April 15th, 2005

Greetings to all. It has officially been spring for about 3 weeks now, but the plants tend to not pay attention to calendars. This is the time of year when everything feels exciting—you look around to see just how pretty it is already, and you allow yourself the occasional thought of what it’s going to look like once summer comes. Right now the tulips and the spring bulbs are all but gone (after a magnificent display), giving way to a wall of heirloom sweet peas and rose after rose in rainbow colors. We have many climbing roses, and nothing rivals their grand entrance. Iris, astilbe, poppies, yarrow….each day something else has started blooming. We haven’t really gone anywhere since January, since this is seedling time. Our dining room table is covered by a “plant brooder” with our heirloom vegetable seedlings growing underneath, 16 hours of artificial light a day. Every plant pot gets about 2 tbsp of water every day. A little too dry, and they’re all dead. A little too wet, and they’re all dead from fungus rot. Fingerling artichokes vie with eggplant, pepper and tomato for room. Multicolor Swiss chard is almost ready for planting, while the special Italian zucchinis put forth their first true leaves. This year, two really helpful things happened. The first was the aforementioned light fixture. Remember last year, how I tried to start seeds in the cute little electric greenhouse and then I set the sprouts in a sunny windowsill? It was a disaster. A friend gave us a light fixture, and Ken built a simple frame so that the light ballast can be easily raised or lowered. I read that fluorescent bulbs supply most of the light spectrum plants need, so we decided to try it. I’m sure it would be even better with those really pricey full-spectrum bulbs, but Mostly Good is a big step from All Bad. The other great thing was the purchase of some “Natural Beginnings” seed starting medium from Gardens Alive!, a vendor of overpriced organic garden elixirs. I only buy stuff when I have significant coupons and discounts lined up. This year I bought a soil-less product which is made of coir (the short fibers of coconut) with some other witches’ brew items mixed in. The claim was that I would get spectacularly quick germination and super strong seedlings. I would say I am 90% impressed, which is a lot. The seeds did germinate quickly. But what is more important, none of them died from the dreaded “damp-off” that destroyed batch after batch of last year’s attempts. Every seedling has multiple amounts of true leaves. Mostly, they look robust and healthy. I also used sterile water since I have easy access to that. Not adding germs seemed like a good idea. But enough about the seedlings. For our avian friends, it’s springtime, and it’s quite loud around our house. To phrase it delicately, all the males are extremely occupied. Gobbling. Shrieking. Desperate for “bird nookie”. Galahad the peacock has frustrations. Mopsy is young, and so far uninterested in Galahad’s overtures; or those of the occasionally visiting peacock we have named Lancelot. He has taken to commemorating every passing car, trailer, truck and garden cart with that special vocalization that can be heard from 2 miles away. He’s so desperate he has begun displaying his tail fan to cats and inanimate objects. We sold two of the Royal Palms, and the remainder are busy sitting on the eggs which will become our main flock. I am also pondering whether or not to send for eggs for Narragansett turkeys, which are even rarer than the Royal Palms. They are equally good looking and likely would be better eating (more weight=better bar-b-que!). We obtained our Certified Farmer’s Certificate (how’s that for a mouthful?) in order to sell at local Farmer’s Markets. Apparently we broke the county record on account of the ten pages of different produce items we raise. I am looking forward to trying the farmer’s market. It’s hard to decide what to try to sell, but the obvious choices would be the monster blackberries, the eggs, flowers, and last year’s little gourds. We will be purchasing some berry baskets from a supplier (600 for $35, what a deal) and we’ll see how it goes. The berries are just flowering now. Meanwhile, egg sales are plodding along. So far, so good, since we are drowning in eggs. We routinely have over 150 sitting in flats, and no amount of quiche baking can keep up (side note for the health-conscious: we found a quiche recipe that uses milk not cream, and it even tastes good). I must say, our customers are getting a good deal. All the freshest ones go for sale, and most of the eggs are so huge that I have trouble closing the cartons. All the trees have set fruit, and this weekend will be time to thin all of the branches. The annual ant-deterrent challenge has begun. This year’s idea was to use wax paper around the trunk, with vet wrap (light, stretchy, mildly adhesive bandage material) over that and tanglefoot on top. The trees look so cute with their red and blue bandages of Sticky Ant Death. We actually have a cherry crop and a greengage crop, if we can outwit the birds. We have discovered a need, though. We have to take up beekeeping. We’re not even sure we care about honey, but we need the pollination. So it’s time to work on acquiring hives. Right after we learn more about bees, than that they fly and sting…. So for the weekend, -Fertilize roses (all 40 of them) -Mow grass -Till strawberry patch (and a few other patches) -Transplant chard -Sow late spring flower seeds -Run all irrigation lines to check for winter damage -Clean and feed poultry -Shell almonds for Phyllis, our most long-suffering customer -Start eggplant and stuffing tomato seeds -Spray for weeds if no wind -Burn weeds if not too windy -Finish weeding around willow tree -Fertilize citrus tree -Transplant bay-leaf little tree -Put diatomaceous earth around lettuce, peas, chard -Weed and mulch hostas -Tie more baling twine to support berry vines -Weed and hill up asparagus -Fill planter box and transplant artichokes -Add gravel to large pathway -Spread pre-emergent on pathway -Disc perimeter of field for burning -Transplant more larkspur Anyone feel like helping?

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