April 2nd, 2018
Yesterday, no fooling; we had a beautiful sunny sky, and warm signs of encouragement everywhere, April 1st, was a day that said to the world, ‘Spring is here’.
The Fool’s Day arrived on the second. I awoke to 5 piles of dog vomit ( I may have told you that I threw up violently the evening before. Because I was sleeping downstairs, I just walked out side and did it…had she eaten it?). Anyway, I awoke to 5 piles of vomit and 5 inches of fresh, white, pure snow. Now that I think of it, remind me again, which is the pile of vomit?
First Amphibian Eggs in Pond
Checked the journals from years past. In 2016, the first egg mass was spotted on March 18th. This year, the first one couldn’t have been deposited earlier than March 31st. Saw two different kinds. The one, a salamander mass, smallish. Each one attached to a small underwater branch and suspended a good 4 inches below the surface of the water. The others I believe are all wood frog eggs. They are deposited as far away from the salamander mass as possible, in very shallow water, floating on the surface. I want to point out that there has only been two days of calling of frogs and then I spotted the egg masses. Before that, it has been too cold or the pond was partially frozen.
April 8th, 2018
It is very cold. Today’s high was only 35 degrees. Wind is bitter and the air is icy. I checked garden journals and this year is keeping up with some of the longest winters we’ve had. I suppose I’m at peace with it. I’d rather have things open up later rather than sooner. Less risk of frost die off.
I may or may not have posted that I have put in peas and lettuce to date. Just today put in a row of peas treated with thiram. The seeds are blue…normally I’m used to the pink fungicide. The treated seeds have a rotten egg like smell…that or I’m digging up one of the eggs that the dog buried.
Made a remarkable discovery in the vernal pond. Those white things I’ve been noticing on the. floor of the pond? They’re spermatophores…potentially from the spotted salamander that I’m so eager to have live here. I took pictures. I’ll load. Looked into the pond just yesterday…maybe the day before. There are four times as many wood frog eggs as there were on the April 2nd writing. Saw a couple of red spotted newts swimming about. The clutches of eggs that I think belong to the spotted salamander are still there (but there are only two masses that I see).
Hard boiling the eggs for only 11 minutes and then keeping them handy to snack on. So creamy! I love them. If you’re reading this and you know I died of a coronary, you’ll know why.
Bees come this Saturday! I have a couple of frames filled with honey and others that have built out comb. I’m going to stick those into the hive with the new arrivals to keep them sated until the warmer weather gets here. Forecasts call for 50’s and rainy for much of April.
April 10th, 2018
Hey, is that a black and white picture you took, Bash? What’s the white stuff? No, that’s not a black and white picture, that’s a color picture of April and the white stuff you see is called snow. I’m watching it come down now in gobs. No, that’s not a black and white picture…that’s the real deal outside. In April. Snow. Our second snow event this month.
It has been a very cold spring. If there are frogs still left in the pond, they’re probably skiing from one mate to the next. The only good news is that the pond has been retaining enough warmth from the day to not freeze entirely solid, just a thin coating of ice on top. I suspect that these animals have cold snaps figured out.
Still, if you were to weigh my hatred of this wretched cold (and fretting about my arriving bees and the lives of all the other honey bees around) against the reassurance that a late spring means less chance of a killing frost to fruit trees, the sunnier outlook prevails.
I have also been very good about getting things ready for the first real warm days of spring (of which we have had none…only one week of mild weather in February). Bundled in a coat made for January, with gloves and hat, the dog and I have:
- Covered the entire asparagus row with dried chicken manure. (The older one, not the newer one…the newer one went in one-over from the currant row…It was started three years ago now with mail order purple asparagus, most of which died, and replanted with seedlings from the existing bed….still working on the soil in that section, but last year’s growth was encouraging.)
- Doused both rows with ash from the stove…I’ve been doing that all winter long.
- Mulched all the currants with a thick layer of wood chips (courtesy the guy I buy my wood from…he delivers btw…a whole load for 25 bucks!) and dried chicken manure.
- Pruned the wild plum grove and cleaned up the rocks in that area in preparation for regular mowing this year.
