I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
John Burroughs

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Dandelion conundrum, and planting .....

 May 30. We've had a good inch and a half of rain over the past week, and now the sun is shining. Let the planting begin! Yes, I know I was going to wait until June for the transplants....but....the long range forecast shows double digit lows, so....    (10C = 50F)

Most of the tomatoes just went in,

and all of the peppers.
Their feet are buried deep in compost, with a layer of cardboard directly on the soil surface, then a thick layer of partially composted leaves on top. This has worked very well for me. At the end of the season there is no trace of the cardboard, everything can be turned under and it keeps the bed almost totally weed-free. It conserves moisture in our sandy soil, and in the event of a rainy season, like last summer was, it slows the moisture load, as it has to slowly soak through all those layers. If I need to water the plants, the hose from the water barrels can be put right at the base of each plant. The rocks between the pepper plants absorb heat during the day, then radiate it back overnight. Rocks we have in abundance, and they have many uses!

Garlic and onions are looking good, broccoli and turnips are just showing. New this year is a bean teepee.

We cut a bunch of young poplars and lashed them together, poked them into the soil and I've planted Scarlet runner and Mosteller
climbing beans around the base. It will be fun to watch them reach for the top, then watch the hummingbirds in the blooms. At the other end of the field garden, where I turned over a new section last year, we drove in sturdy posts, then lashed some page wire fencing to lean over to them on a 45 degree angle.

This is a trellis for the cucumbers, not planted yet. It is a new take on the pallet ramp I used last year. Bush beans are going in part of the field garden, and they will be planted soon. There are 6 more tomato plants to go in there as well, and the requisite zucchini. Down one side, I planted my double row of glad corms on the 18th, and today there are 26 poking up!

Between and around all my garden beds, well, just everywhere!, the dandelions put on a good show this spring, and we left them for the early pollinators. Now they've all turned into white fluff balls, and mowing will cause them to waft all over my garden soil. 

Do you suppose taking the vacuum out and sucking them all up would be a good idea?!!

Earlier, I made my own carrot seed tapes, as it is so much more pleasant to sit at the table and space the seeds out with some white glue and a strip of toilet paper, than try to sow them on a windy day, or while being harassed by biting insects. Once the tapes are planted, they are watered, then covered with some rubber matting or boards or black plastic; what ever will cover the patch. I lift up the edge to check daily, and once the seeds germinate, the cover comes off. I've found that germination is relatively quick (for carrots), and the rate is close to 100% using this method.

The French fingerling potatoes and Yukon Gems are growing in the barrels. As they get bigger, I add soil from the white pails to "hill" them.

After the burst of heat mentioned in my last post, the weather stayed somewhat cool, and the explosion of greenery in the bush slowed to a normal rate. Now the usual plants for this time of year are blooming, my lady slipper orchids are in full "pinkness",

fragrant, wild lily-of-the-valley is blooming,

as is the yellow clintonia (blue bead lily).

Star flowers are everywhere,

as well as fringed polygala, (gaywings),

and bunch berry blooms are starting to open.

On the bird front, the bluebirds are now feeding young, the activity at the nest box noticeably increased just a couple of days ago. The male bluebird is finally getting in on the action, taking his turn bringing food to the box.

The phoebes are incubating eggs in their nest up under the verandah eaves. Chipping Sparrows have built a nest in one of the pyramidal cedars in front of the verandah, at the opposite end from the phoebes, and a robin has decided that near the back axle of the old tractor, sort of under the slope of the fender, is a great place to build a nest.

At last count, there were 4 eggs in the nest, and she has started spending a lot of time there. We were waiting until spring moisture dried up to have a trucker come and take the old tractor to the wreckers...now that won't happen for a while!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The games have begun....

 May 14. So...we've had overnight frosts right up to Monday morning of May 9. Since then, the weather has gone crazy, the overnight temperatures rising steadily, 7C, 12C, 15C...,  (45 to 59 F) and over the last couple of afternoons, the thermometer has hit 31C+ (88F). Today, there is an humidex reading. 

The first dandelion showed up just a few days ago, now they are everywhere, as are blooming wild strawberries.

Leaves are open on all the trees, even the oaks have mouse ear sized leaves. The old timers say that is the time to plant corn and beans...May 14???? Not! The last frost date in this area, is usually around May 24, but we've had frost early in June before.

The Spongy moth (aka. Gypsy, then LDD) egg masses  are hatching into zillions of tiny worms. The egg masses closest to the ground that were protected by snow seem to be hatching quicker than ones higher up in the trees.

We are hoping against hope, that at least some of the more exposed ones were winter-killed.

The crab apple tree outside the west window is absolutely loaded with buds, buds that were barely discernible a few days ago.

This morning, I watched a big bumbler forcing his way into one bloom that was  starting to open. The tree is riddled with woodpecker holes, and one wonders how it keeps going...but every second year, it floods us with blooms and crab apples. There are lots of buds showing on two of our favourite apple trees, now if we can just protect them from the Spongy moths......

