We are in the midst of seasonal transition here, when Winter takes his time to move out and Spring sends care packages ahead of her arrival. Thus we went from near 40F one day to below zero two days later and now we are, once again approaching 40F today with the week’s forecast teasing a possible 60F by Wednesday. Combined with March Mud and Chasmic Potholes that could swallow a car, let alone an inattentive bike commuter, life is moving past a gentle waking nudge into a great shaking.
Silver Maple in the front yard is beginning to bloom. Witch Hazel in the back garden is blooming. She used to bloom in autumn like other Witch Hazels, but being a contrary witch, she blooms when she damn well pleases, and, being a contrary sort of witch myself, I can’t help but admire her for it.
Last weekend I began the pruning. Walter Crabapple got a trim but still needs some work with the hand saw to remove the lowest branch that Fat Rabbit stripped of bark. Elderberry got a light prune, but there was too much snow yet underneath and I couldn’t do as much as needed. Plus, I need the hand saw for a couple bigger low limbs. Elderberry grows next to Sour Cherry and I could not help but notice the swelling buds. This made me so happy because Sour Cherry, still a young tree, suffered greatly in last summer’s drought and I worried. Also next to Elderberry is Juneberry. Since this Juneberry is in the Chicken Garden, Fat Rabbit did not eat ki down to sticks, and so this Juneberry I was pleased to see has swelling buds.
I started pruning Grape today, but need a ladder to finish, and there is too much snow on the ground. The front yard Apples need pruning with the hand saw. James and I will need to tend to the Apples together since they are older trees and their branches larger. I am hoping for no snow and good weather next weekend.
I inspected the rabbit-eaten shrubs today. The Juneberry has a couple buds but overall is in sad shape. None of the honeyberries have buds, and the bush cherries definitely do not. They all still have green wood, so could potentially regrow, but it will take several seasons before they might be able to produce fruit again. This makes me of the mind to plant new ones and leave the eaten one to see if they do recover. If they actually do, great, if they don’t then I still have new berry shrubs.
Indoors, it is time to begin sprouting seeds. Technically, I should wait until next weekend, closer to Spring Equinox, which happens to be the prescribed 6-8 weeks before last frost date. But I am impatient. I have made vast improvements with patience however, as ten years ago I used to start my seeds indoors around Valentine’s Day. My forever apology to those poor, leggy, rootbound tomatoes.
Today I started two kinds of tomatoes “Sunrise Sauce” and “Thorburn’s Terra-Cotta.” I have terrible luck with sauce tomatoes and this is a variety I have not tried, hoping to finally discover one that will like my garden. Thorburn’s was the free seed packet sent with an order from Baker Creek and is an orange-pink slicer. I am only starting two of each inside because I am going to try an experiment.
I read in Paul Wheaton’s Building a Better World in Your Backyard (a very good book!) that he, in Wyoming, never starts his tomatoes indoors because of their long taproots. He says he has experimented, and his direct sown tomatoes consistently did better than the transplanted ones because the transplanted ones don’t grow a good taproot indoors, then are shocked when moved outdoors, and the setback from all that means they end up producing only silently sooner than the direct sown tomatoes, which end up being very strong and healthy. I will direct sow two or three of each outdoors and see what happens.
Three pots of habanero peppers. Habaneros are too hot for me, but James likes them and if they do well he can make himself some really hot salsa. Two pots of luffa. I have never grown these before, and they require a long season. I hope they don’t get too viney before I can plant them out. The remaining pots are marigolds. More marigolds will be direct sown outside as well. That is all I am starting indoors. And if direct sowing tomatoes is a success, I won’t have much at all to start indoors next year. That will be nice. But I suspect I will also miss not having anything growing indoors, and now my thoughts are flying to the possibility of growing figs in a big pot that I can put outdoors in summer and bring inside for the winter. I am getting ahead of the plants. I mentioned I get impatient this time of year didn’t I?