- Reviewed the building materials I have for a duck house (more below on the duck house).
- Laid another two sections of the garden with agricultural cloth and installed part of the fence that I’ve been promising to install (the dog is RELENTLESS with bringing stick, rocks and eggs to the planters around the house and burying them…wrecking whatever I have planted in the doing (spring bulbs, shrubs…she’s a walking, barking reason to own insurance)).
- Went around to the double and single quince and layered about 7 or 8 shoots into the soil. Scored their outside, buried a portion of them in soil, and weighed them down a rock (which the dog immediately started to paw at and gnaw…yelled so loud at her, I nearly blew her off her feet).
- Cleaned the entire hillside below the bird feeders, cut most of the grape and celastrus vines, laid rock around the base of the two larger trees (mulberry and honey crisp) so that weeds don’t grow so close.
- Cleaned out the raspberry patch next to the house and mulched with the MULTITUDE of dead logs that the dog has already buried there as well as some bark mixed with chicken manure.
- Cleaned up the bed with the magnolia. Dug up the rocks in it , added them to the wall, and added around 2 loads of mulch, rotten cow manure and dry chicken droppings to it. I think this year, I’ll use it to grow cucumbers and squash.
- Pollarded the black locust next to the above-mentioned magnolia bed.
Still on the to do list:
- Clean up the upper orchard with the newly planted crabapples, that includes trimming all the dead weeds, mulching trees, fencing trees, and removing stones from field in preparation for mowing (DONE! See below)
- Prune all the stone fruit trees (Almost done)
- Spray stone fruits (Sorta done)
- Plant potatoes and decide what I want to do with that bed (the weed situation down there gets out of hand too fast…should I try agricultural cloth? What about an agricultural blanket?) (DONE..almost…see below)
- Fix the corn bed. There’s so much ground there. Should I similarly try to fence that area in, lay cloth, and plant? It HAS to be fenced because the deer and groundhogs will decimate it otherwise. They eat it ALL. You know, I had this idea that I would build fence rows like they do in Costa Rica using black locust. I got an order of twenty about 3 years ago and planted them along the road in anticipation of trying to build more of a screen. Every one of them grew without any kind of assistance, weeding, or fertilization on my part and they are already 15 or so feet tall and as I pointed out above, the black locust can be pollarded successfully every year. The one I talked about earlier has got to be 5 or so years old now. Maybe older. The diameter of the truck is at least 6 inches. That’s fence post material!
- BUILD the deck! (Update: had a contractor out. He was supposed to call me with an estimate. He did not :(. I think I’m going to do the damn thing myself)
I promised a paragraph about this, but I don’t feel like doing it right now. Maybe a long entry from the platform of my new deck! You know, after the goddamn snow melts!…and the deck is built:)
The woman at the feed store (she is a cousin to Jade that used to…maybe still does…work at Wyalusing Pet Clinic) is incubating a bunch of these ducks. Supposedly they are a rare breed and great for meat and eggs. I promised her I would take six, but that means I have to build a duck house! Oh, well, I’ll stop bitching and start enjoying the fact that I am literally LIVING my dream :). BTW, I already set up a section of the barn that includes a heat lamp (remind me to buy the bulb, the one I have burned out), fresh wood chip mulch, and a cute little kiddie wading pool (pictures to follow) in preparation for the ducks arrival I would say in 15 days or so. (UPDATE: They came. I love them. So cute. I’ll take a pic once they aren’t so shy)
Bees…last entry and then I’ll shut up
So the bees come this Saturday. It’s supposed to be only one of two warm days we have before the weather returns to temps in the forties/fifties. Here’s the plan:
- On Thursday, take comb out of old box and stick in new box
- Also take frames of honey and stick in new box.
