It’s March 8th 2019. After about 5 weeks of fussing with this site, I finally figured out the password and got back in. Just in time too. I’ve been have the worst spring fever and I needed some kind of outlet.
Then I saw that I had a couple of unpublished drafts and I thought, well, since my head is already into Spring, why don’t I piggy back off this old, unpublished blog. Write my thoughts of this March in the context of the fumes of last year’s May. Sound like a plan? Here we go. I left the 2018 text in black, the March text, in honor of upcoming St. Pats will be in green. Sound good?
After a long cold winter, Spring has been in full swing for approximately 2 weeks. Everything is racing into bud and bloom. Here’s a fast run down of what’s going on.
Yeah. It appears that we’re having a repeat of the long winter. It’s March 8th and last night the temp was 15th. Everything is still frozen solid. Not even the maples are reddening.
The Japanese plum were first to cross the blooming finish line. First the yucky one that can never remember the name of (the one that’s in the plum grove), followed by Toka and the other one next to it (this year at the same time…typically Toka blooms first), then the delicious Sour Mann Plum (what I pity I can’t figure out a way to graft or reproduce it) and just now breaking bud, the American plums, both of which have that terrible black bacterial canker.
That black bacterial canker??? Well it infected all the American plums AND the Sour Mann, AND the yucky one referenced above. I’ve decided to cut them back, nearly to the ground, to try to remove the source of the disease and see if they can be saved. I hate the thought of losing Sour Mann. Cannot find a replacement anywhere!
Next up the sweet cherries, the one in the semi dwarf orchard smells especially wonderful, like the cherry tobacco we used to steal when we were kids.
A deer rubbed half the bark off the sour cherry in the Standard Sized Field. Northstar is rotting and nearing end of life. I am ordering two more this Spring. Both will go into the Semi dwarf orchard.
The peach trees…all of them took me by surprise this year and bloomed along with the cherries.
I don’t think I ate a single peach in 2018. We had a LOT of rain in 2018. Everything rotted. It also seemed to fan the fire of that black canker crap.
The pear trees will be in full bloom by tomorrow. Beurre D’anjou and Luscious are especially covered with the rest of the trees in the row tagging slightly behind.
The stand out in the pear department last year was once more Luscious and the new comer, the Asian Pear. Ordered another AP. They are virtually pest and disease free. The fruit is fantastic.
And just now we have the sour cherries breaking bud.
Yeah, ate no sour cherries. Rotted, birds, wrath of God…shall I go on?
Apple flowers are still in clusters, but all in all, I don’t remember a year when everything exploded so much in sync.
More blooms that are up:
Wild mustard in the upper field and already the bees are on it. BTW, the bees have been seen working the plum trees and the dandelion , but not to the extent I expected. They continue to return to the hive with a greenish grey pollen, some yellow and some orange, but they have mostly been bringing nectar back this past week. Where they are getting it is beyond me.
I don’t want to jinx it, but I think they are still alive.
Ajuga…I saw the bumble bees working it, but no honey bees.
BTW…another aside, though only a few honey bees visited the plum and cherry trees (they liked the sweet cherry better than the plum…sorry another aside, the weeping cherry out in the field was, in fact, the first major blooming thing on the property and some honey bees visited that) the plum trees and cherry trees too for the matter were COVERED with other kinds of bees. Smaller, faster bees and bumble bees and sometimes flies. I am reassured that if the hone bee dies, we will have lots of other pollinators around to fertilize things here on the farm.
Tulips are up…have been for some time and all the daffodils bloomed. Stole more blood root and put them in the same bed as the blueberries. I hope they like acid.
Dog insisted on wrecking blood root…dug them up.
Asparagus shot up…at least all the medium sized spears. I have eaten about 6 spears to date, but today, it rained all day, so I’m expected to see a big push from the ground as asparagus spears go.
Oh! Apricot bloomed at the same time as the peaches and for ONCE no frost and no storm to wreck their blossoms. Fingers crossed I get to eat an apricot this year.
I can uncross my fingers. Not only did I not eat an apricot, but both trees died. Victims of Noah-like rains and flooding.
No sign of life from the grafts.
Some took, not a lot. I’m not side grafting anymore. I don’t seem to have a lot of luck with that.
