March 22, 2010
Happy Spring! I feel like some old she-bear slowly rousing from my den. The long winter of hibernation is over and a restless energy is charging through my body.
I've slept long and deeply in the last couple of months; during the summer I barely sleep at all. There are always plans to be made - seeding, transplanting, planting, watering, weeding, hoeing, mulching, harvesting. Since we put up all our food, I am always preparing - Have I pureed enough raspberries to make Raspberry Vinegar for the Raspberry Maple Mustard? Have I chopped enough dried chilies to add to the Habanero Vinegar for the Chile Pepper Mustard? Did I remember to thaw the blackberries for the Blackberry Preserves I intend to put up tomorrow? And I always have the worry about rain. Will there be enough for the transplanted seedlings? Will there be too much for the vulnerable berries? Will it pour on my Farmers' Market?
Our yearly schedule is different from that of most of our farmer friends. Since we sell most of our preserves, mustards and vinegars during the harvest and holiday season, we're right out straight through New Year's and only begin our downtime in January. Dancing Bear Tom grew a lovely crop of baby greens in February while I was sleeping, and like most of my other friends he's busy in the greenhouse now starting the annual vegetables. I'll wait until the last weekend in March to open the greenhouse. We only grow tomatoes and peppers, flowers and squashes now, and I've learned that if I start those earlier than late March, the plants will be screaming to be planted before we can safely put them in the ground around Memorial Day. I'll hold myself back for another week and revel in sleep and books for a while longer.
Barley and I climb to the top of the mountain everyday. I'm still wearing snowshoes because there is still about half a foot of snow in the woods, and where it has melted the mud is so deep that the snowshoes help keep me out of the muck (somewhat). He comes home completely filthy because although he always jumps in the stream as we head for home, he then rolls in the dead leaves to dry off. He now weighs in at 150 pounds, and with hair that's a good 7 inches long, he's quite a sight. (And yes, I spend an inordinate amount of time vacuuming.....) Rosie is still a bit gimpy on one rear leg so we confine our walks to the farm, but she'll tear across the field at a squirrel coming to raid the bird feeder or at her long-time foes the bunnies who come to feed on the blueberries and lower branches of the fruit trees.
Elisha and Ralph have pruned all the black knot out of the Damson Plums, and we've thinned and pruned the Elderberries (mostly). Tomorrow we'll start on the Seckel Pears or perhaps the autumn Raspberries if the ground is dry enough. I'm going to have to do some reading up on both the red and black currants before I visit them with shears in hand. I've never pruned them before and beyond cutting out the oldest canes, I'm not exactly sure how much to remove.
I planted the newer currants in a bed alternating blacks with reds, but as soon as possible, we'll move all the reds into a new bed to give the blacks more room to spread. Our older red currants are planted in a bed next to the photovoltaic panels which is a little too dry for their liking. We'll plant chile peppers there this year because I've learned that currants can't seem to get too much water, and that chile peppers, once established, hardly need any.
The most difficult pruning job is the blackberries. The canes are as long as 12 feet and the thorns are brutal. Since we need to wear long sleeves of rip-stop fabric while working, it's a job we need to get to as soon as the ground is dry enough walk on. The summer bearing raspberries also need lots of pruning and thinning, but it's a piece of cake compared to the blackberries. We have about 450 feet of each and will begin on the next dry day.
Ralph has been indulging his firesign passion of burning bonfires of last year's prunings (the weather never cooperated last year). It's a spring ritual we both love.
Signs of Spring
I've enjoyed today are the first red-winged blackbird soaring toward across the field, a green garter snake smiling up at me from beside a sun-warmed rock, the return of the mallard ducks to the pond below the greenhouse (Barley jumped in the pond for an official greeting; they let him come within a foot and a half then took flight!).
In The Kitchen
We've just finished putting up the last of the 2009 blackberries. We've already sold more than a dozen of the 60 jars we just put up, so we're now officially "low" on both regular and seedless versions. We're also very low on Lavender Flower Vinegar, and completely out of Strawberry Vinegar. We have been busy putting up Farmhouse Mustards, though, and have good supplies of everything going into summer's season of mustard mania, including Strawberry Honey Mustard which is back in the lineup.
In the office (where I almost never am), I've joined the 21st century by joining Facebook. Please visit Cheshire Garden on Facebook and become a fan!
And, for the days when the mud on my trail up the mountain is just too thick to allow me to pass, I have found the most wonderful new exercise....hooping, or, to a child of the 50's such as myself, Hula Hooping. I met the wonderful women at Hooping Harmony at the Greenfield Winter Market, and joined their open class at the Greenfield Y last week. It's so much fun I came home with endorphins surging! And I bought a lovely hoop of sparkly green, gold and purple that catches the sun's light as it rotates around my middle. Circles of the sun, circles of the seasons, circles, circles, circles, how I love circles!
Happy, Happy Spring!