Monday, April 27, 2020

Working in the Strawberries

This past Saturday and Sunday were the nicest days we've had so far this spring.  Lots of sunshine and temps that must have been in the 50s in the sun even though our thermometer (in the shade) registered only the mid-40s.

This lovely weekend, I had a goal of removing the winter mulch from the strawberry rows, getting the plants cleaned up and pathways weeded, and the "aisles" covered again with mulch.  Didn't quite make it, but gave it a good try and felt I got the majority of it taken care of.

In the above picture, the mulch is removed for the most part with just that section down on the left to do.  That was as far as I got on Saturday.

Finished the mulch removal on Sunday and found many more weeds happily having set roots and growing than I would have liked, but the strawberry plants look pretty good.  I think we lost only two over winter.

There are three rows and the one on the left (that looks as though it might win "the least likely to succeed" award) is the row I planted just last year after removing a variety I wasn't happy with.  The plants are much smaller than the other two rows of older plants but, with luck, will catch up to the "big guys" before the summer is over.

We got a nice, gentle rain for the first half of this day (Monday) which is what the ground needed.  I just went out to take a picture of the weeding I accomplished yesterday.

I got the pathways either side of the middle row done, but have yet to work on the outer sides of the first and third rows.  The row on the right butts up to the field garden and isn't bad, but the one on the left side of the newest plants is next to sod and that darn sod tries its best to creep into the strawberry bed every time I turn my back on it.

Looks like it will be until Wednesday before things dry out enough for me to finish the job as the forecast for tomorrow is foggy and cloudy.  By then, maybe my hands, wrists, elbows, knees, hips, back and earlobes will be recovered enough.  The first couple weeks working in the garden never fail to show there are many muscles that have had too much rest over winter.


Friday, April 24, 2020

Set for Asparagus

Work on the asparagus bed has been delayed all week because our temps have been so cold that the compost I needed to spread on top of the rows was frozen.

Fortunately and hurray, today dawned bright and sunny and Jack Frost finally decided to give us a break and we could dig down into the compost for enough to get all the homemade fertilizer needed.

I had finished weeding so the bed was ready.  Here are the three rows spread with the good-looking compost all along the top.

Next I tilled between the rows to loosen the soil, then raked it up over the compost on top of the rows.

I like to put down a heavy layer of mulch (old hay with no seeds left in it) between the rows so it's always dry and "clean" to walk (or kneel) on when I harvest the asparagus spears.

No mulch as of yet on the outside of the right and left rows.  On the left I want to expand the plowed up soil (where it's now sod) because I didn't originally leave enough space there when we made the bed.  Papa Pea is going to put his mighty muscles to work on that project tomorrow.

On the far right, there's enough room that I use as planting space for other veggies (or flowers) so I'll keep that weeded but won't mulch it until later.

Feels good to have the asparagus in good shape.  Now grow, you little green spears, grow!

Monday, April 20, 2020

First Day in the Garden

Our asparagus bed was crying for some attention, and I definitely needed to get it ready for the season before the first green shoots became visible.

Gak, what a mess.  All the dead ferns from last fall had to be removed and then some hand weeding done.  (Why is it that weeds can look so green and vigorous before anything else in the garden even thinks about starting to grow?)

I always try to look my best
when gardening.  (Ugh.)
It was COLD out there today.

All the old debris is gone now, and when I quit tonight to come in to make dinner, I had only one row left to weed.

Next comes spreading compost on top of each row, tilling between the rows and raking more soil up onto the rows.  Then let the asparagus begin!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Revisiting Our Birch "Sap-Cicle"

If you saw my post on last Saturday, the 11th, you know about the "icicle" forming on one trunk of the twin birch tree outside our window.

A couple of days ago, the temp was just warm enough (after a dusting of snow the night before) that the bottom of the birch sap formation was dripping.  We placed one of my big stock pots on the ground to try to catch some of the sap.  (You can just make out the formation in the picture above immediately to the left of the apple tree in the distance.  This perspective also gives an idea of how high up on the tree it is.) 

But it was a gray and cloudy day with a strong wind blowing that sent the droplets of sap just about everywhere except into the pot on the ground.

The formation of the birch sap coming out of the tree has continued every day and our sap-cicle, as it's now known, has been growing by leaps and bounds.  It's currently more than five feet long and is quite the spectacle.  (I tried to get Papa Pea to get out the extension ladder and climb up next to it for perspective, but that idea didn't go over well.)

So very interesting, the ways of nature.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Easter Bunny Made a Visit

The Easter Bunny (aka our creative daughter) made a stop at our house yesterday.

Papa Pea and I were each gifted with four "snacks-in-a-jar" made especially for us.

They can be eaten for breakfast or any time of the day for a snack.

Not sure where she comes up with the ideas for the clever and unique gifts that she always does.  I've often told her she could have a career as a personal shopper or party planner.

Such lovely treats for us to enjoy from our own Easter Bunny!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Birch Water

March is usually the time for maple sap gathering here in our northern area of the country.  Shortly after that, around the mid-part of April, the sap starts flowing in the birch trees.

Did you know you can collect sap from birches the same way sap is collected from maples?

Our dear daughter has tapped birch trees and collected the sap several times in the past.  Although it's possible to boil the sap down and make syrup from it in the same way you do with maple sap, she uses it as "birch water."