This year, I gathered up a good deal of scion wood from Liberty, more Bechtel and a very long shoot from one of the new trees that I ordered…last year? The year before? I hope I wrote down what they are somewhere. I really should make a digital version of that journal that shows where everything lives. Oh, this year, I cut the scion wood into smaller pieces, coated each end with wax and stored them in my fridge for consistent chilling. I’m hoping that improves my luck.
Finished planting the potatoes. The ones that I first put in, the ones with the long eyes, are just now breaking ground. the spinach has its first true leaves. I put in radish, beans, arugula, parsley and another row of peas. Fence is still not done.
Potatoes washed away in the flood, literally, the flood waters stole half that garden away and swept it down stream. The floods were incredible. Worst that they’ve ever been. I have to get the bull dozer guy over here to straighten the stream out. Garden was also wrecked by the same foot soldiers that attacked the cherries and peaches. The gang from fort rot, bird battalion, wrath corp, deer demolition.
Ducks are growing so quickly! I ordered a dog house online and laid out the wood for an outdoor cage. The plan is to move them into the dog house (I’ll put it next to the stream), near the end of May after I return from CVC.
So I did all of that and for a few months, it was lovely to watch the ducks. I just loved them. One day, try to stir my memory by asking me about the day I turned around to see the dog looking at me, joy wiped across her entire face and body, water dripping from every hair on her, and my lovely white duck, limp in her mouth. Ask me to tell you that story, see if you can reboot my mind.
Later in the summer, there were milestones of sinking despair as I journeyed down to the stream to find one less, and then one less again, and then another fatality. No feather lost, no sign of a struggle, just swift death. Or at least that’s what I presume. I don’t think they were carted off to some far away duck vacation home or party. My neighbors (Marshall’s) told me that they were feeding a family of foxes at their house. My guess is, they were not feeding them enough.
When I was a kid, I was drawn to a convent or monastery, I can’t remember…it was up in the mountains, about 30 minutes drive from my home. It was near the college that I attended when mom was sick, but I can’t remember the name of it. Maybe some kind of Carnegie estate? Let me do a quick online search. Hold please. Here http://www.post-gazette.com/life/homes/2011/07/16/Loretto-estate-s-restored-garden-simply-stunning/stories/201107160194.
It belonged to Charles Schwab I believe. I’ll have to dig into more when I finish this post.
Anyway, my point is, I think I’ve created a park here. It’s starting to feel like one. But mine is better…of course I’m partial, but you know, mine has more bugs, more animals, more nature. Mine is humming more.
Since writing this post, I have acquired three benches to place around the property, three beautiful teak chairs, and two school desks…all to be placed here and there so that if a young body, like that one that went searching around those monastery grounds, turns up, he’ll have some place to sit down and sort things through.
I also stole, that’s right STOLE, a few seed pods from the Iowa State Botanical Garden’s wisterias. I think I took a couple of crabapples too. All the seeds are in my fridge. I have to go away for April, but when I return, I’ll put them up and see if I can’t grow a little more Schwab here in NEPA.
BTW, the hummingbirds are back. I put out their feeder and they’re slurping away.
May 9th, 2018
Pears are in full bloom. Luscious is COVERD and the Beure D’anjou is a close second. Asia pear??? What are you doing? You’re killing it in the blossom department. Toka and…what’s the name of the one right next to it? The other asian plum? Anyway, they are are wrapping things up, but still heavily white. Sour cherries are are in full bloom, sweet cherries are wrapping it up. Sherry and the Indian crabapple just broke bud.
Harvesting at least one thick handful of asparagus per day. It’s delicious. The second row is doing nicely.
Almost finished the duck enclosure. Ducks are getting big! Need to move them after I return from my speaking engagements next week.
Saw a humming bird trying to suck on the tulips yesterday. Gorgeous. Tried to catch it on film, but no dice.
Truly a magical spring. I love it.
Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddo.
May 28th, 2018
Amazing how much can blow up in one month.
I’m staring at it now, though were I blind, it would fill me up just as easily through my nose. The air is weighed down by it’s thick, syrupy scent. The bees are mad for it. Even the hummingbirds and Baltimore oriels seem to prefer it over the feeders.
It too, opening and chumming the air with it’s camellia-like scent.
Black Cherry and Locust
Not sure these are as fragrant, but one wonders if there is enough air to hold all this pollen and perfume. Long racemes of both have just opened, but not sure how the honey bees feel about either.