I took the day off from work Tuesday last week because I needed a break in the routine. James had the day off too, and it turned out to be the nicest day of the week. We let the chickens out to roam around in the thaw. James and I were having dinner around 5:30. The chickens, who had been going back and forth from deck to run all day, were milling about on the deck. And then they were screaming and flying and someone smacked into the window and James and I leapt from our chairs and out onto the deck to see what was going on.
A huge red tail hawk lightly landed in the trees across the alley to survey the scene of panic ki had just created, swooping down at the chickens.
Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood plastered themselves against the deck railing and hunkered down. Sia ran frantically back and forth in front of the window trying to get in the house. We had seen Ethel fly off the deck but didn’t know where she was. There were black feathers everywhere and no sign of Lucy, our black australorp. Looking over the side of the deck, all I saw was snow and black feathers, no blood.
We ran down the deck steps and around the side to look underneath. There was Ethel, walking around in a little panic. And crammed way under against the house was Lucy. We couldn’t tell if she was hurt or not. But first we had to get everyone safe. James carried Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood to the run. They do not like being carried but did not protest this time. Sia ran under the deck to be with the other two Nuggets.
We went in the house and put on jackets, snow pants, and boots. I started shoveling snow away from the side of the deck so I could crawl underneath it. James got a long stick, and from the other side of the deck, used it to herd the chickens towards me. They all moved near, including Lucy, but not near enough to grab. Our deck is only about three feet off the ground and it is hard to grab a chicken when bent over on hands and knees. But between James and his stick and me shooing them, they exited from beneath the deck through the open stairs.
This entire time, Fat Rabbit is also under the deck. Rabbit smooshed herself against a deck support post by the stairs and did not move a muscle. Her eyes were huge. I told her hello and not to worry, we were not after her.
Once we got the Nuggets out from under the deck, we herded them down the garden path toward the run. The hawk had long ago left. We still thought all the feathers belonged to Lucy, but she looked unruffled and unhurt to our great relief. Into the protected run they all went. James and I returned to the house where we suddenly no longer felt like eating dinner.
When closed in to the coop for the night, they were all doing fine. When James let them out in the morning they were all fine. It was then we learned that all the black feathers had not been Lucy’s, but Sia’s. With everyone nice and calm, James saw the bald spot on Sia’s shoulder. She didn’t have a wound, only missing feathers. We’ve had hawks after the chickens before, but this was a close call.
And yes, I wondered why the hawk couldn’t have grabbed Fat Rabbit.
James and I are now paranoid, especially since I saw a bald eagle circling low over the park a couple blocks away Thursday when I got home from work. The chickens have been out all day today without incident, living their best lives, scratching in the mud, without a care in the world. I will be much less worried once the trees and shrubs begin to leaf out, which will make them more difficult to see and give them places to hide when threatened from above.
Never dull here at Arugula Meadow!
Tomorrow is Pi(e) Day y’all! But since James and I both are working we decided to celebrate early. James made a chocolate banana cream pie with a chocolatey oat crust. It’s so good our will power is working overtime to not eat the whole thing in one day. So far just one slice each, but we keep joking about having pie for dinner. We are on the edge my friends, on the edge.
- The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula L Guin. I finished the book of short stories—loved them! I am already deep into this one and loving it so much. I read it over 20 years ago and I liked it them, but this time, just wow.
- The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh. The book opens with a massacre. An entire island emptied of its native population so the Dutch could take control of the nutmeg and mace trade. And now Ghosh is connecting it to the genocide of American Indians.
- A Bigger Picture by Vanessa Nakate. Nakate is a youth climate activist from Uganda and this is her memoir.
- Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson (audiobook). It just goes on and on and on.
- Podcast, What Could Possibly Go Right?: Helena Norberg-Hodge. Linguist, author, filmmaker and localization activist and organizer, and all around wonderful human being.
- Between the Covers Podcast: Crafting with Ursula: Isaac Yuen on Writing Nature and Nature Writing. I am loving these podcasts so much. In this one they talk about one of the short stories I just read that is told from the perspective of an oak tree. They also talk about the Immanent Grove from Earthsea, and a number of other short stories I have not read yet but I am now mightily looking forward to.