We are loving spring around the farm. We are getting in the gardens, raking the leaves out and tilling up the soil. My Star Magnolia tree is bursting with its showy blooms.
It is such a beautiful sight. I love this magnolia tree.
Last Friday we received about a foot of heavy wet snow. It was depressing and everyone was complaining and crabby, including me. It felt like spring would never arrive. April has been a strange and very snowy month.
One week later and it looks like this…
Yes, I think spring has finally arrived. The last two days we have enjoyed temperatures in the low 70′s. It is not expected to last all week, but it sure has helped to melt the snow and get spring kicked into gear.
Last weekend, when it was still cold, we hosted a smoking party at our house. Jesse was going to fire up the smokehouse while the temperatures were still cool with the snow on the ground, so he invited friends to bring over anything they wanted to smoke. We had a real assortment of good stuff: almonds, peanuts, cheese, cheese curds, leg of lamb, pork chops, pork roasts, ribs, and chickens. Once the smokehouse was loaded up, we enjoyed chatting and having some beverages while we waited for the smokehouse to work its cold-smoking magic.
We also started cooking sap to make maple syrup the same day. The sap ran very late this year due to the crazy spring. We were not sure if it would run at all, but the trees finally started dripping and actually produced a lot of sap.
Jesse found this stainless steel pan at a restaurant equipment store and it works great on our outdoor stove to cook the sap. It has a lot of surface area to help with evaporation and to cook the sap down faster. The sap looks just like water when you first collect it from the tree to start cooking.
As it cooks longer, it starts to brown up and begins to have a sweet caramel-like aroma. We cooked down enough sap last weekend to make one gallon of syrup.
Yes, spring is here. The birds have been singing, the geese are honking, and the frogs have awoken and are singing their lovely spring song.
All varieties of wildlife are on the move. During the day yesterday, I was working at home and as I glanced up from the file I was reading, I noticed these turkeys come walking past the back of the barn and headed towards the river. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots.
We joke sometimes about living in a nature preserve. I guess we have the river to thank for the wide array of wildlife we get to see and/or hear (the owls hooting at night are my favorite) on a daily basis.
We spent yesterday evening and today outside enjoying the warm temperatures by starting our spring cleanup. I cut down any perennials that stood through the winter and raked all the leaves out of the gardens.
Tired of the chickens coming up by the house and digging in the dirt of my perennial garden, we decided to lock them in the vegetable garden fence today to enjoy the sunshine. Ironically, we built this very fence in part, to keep the chickens out of the vegetable garden. They loved kicking around the bit of straw, pecking at the grass, and digging in the dirt all day.
Likewise, the peonies are bursting out of the ground. I love peonies so much. They remind me of my grandma.
The beehives are sitting empty across the field awaiting their new residents. We ordered two nucs of bees that should arrive in about 10 days. The nucs contain some frames of brood and a queen, so they are already somewhat established. Since we are starting over again after a year of bee-keeping drama (swarming, robbing, etc.), it will be nice to have the hives get up and running quickly.
So, after a very long winter, it seems as though spring has arrived. Finally.
There may likely be a few more bumps along the way, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.
My mini-greenhouses are waiting patiently for some warmer temps to get the seeds going. I peeked in them and saw that the kale seeds have already sprouted!
The chickens enjoyed their first day outside free-ranging.
Everything is brown and drab.
Wildlife is on the move though. We noticed hundreds of robins out in our hayfield and in the trees over the weekend. Geese were honking down by the river and a few flew right through the yard headed in that direction.
We also noticed some strange-looking birds down by the river. I didn’t have my telephoto lens on the camera, so I snapped a few photos and zoomed in on the images once I uploaded them to the computer. It took me some time searching through images to identify these crazy looking birds, but I finally did…Hooded Merganser. We have never seen them around here, or at least we have never noticed them before.
The bird identification site had this to say about the Hooded Merganser:
“Hooded” is something of an understatement for this extravagantly crested little duck. Adult males are a sight to behold, with sharp black-and-white patterns set off by chestnut flanks. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest. Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and rivers, where they dive for fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills. They nest in tree cavities; the ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.
March has been unseasonably warm so far this year (although it sounds as though temperatures are expected to return to normal by the weekend). With temperatures sneaking into the 60′s several days already, the snow has completely melted and signs of spring are everywhere. Generally speaking, I welcome the signs of spring. It means that soon I will be back in my flower and vegetable gardens.
Over the weekend I found this little gem in the flower garden in front of the house. It was such a sweet surprise and reminder of spring. This lone violet was the first sign of life in my perennial garden.
The last few warm days have brought other perennials out from their winter sleep. Seedum and Ajuga intertwine here.
A volunteer Lamium plant also has greened up under the shrubs by the house.
Even the vegetable garden is showing signs of life. The rhubarb plants broke through the ground in the last few days. I think their appearance is premature and I’m a little worried about how they will fare when the cold weather returns this weekend. They are tough plants though and will likely recover quickly from any setbacks.
Along with the lovely perennial plants and vegetables, some unwelcome signs of spring have also appeared. DANDELIONS are already popping up all over. This Stella de’Oro daylilly is fighting for space with this huge dandelion.
Dandelions and grass have also showed up among my peonies. I am not opposed to using herbicides on these rogue weeds and hope to eliminate them before the flower plants get much bigger. It is time to get out the Roundup and blast these pesky weeds. I need to wait for a calm day, however, so I don’t kill my flowers.
And this weed…it is all over in my bed of peonies and I’m not sure what it is. It used to grow in abundance in the cow pastures when I was growing up, but I don’t know the technical name. Any ideas? It also needs to go.
Spring time also brings a reminder that we have a dog. Our dear Sofie, that we enjoy in so many ways, definitely manages to leave her mark from her quick trips outside the house during the cold winter months.
In contrast to the healthy green lawn that she graces above, is the spotted lawn that appears every spring. This spring is no different, and we will need to re-seed these areas.
The weeds popping up all over and the dead spots in the lawn are the frustrating signs of spring. But my excitement over the perennial flowers and vegetables that are appearing easily outweighs these irritations. I am ready to get in the dirt and start gardening. Unfortunately, it is only March!