Speaking of which, this hive is incredibly active. Bees shoot in and out in a frenzy to collect as much as they can. Pollen baskets are still full of bright yellow/gold pollen. Not sure what they are feeding on. I don’t have many dandelions left. I saw one on some clover in the upper field. The Russian olive has yellow pollen…maybe that’s what they are going for.
Luscious scion took on the pear that Shirley gave to me AND the asian pear! I keep hoping that the other grafts are taking…keep believing that I see small signs of green on the buds, but none have broken bud so much as the scions from Luscious. This year I side grafted…perhaps that’s my issue.
There is one sweet cherry left over in the semi dwarf orchard that was planted back in 2007 or 8 and it has cherries on it! I have to spay because it’s been a wet spring and I can see brown rot setting in.
Swallow your drool, bud, cause you’re not going to have any cherries to go down the hatch.
For the past week, I have espied a male mallard and his mate as well as what appears to be a female merganser. They are all to be found on the stream in the morning and evening. I hope that they are nesting.
Loving life right now. Here on the deck and looking out at all the green. The black cherry is near and in full bloom, birds are singing, sound. of stream running. The only disappointment is how far behind I am on mowing. Wet spring.
BTW, blueberries blew up this year
Oh…homemade mayonnaise. Yikes! So amazing. One egg + one yolk+juice of one lemon+ 1/2 tsp salt+ 2 or 3 tbs dijon mustard+ 1 cup grape seed oil. Place in large mouth mason jar and use an immersion blender to mix. Firms up in 20 seconds or less. Un-be-lieve-able.
Yeah, it’s amazing, that homemade mayonnaise. I’m still eating that, just ask my waistline.
March 10th, 2019
Redwing blackbirds are back. The first sighting of the year.
Bees are alive! Yesterday the temperature toyed with 51 degrees and a handful of bees decided to slip outside for a second. Perhaps they needed to use the restroom, or perhaps they were interested in getting out of a space that has been perpetually vibrating and pitch black for more than 90 days. This activity didn’t last for more than 3 or so hours before the temps dropped enough to force them back inside. I placed a jar of their honey outside the entrance for them to eat, but they only briefly explored it. Maybe they were more eager to find pollen? I stuck my ear up to the hive and I heard distinct humming and an occasional crackle. Not sure what the louder sound was.
I put a jar of the bee’s last year honey next to the hive. They wasted no time, sucking it up and spitting it back out into the comb of their hive.
Just read online that my bees have to be registered. It’s the law! I’m excited to do it. I wonder if my hives will be inspected.
Cut down one of the dying ash trees along the drive yesterday. For about 5 minutes, I swallowed my heart out of my throat as I sawed into the behemoth, kept looking above for signs that it would fall onto the road, kept an ear tuned precisely in to the sound of passing cars, and kept an eye out for the dog who INSISTED on returning the location where I expected the tree to fall after every time I screamed at her to move away. Finally, I saw the tree leaning into the wedge that I had cut on the field side of the tree. I stepped back and the tree fell swiftly and mightily to the ground. Thereafter, I was not only able to swallow my heart, but I think I might have actually passed it out the other end.
Cutting up the tree was swift work, but ultimately the harvest was only two wagon loads of wood. Perhaps enough for 2 weeks of burning would be my guess. Still, it was easily 60 dollars worth of wood and it was nice to save myself the money with an activity that only took about 1.5 hours of work, and five minutes of cliff hanging terror. I’m sitting next to a stove full of it right now and the soft roar of its burn sounds like a soundtrack by a pillow.
By the way, the stream is still frozen, the lower field is still covered with snow, the ground is still frozen and everything, except for the red winged blackbirds, looks like the absolute dead of winter.
I just looked at the time. Shit! We’re on daylight’s saving time now! I have to go! I have to save me some time!
March 15th, 2019
Ides of March! Saw the first robin of the year….an aide, I’m TRYING to sit outside to type this. Yesterday, we had a temp of 64 degrees and today, it’s supposed to be near 70, so I’m really pushing the envelope by TRYING to sit outside at the porch to write this, watch it rain (!!!) and feel like it’s spring. It ain’t happening. It’s 52 friggin degrees, an icy wind occasionally makes it feel more like 42. Forget it. The dog knows what she’s doing. I’m going to join her in the upstairs loft. Hold please.