A partial half gallon jug of birch water recently given to us by our daughter.

This crystal clear liquid has been harvested for centuries by indigenous people in many parts of the world and consumed for its detoxifying, diuretic, cleansing and purifying properties.  Birch water, or sap, contains 17 amino acids as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, natural sugar and Vitamin B and C while also giving us a good dose of antioxidants which we all need these days.

How does birch water taste?  Very pleasant.  (Not at all similar to the taste you might imagine if you chewed on a piece of birch bark!) It's much like a pure, clean water but with a very, very light sweet taste and possibly slightly thicker than water, but not much.  I like to put it in a glass with an ice cube and sip it as I'm working in the kitchen.

Now here's something I found very interesting yesterday afternoon.

We have a large twin birch tree right outside our living room window.

Our temp was hovering in the high 30s and as I glanced out the window I saw a clump of what I first thought to be icicles on the side of one of the trunks.

Then I noticed there were chunks of "ice" on the ground that had obviously fallen from the clump.

Here's a closer look at the clump on the tree.

Next I noticed a large hole (brown rimmed) up higher on the tree and looking carefully, I could see drips coming down the tree and collecting on the rough part of bark on the trunk . . . right where the clump of what I had thought to be ice had formed.

It was birch sap dripping from the hole (a natural tap) a bird, most likely woodpecker, had made in the tree!

Papa Pea said the woodpecker's hole was probably indicative of insects under the bark of the trunk which is what attracted the bird.  I really hope that either the woodpecker, or the possibility of insects infecting the tree, haven't done it too much damage.  I'd hate to lose that big, beautiful birch water producing tree.

Monday, April 6, 2020


I go through this same kind of mind game every single year.  It happens when I start reading blogs where people are preparing their garden for planting, getting seeds in the ground and setting out their first started plants.  Their perennial flowers have been blooming for weeks and song birds have returned to their spring/summer quarters.  How's my garden progressing?

These are the raised beds at the far south end of the garden.  Do they look ready for planting?  Not quite.

This is a shot of the ground immediately outside our back door.  (The tire tracks are from the garden cart that was used to haul boxes of my seasonal decorations from the back storage shed.  I simply could not tolerate the winter decorations one more day and had to replace them with my spring ones.)  At least the terrible ice is gone from this area.

Oh, much of our snow has melted, no question about that.  There are lots of clear spots in our back yard and on our driveway.  At least where the sun can peek through the trees to hit the ground. 

Here's our asparagus bed which will give us our first-of-the-season taste of luscious, green spears which will poke up through the soil.  But first I need to get out there to clean up the old dead ferns and debris, fertilize with some good compost and rake more soil up onto the rows.  Gotta keep those wonderful aspergrass (as my grandpa used to say) plants happy.  But even this won't happen until the ground thaws a bit more and dries out a lot more.

These are my three rows of strawberry plants that go from the snow covered bottom of the picture all the way to the end of the snow you can see.  (Yoo-hoo, anybody under there?)  My question is why is that patch in the middle free of snow?  I'll have to ask Papa Pea (aka Mr. Science) for an explanation of that.

Question:  Why-oh-why didn't I start my inside seeds earlier this year?

Answer:  Well, dum-dum, if you had they would be leggy, pale and totally lacking in vigor by the time the weather was warm enough to set them out.

Question:  Will I ever be able to have a long enough growing season for my garden to mature?

Answer:  Yep.  There have been very few years when you haven't managed to get a good crop of most everything planted.  Except for those full-sized tomatoes.  And eggplant.  And corn.  And . . . )

Question:  Why can't I be out in my garden right now prepping the soil and planting my cool weather crops like others are?

Answer:  Because you're still getting freezing temperatures at night and you'd have to dig through the snow to plant those seeds that would not be happy and would lose their will to actually live and grow.

Bottom line:  Patience is a virtue which I must find and hang on to this time of year.

In the meantime, I do have some seeds started under lights.  Just look at these robust, little (understatement) guys who will be ready to go out into the garden and sunshine in a mere 8 weeks.  Or possibly 10.  Or so.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

"Oh Good, You Made Apple Crisp!"

Umm . . . no, but it's really good baked oatmeal!

My good friend, Linda, in upper New York State sent me a recipe for a baked oatmeal to try.  Sounded great to me so I made it last Thursday morning.

I've tried a few baked oatmeal dishes in the past, but this one is the far-and-away winner.  Even Papa Pea, who is not overly fond of any oatmeal dish, gobbled up a second helping.  (That is after he got over his disappointment thinking it was apple crisp.)

Some of you may have extra time these mornings so if you want to give it a try, here's the recipe Linda shared with me. 

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Combine the above in a medium bowl.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons oil
1 beaten egg

Combine above in another bowl.  Add to oat mixture; stir well.  Pour into a greased 8 x 8" baking pan.  Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with milk.

MY NOTES:  Instead of raisins, I chose to put in a combination of dried apricots and sour cherries, about a total of 3/4 of a cup.  I used melted butter instead of oil.

If a breakfast recipe like this appeals to you, it's well worth a try.  It has found a permanent place in my recipe box.  Yum.  And thanks, Linda!