A 3' X 4' bed of assorted greens has been planted, as well as onion sets and beets. It is very dry, as we've had no measurable rain for a couple of weeks, and the pond is starting to go down. There are thunderstorms in the forecast for later today, and we sure hope they don't come with lightning strikes, as the bush is very dry. 

I've marked out this year's planting arrangement in the field garden, and Hubby has planted a small, newly turned, bed of potatoes. I have two large potato barrels planted, one with 'french fingerling' potatoes, and one with the last of my Yukon gold spuds that were sprouting in their bin.

My daffodils have leapt into life, beating the tulips to blooming, although the tulips were up long before the daffs poked through.

Haskaps are blooming, even the "twigs" I purchased and planted last spring are covered in bloom, spent blossoms starting to drop already.

Phoebes have completed building a neat little nest up on the board Hubby screwed up under the front porch eaves, and I think she is incubating eggs now.

The Bluebirds are still here. Each morning as sunlight from the rising sun slides down the trees and hits a tall trumpet vine trellis near the nest box, they each take a side, perching right up at the top, catching the first rays. The frenetic activity of nest building has stopped, and we think they are also incubating. We'll know things are going good when we see the birds coming and going from the nest box with food for the chicks.

A Baltimore oriole has shown up, announcing his presence with his unmistakable whistle. He is enjoying the new oriole nectar feeder we put out this spring, with a small cup holding grape jelly on the side. We've found that the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks also like grape jelly! 

Humming birds arrived on May 8, two males first, then a female and another male. Within a day, the males were trying to impress the female with their zipping, arcing "look at me and listen to how loudly I can hum!!" pendulum flying. There is a lot of jousting going on around the Hummingbird feeder.

Most of the warblers and thrushes have arrived over the last few days, but we have yet to hear a Wood Thrush. A Whip-poor-will has taken to doing a nightly session of calling fairly close, on the west side of the house. It is sleep-disturbing, but perhaps we'll get used to it??



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The bluebird of happiness....

May 4.    And the misery of covid....  Its been a rough latter half of April. Easter came, and with it, covid. One struggles to figure out where it was picked up, whether whilst shopping the week before Easter, although all the usual precautions were taken; or was it brought from Toronto by our Easter guest? Today, finally, I think I really have it on the run. Don't mess with that beast...I can well see how it would knock out an older, frailer person.

Spring has definitely sprung, and I refused to be trapped indoors. It took a lot of gumption, but every day I bundled up, and was out for at least a bit, checking out the sprigs and sprouts, and breathing deeply. 

The duck couple on the pond, have not been seen for the last few days, but for a while there was a regular bathing session by the female, early morning and at dusk, the male keeping close by her. We think they have a nest secreted back in the bush on the rough east side of the pond.

A phoebe pair is determined to build a nest up over the back door, and we have given up trying to discourage them. They'll just have to learn to live with us! 

The bluebird pair that showed up earlier, have, after a lot of discussion, decided on my nest box!! I am thrilled, and we have set up a telescope at the window so we can watch the proceedings. For days the female was diligently collecting nesting material, the male seeming to watch in puzzlement, and he would often go in the nest box after she'd made a delivery, like he was checking up. Apparently nest building is the female's job, and his is to 'supervise'! At times the female would come to the box, her face full of stuff, and try to get in the hole, but the bits and sticks she had in her beak were too wide. She'd hang on the front of the box by the hole for a moment, after trying unsuccessfully to get in, then fly out in a small circle, and charge the hole! Somehow, she managed to get those beak-fulls in, then out she'd come and go for another load. He would sit on top and peer over the edge, watching the proceedings.  

We tied out a mesh bag of wool roving on the branch of an oak tree, then placed a trail camera there to see who was getting nesting material. The chickadees and nuthatches found it, but the bluebirds have not, so far. 

A few days ago, I got the winter accumulation in my compost bin dug out, watered, and layered back in. There was an icy chunk in the middle that I was able to break up with the garden fork, and now my compost thermometer is showing a rise in temperature, from 58F the first day, to 62F today, and the outside temperature is just 44F.  

Last fall Hubby put the bagger attachment on the mower, and did a final grass cut and collected leaves. He filled the third compost bin, layering it in with water. Today I dug it out, and found that it is somewhat dry, and probably needed more green stuff to get it cooking. It hasn't done much composting, but can be used to mulch around my transplants when they go out in June.

My onion sets arrived in the mail yesterday, and I've had notification that my blueberry bushes are on the way, so got busy and prepped their planting holes. There happened to be one big rock right where I'd spaced the holes out beside my haskaps, so with the help of a pry bar, we got it out. I added lots of compost to the native soil in the planting holes, and will mulch with pine needles.

The haskaps are loaded with buds, and with the forecast calling for sun and warmth over the next week....Things will be popping.  The garlic is going strong now, the hardware cloth is off, and rocks placed to hold the leaf mulch down.

Today, the sun is finally starting to break through after a few days of cool temperatures and overcast, rainy conditions. Once the temperature reaches 50F, I will be taking my seedlings out onto the verandah to start their hardening off. There will be a few days of lugging them in and out morning and evening but after a week or so, they'll be moved over to the cold frame where the lid can be lowered and insulating blankets put over them if needed.