So much better. For all my yearnings for the great outdoors, central heating is still something to shout about.
Okay, where we? Oh yes, first robin of the year. Redwinged blackbirds were back perhaps 3 days prior. Oh! And the bees! the bees are ALIVE and up and running. In fact, I was shocked to see one return to the hive yesterday with two bags of pale yellow pollen!!! The rest were busy removing the winter’s dead from the hive.
Here’s a real stretch for you, I planted two rows of peas yesterday. The ground was ice cold, probably because it was still frozen just a few more inches down. I don’t give a shit. I’m still in love with the dream that I’ll eat more peas that I can stomach.
Cleaned up the asparagus yard yesterday. All the pome fruit in the semi orchard have been pruned. I still need to do the standard orchard. I ordered a bunch of stock from Schlabachers (sp?) and 30 (!!!) trees from. the Bradford Extension (10 each of locust, butternut, and persimmon).
Busy trying to prepare for my April-long trip to Savannah to work at Savannah Rep. In fact, I should run. More later.
March 28th, 2019
Dug 5 holes today for a total of 30 trees that are coming by way of the Bradford County Extension. I ordered…did I mention this already…I ordered 10 Black Locust, 10 Persimmons, and 10 butternuts. Butternuts? Is that what they are called? I forget. The ‘white walnut’ as they are otherwise known, or so I have read.
The Butternuts are supposedly susceptable to a ‘canker’ that kills them. Indeed, that’s why you don’t see any Butternut trees hanging around in the forests these days, because they all died of canker!
Of course, I found this out AFTER I ordered them. Supposedly there is a resistant… or more resistant strain…and I’m hoping to God that the genius that decided to include Butternuts as part of this year’s Bradford County offering also thought to order the resistant ones.
Anyway, if they live, I think they’ll love their home. I dug the holes right next to the creek ( you know, where the black walnuts live and in whom the bacteria or virus for the cancer supposedly lives or hangs out). You know, nothing like putting your white walnuts next to your black walnuts and having them all get a disease. Chalk one up for this genius.
BTW, speaking of planting stuff next to native species, did I tell you that all the American and some Japanese plums got a terrible black knot virus from living next door to the wild cherry and plum I have here on the property? Now that I think of it, since I’m this hotshot farmer, I should save the seeds from my cultivated plums living next to the disease resistant natives and see if I can’t create a resistant hybrid.
All that said, I had to severely prune back the damson, the sour mann, and that other horrible plum down to 3 foot tall stalks. Then I sprayed the shit out of them with fungicide. Oh, that’s what it is, it’s a fungus, not a virus.
Where was I? Oh, the Butternuts. So yeah, so anyway, I’m digging the holes for the 30 trees and then I’m going to pay the dog sitters kids to plant them for me while I’m in Savannah (Don’t ask).
(Jesus. I cut some dead black locust and I’m burning it now in the woodburner…Jesus. It’s really blazing.)
I’m tired and need to do something that’s less work, but these few last little bits.
Clutch of wood frog eggs in pond. Only one, but it’s there…and I think that the red spotted newt is eating it. First seen on March 26th, 2019. It’s the only one. As of yesterday, I saw white spermatophores on the bottom of the frog pond.
BEES! Opened up the hive and the friggin bees are cookin with gas! They have three deep supers and almost all of them are still filled with honey! How is that possible? I stole two frames and put them in the new bee box for when the new bees come. In fact, now that I think of it, I think I’m going to steal another frame. This hive is incredible! They had two small honey supers on. The top most one had nothing in it, so I pulled it. The second one down had a few middle frames filled with capped and uncapped nectar (it’s not really nectar. I put a jar of their last year’s honey next to the hive, the goldenrod honey, and they ate that all up and spit it up again into their comb.
And I didn’t treat for mites. Why? Why? Because the bottom super is a complete mess. I could barely get the one above it off because the frames inside were glued to the ones on the bottom and it was a nice spring day and the bees were working the maple tree hard (thankfully, there is a maple tree on my property line, rising out of the swamp, that is covered with red blossoms. From this they are collecting a lot of pollen.
Tomorrow and Saturday will be two more warm days and I’m expecting them to really forage a lot.
I’m willing to bet that this hive tries to swarm by the top of May. Their that vigorous ( I hope I don’t jinx it.).