Thursday, June 7, 2012

Late Spring on the Farm

Sorry for the long radio silence. So much has happened in the past month: visitors, travel, serious health crises for loved ones, upheaval in the employment department, and some long-desired home renovations. Other than a failed attempt at expanding our landholdings here, most everything has turned out well thus far. Still, it felt like three Mays in one, so when the opportunity arose to blow off some steam at a college reunion, I took full advantage!

I was only gone a few days but it seems like we tipped over from spring to summer while I was gone. Not the weather--it's actually cooler now than it was in May. No, this is the "oh, I give up" time when it becomes clear that the weeds and vines and unwanted saplings are going to grow faster than I can hack them down. So, we give up on making things look decent and focus on what's going well.

In the garden, the sugar snaps have peaked, the lettuce is growing faster than I can eat it, and the chard and kales are as gorgeous as I've seen in years thanks to ample rain and frequent applications of Dipel to kill the cabbage loopers. Sadly, none of the edamame germinated and all but one of the fennel seedlings succumbed to greedy insects. Okra, as always, is on course to be the star of the garden. The mild winter meant many of last year's herbs overwintered along with several chard plants. All of those survivors are trying to flower and/or bolt much earlier than I'm accustomed to. It's odd to be doing growth suppression when I'm still planting and topping off the soil in the raised beds.

This was the first year we were able to harvest asparagus. Unfortunately, the early warmth brought the spears up early and twice they were hit with a hard frost just as they and the leaves on the trees were emerging. We still got a few spears to taste but let most of it go in hopes of having a stronger patch next year. The apples were also decimated by the frosts. Warm weather a month ahead of schedule is great for me and the buffs but terrible for the fruit trees. They got hit right in the middle of blossoming. Just as well if we don't get apples this year--we still have a bathtub full of cider from the last pressing that needs to be bottled.

The warm winter has produced a bumper crop of insects. I think this will go down in history as the most ticktastic year yet. And it's pretty chiggerific, too. The exceedingly bold grasshoppers in the garden look at me like, "You think this is a plague? Just you wait. You ain't seen nothing yet." Sigh.

On the plus side, the grass is growing quickly, I've got hay in the barn already, and best of all, the black raspberries are starting to ripen. Mulberries and chanterelles can't be far behind. Our regular wildlife also seems to have benefitted from the mild winter. The great blue heron, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpecker,white-tailed deer, eastern king snake, and black rat snakes have all put in regular appearances along with some less-often seen critters like the indigo buntings and at least one juvenile beaver. And instead of our usual one kingfisher, we seem to have two. The buffs and the bees have been busy, too, but more about them in other posts.

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