Homestead Report 33: May 21, 2018

What a difference a month makes! Now flowers and leafy trees abound. I’ve been so busy the last two weeks that I forgot to take any pictures. Therefore, the photos here are all from the first week of April or earlier.

On April 28, Charley and I took a little hike to a waterfall on Mount Toby. I was loving the Trailing arbutus (or mayflower, the Massachusetts state flower), and seeing the first trillium and hepatica of the season.

Closer to home, on May 1 we checked out our local beaver pond and discovered heaps of snow fleas congregating on stumps of beaver-cut trees. These were covered with sap coming up from the roots of the trees. I’m not sure what the snow fleas were up to, but they were on multiple stumps, and it seemed like perhaps they were attracted to the moisture.

In early spring I just can’t get enough of the spring ephemeral wildflowers.  We’ve planted a bunch on the east side of our house, where they seem to be thriving–and spreading. Now, May 21, the phlox, dwarf ginseng, and waterleaf are also blooming.

We’ve been delighted that our plum trees really went to town blooming this spring for the first time. Now, fingers crossed that we might actually get to eat a plum… And we should, since a huge variety of native bees, wasps and flies were busily visiting the flowers every time I put my head anywhere near the tree.

Since we are no longer using fire wood, it seemed like a good time to get some more. Our neighbor delivered 3 cords of wood, backing up across our crazy yard without even squashing one flower, and when Charley asked if he could dump it “as close to the shed as possible, without crushing this daffodil” that is exactly what we got. Thanks, Northwoods Forest Products! Now we just have to finish stacking it…

We’ve also been enjoying the garden a lot. This time of year is all about salads and asparagus and rhubarb.

This morning I noticed that our first strawberry is starting to turn red (in the hoop house); the rest are blooming.  On May 18, I spent all day planting things– tomatoes, broccoli, onions (I know, it’s late for onions), leeks, beans. I’m experimenting with leaving more “weeds” and trying hard not to agitate the soil as I plant. Despite all I’ve been learning about soil microbes and what they need to be healthy, it’s still really difficult to train myself not to want to “prepare” a bed like I grew up doing. Charley mowed some of the meadowy parts of our yard that haven’t been mowed for a year, and I used the grass as mulch around my new seedlings. At this point, most bugs that were overwintering in dead stems should have emerged, so it seems an okay time to mow.

Most of our violets are purple, or white, or white with a few purple streaks coming out of the center. But these are speckled! They’re in the the “blueberry barrens” area up by the hedge.

Homestead Report 21: April 24, 2017

More blooming flowers (mmmm…) and the first black flies (no!!!) greeted us this week.

As we wait for various things to leaf out, I’m noticing that the animals are waiting too–impatiently. A month or so ago, I’d pruned our raspberry patch, carefully following directions set forth in Lee Reich’s Grow Fruit Naturally, only to discover on Thursday that a porcupine decided to prune a bit more (and more each day). It seems to cut  most canes off at about a foot high, and leave the cut pieces scattered below. I can’t tell exactly what it is eating, but I wish it would just leave well enough alone. I’m afraid with such short canes we won’t get fruit to ripen until so late in the year that we’ll lose most of it to frost. Fortunately, we do have a lot of plants, and in fact have just dug a new bed for transplanting some of the raspberry shoots that are coming up in the lawn.

Today a few plum blossoms opened all the way, just barely beating out the peaches, whose petals began to peek out of their buds today, but aren’t yet fully open.

In the spring ephemeral bed, the dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucullaria) are fully open, as is the hepatica (Anemone americana) and blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis). We just saw the first spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) open today. Rue anemones (Thalictrum thalictroides) and trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) pushed up out of the ground today too. Cut-leaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and ramps/ wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) have been up for a few days, but aren’t flowering yet.

In the woods, coltsfoot and golden alexanders is blooming.

Charley and I had the good fortune to lead a vernal pool walk on Sunday in the Holyoke Range. We checked out five vernal pools and found spotted salamander eggs, marbled salamander larvae, red-spotted newts, and a disturbing absence of wood frogs.

We also spotted a number of neat invertebrates including fairy shrimp, giant water bugs, and a predaceous diving beetle larva (eating a fairy shrimp).

I’ll just leave you with these lovely purple hepatica.

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