- Shut hive front door so neighboring robber bees can’t get into new hive
- Buy jar of honey and stick in old hive so that robber bees continue to frequent that hive and consider it as possible new relocation for a swarm
- Ready smoker and make simple syrup
- Test that the syrup sprays out of spray bottle and that spray bottle is clean
- Gather tools needed to open bee package
- On Saturday, pick up bees
- Dump bees into hive
- Place queen
- Place pollen patty
April 13th and 14th
The bees arrived and as though nature was trying to do its part to help out the temps climbed to 80 degrees. I drove to Wilkes Barre and picked up my package. Installation was uneventful EXCEPT that the package and the queen cage looked NOTHING like any of the videos I watched. For more on setting up the bees, see the post Package of Bees. (Update: Bees are doing great! The pollen haul during the warm days is so cool to watch. Mostly a yellow pollen, but I’ve started to notice that they are collecting a greenish colored one ( I have read that it is probably maple) and a bright vermillion one (I have read that it is henbane or as I call it ajuga. It is indeed in bloom here. I have a significant amount on the farm so I’m hoping that they soon start to forage on it).
Since the bees have been installed, the temperatures haven’t been higher than 45 degrees. There have been days when I’ve walked outside and said to myself, ‘It feels like February’.
Despite the cold, I have a collection of daffodils, the ones protected by the stone wall, that are in bloom and the forsythia is perhaps just a few days away from blooming. Grass has greened up and I’ve noticed that the strawberries are looking invigorated, though why, I have no earthly idea. Certainly the skies are no inspiration for them.
On a walk near the stream, in search of pussy willows that might serve as a pollen source for the bees when the temperatures get warmer, I noticed the catkins of the river birch for the first time. I believe the bees will go for them as soon as the weather permits outdoor activities.
Finished the fencing project in the upper field and in a fit of I-don’t-know-what called the excavator to visit again to create another steppe of land just below the one he did last year. I want to order a mess of wild cherry trees from Musser (they are famous for their Indiana County wild cherry) and install them. I read that they are fast growing and that the honey bees love their flowers. I know the birds and other wildlife will be happy with the cherries that they produce. Remind me to order one or two lindens with those cherries and to put them up there or on the walk from the small creek to the lower garden. My very own Unter den Linden. UPDATE: I had the guy out. He has not gotten back to me. I think he’s not going to do the job.
- Remember that bloodroot patch I have been passing on 187 all these years? I finally stopped and grabbed some. They just lifted right out of the soil. Brought 7 or so clumps home and put them in the bed on the north side of the house. Hopefully the dog’s digging efforts will leave them be.
- In addition to the updates I posted above, here’s what else is going on.
- Moved a number of forsythia and quince around the property
- Planted two wisteria, one on each of the trees on the drive. I want them to climb up the trees and make it look like they are blooming 🙂
- All daffodils are in full bloom
- Forsythia is in full bloom. Altoona one is just opening.
- Pulled all grapevine off of barn
- Grafted. I used all the scions in one day. It was about a week ago that I did it. I think on Tuesday of last week. Did a lot of side grafts this year.
- Moved a couple of lilacs. Don’t ask me where.
- Moved some more yellow iris into the stream.
- Moved some of the wild daylilies below the stone wall where the patio will be (!!!)
- Planted another row of peas and one row of beets. Formally planted row of peas is just now coming up.
- Spinach is up. Looks great!
- Kale is up. It especially loves the acid soil of the blueberry patch where it thrives.
Not enough time in a day…
Oh! Check out the deer carcass the dog and I found. I think she’s know about it for quite some time, but I only discovered it about a week ago.
Oh! Also…I think there is a pair of ducks nesting in the swamp. What kind you ask? Um. Hold, let me look…
April 30th, 2018
Left that sentence to look online to see if I could find the duck. I couldn’t. Note to bloggers out there. Why don’t you write a post called: Wild ducks of Pa? There’s no competition for it, I can tell you that! The duck is…hold, let me see if I can find an image…
I can’t. Anyway…it looks like a small, dark colored duck. Much smaller than a mallard. I didn’t see it on the ground, only after it took flight with its mate (I presume).
Today is gray and ugly, but supposedly the clouds are going to give way to sunshine and 60 degree temps with gusty (30 mph) winds. Tomorrow 70s and 80s by Wednesday (when I have to head to the city(!) for shrink appt.