, have only Blackberry Vinegar in that bottle.
We'll be able to make French Tarragon Vinegar by the end
of the month and it will be ready by June 30. Pepper preserve
is available in the "pleasantly zippy" blend and we'll be
making the hotter blend again for summer very shortly. We
have Farmhouse Garlic, Raspberry-Maple, Lavender Honey and
Chile Pepper Mustards. Strawberry Honey Mustard will be ready
News from the Four-legged Family
Rosie and Barley are concerned that we haven't been hiking
as much lately. They forgot that the reason I trudge over
the mountain all winter long is to stay in shape for planting
and picking in the summer. Now that the new fruits are planted,
we'll have more time for hiking together until the vegetables
go in at the end of the month. Auggie the buttery ball of
golden fur still functions as the family alarm clock. It's
really funny how much this 13-year old cat adores 3-year
old 130 pound dog Barley. He follows her downstairs every
morning, and she pulls toys out of the toy basket for them
to play with together, the favorite being an old blue rope.
Rosie is content to stay in bed with me, having been up most
of the night barking at owls and turkeys and anything else
that's making noise out there.