The Brilliance of Spring

Somehow, we find ourselves at the end of March.  Spring always seems so fleeting.  We wait through the rainy winter, she teases us with a few blue sky days before raining again, and then it’s brilliant and bright and green for a few weeks before the grass starts to turn towards the golden hue of summer.

The magnolia tree burst into full bloom, as she always does during the sunny days that inevitably come during the first weeks of March.

Of course, the stone fruit trees came into full bloom during the rainy days sandwiched in between the bright sunny days.  This makes us worry about our stone fruit pollination: Did the rain prevent the bees from flying to pollinate the flowers?  Did the rain knock off the blossoms?  Will we get more rain that knocks off the tiny fruit before it can fully set?  Time will tell…

We had a quiet winter, which seems to have passed by all too quickly.  With each year on the mountain, I’m learning that precious downtime – weeks and months when there’s not a lot of work to do, or can’t be done due to rain – comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

During our winter “downtime,” I enjoyed tending our growing succulent collection.  I never really thought I’d be a succulent collector.  But, now that I have a place to put them, I find them somewhat irresistible.

I also learned that I am not a winter gardener.  I have this idea of myself becoming a small-scale hobby farmer, growing food year-round.  To this end, I planted a winter garden of brassicas, carrots & onions.  As the days grew dark, cold, and wet, I couldn’t be bothered to trudge out to the garden beds to tend them.  And, even though we have had a lot of rain this winter, it hasn’t always been consistent enough to water a vegetable garden without some supplemental irrigation.  So, my winter garden went largely ignored and has become overrun with weeds and my nemesis, oxalis.  Somehow, one head of Chinese cabbage managed to thrive.  For the foreseeable future, I think I’ll stick to summer gardening and leave my winter vegetable supply to people hardier than me.

I’ve been increasing our variety of bulbs, which has led to the joy of cheerful flowers blooming from the end of January onward.  If you’re into bulbs, check out Floret, a flower farm in Washington’s Skagit Valley.  In the fall, I ordered and planted some of their anemones and daffodils, and they are turning out to be just spectacular.  I’ll definitely order from them again this fall to fill in our empty spaces.

Speaking of flowers, our original plan for this spring was to build some more fenced & irrigated garden beds and fill them with flowers to bloom all throughout the summer.  Then, Mike had shoulder surgery, which has put him out of commission for building projects.  Nevertheless, I tried my hand at starting a bunch of flower seeds in the greenhouse.  I’ve had the most luck with a variety of cosmos, which are our – and the bees’ – favorite.

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I’m truly loving using these self-watering seed pots from Orta.  They really take the guess work out of watering seedlings.  And, they are good for lazy winter gardeners like me who don’t especially like going out in the cold and rain to water the seedlings!

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I sowed a bunch of other seeds a few weeks ago.  But, a tiny mouse decided to come and dig for a seed buffet a few days after I sowed them; we (sadly) zapped the mouse and vowed to get a better greenhouse that can actually be sealed up and mostly animal-proofed.  Since then, the zapper has caught two more tiny mice!  I really hate zapping the mice…but, I guess it’s part of rural living.

We unfortunately lost 2 hives of bees over the winter.  One was the Layens hive that Mike built last year.  We think that the space was too big and the cluster was too small for them to stay warm.  The other one is a mystery – Did they starve? Did they have a weak queen?  We’re left with 2 boxes of comb/wax and 3 hives of bees.  Crossing our fingers that the bees don’t swarm.

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Last but not least, we finished the garage!  Mike has moved into it and is working in there, and I’ve moved into the house with my cats, Penny & Jack.  We are all adjusting well and looking forward to this next stage of our adventure together.

 

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