Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Spring Update

Here we are nearing the end of May.  Spring has suddenly sprung, and if I go back one year, I was already complaining about the heat and humidity.  Not this year. Everything is slow to get started, except for the dandelions that shot up about a foot in the past week.  Don't they look pretty though?

We've had a lot of rain so far this year.  The fields are still too wet to plow and plant, and we've had some torrential downpours and record flooding in Quebec, albeit not in our vicinity.  It has also been cold, and tonight we have a forecast low of just 10C.

Traditionally, the Victoria Day weekend is our "planting weekend".  We have the Monday closest to May 24th off as a statutory holiday, and this date also coincides with our "frost free" dates.  Lots of planting goes on during this long weekend, and garden centers and nurseries are hopping with buyers.

Our garden and grounds are in a state of flux, as evidenced by the photo above.  Friday night was spent planting 25 trees the Ministry of Agriculture gives us to add to our wind-break.  We'll plant these alongside the 170 we added to our hedgerows four years ago.  We picked an unfortunate time to do this, as the mosquitoes were out in spades.  I think I counted 60 bites the next day.  They're real buggers, these mosquitoes, and they love me.  I always joke people around me don't need insect repellent when I'm around, as the mosquitoes will naturally gravitate to me.   I broke down and sprayed some citronella bug repellent on my clothes.  This slows them down somewhat, but they bite nonetheless.

Getting back to the trees!  To get them properly rooted, we plant them in pots using potting soil supplemented with bonemeal.   This way, we can control the water, the weeds and can keep a good eye on the trees while they establish themselves.  In the fall, when we have access to the fields after harvest, we'll plant them in their permanent place in the hedgerow.   Invariably, some will die, but we have a few spares we're keeping in the garden to replace them.  We've topped a few with the bush-hog, I took one out with a whipper-snipper (and never heard the end of it...) and Cooper actually chewed one off as we were planting.  One second - a tree in the ground - the next second -  a stick, as Cooper made off with it, running gleefully through the fields.

So that was our planting weekend.  The rest of the time was spent cutting the grass, as the grounds were just about dry enough to get the tractor out.  I use a regular mower around the general proximity of the house, but Eric gets the John Deere TLB 110 out for the rest of the property.  The tractor has a bush-hog attachment, but it doesn't groom as well as the mower does.  It takes forever, because there are lots of trees and what-not to mow around.

We also managed to burn one burn-pile that's been an eyesore on the property for years.  These burn-piles are a necessary evil unless you own a tree shredder, or have the luxury of bringing in a tree service to do the dirty work for you.  So it's one down, two to go.  I'll be happy when these piles are gone, and I hope we'll never have to start one again.   We have a lot of Manitoba Maples (Acer Negundo) on the property, which are more of a scourge than a tree.  If only someone could hybridize the Manitoba Maple for its rapid growth, and cross it with a Sugar Maple for its beauty and fall foliage, you'd end up with the perfect tree.  We still have a few to cut down, but we're more organized about it now.  Our municipality shreds the trees, but they need to be 4" or less in diameter, and we need some method of bringing them to the municipal grounds, because there is no branch pick-up as with most communities around here.  We need to borrow our neighbour's hay-trailer since we don't own one ourselves, and our window of opportunity on that request is narrow since it's in near-constant use.  Planning is the key.

The to-do list is still so long, if I had to enumerate everything on it, I'd run screaming from this infernal place and never return.  We don't drive ourselves crazy with things that need to get done outside.  Besides, it's covered with snow 6 months during a good year.  We've learned to look the other way, for our sanity's sake if for nothing else.

The crab apple trees are in full bloom, and this morning I noticed 2 canaries sitting in the trees.  It was a sight to see, the bright yellow contrasting against the pink.  This particular tree is full of bumble-bees, and was just humming with life as I took this picture.
Here's another crab apple tree, but this one's white.  The pink ones are more common in this area.  This particular tree was FULL of blooms, I've never seen it have this many.

We've got tulips popping up in all sorts of places.   Unfortunately, nothing in the garden was well organized, and I'm going to be paying the price for that for the next few years.  Putting in mulched beds with proper edging is one of my many gardening goals for the property.
These tulips are growing in a bed of goutweed,  the most invasive plant I think I've ever come across.  When I joke about napalm, it's only partly in jest.  I don't think I'll ever get rid of this stuff, unfortunately.

Slowly, things are getting cleaned up outside, and it takes strategic planning and constant maintenance to bring things up to par.  My goals this summer are to properly edge all trees so we can easily mow around them, get the bloody burdock eradicated, mow and seed and mow and seed, so we have a semblance of a proper lawn in the next few years, and then we'll see about adding proper garden beds and other features.  Right now, we're still in the ripping out stage of things, rather than the planting stage of things.

This lilac is also in an unfortunate spot, growing up against the foundation of the little barn right beside the house.  Right after I took this photo, a little ruby-throated hummingbird buzzed by to check out the blooms.  A Baltimore oriole was singing in the trees behind me, and weeds or no weeds, it's something to behold.
These prehistoric looking shrubs are seabuckthorn (Hippohae) which produce masses of orange berries in the fall.  The berries have 15 times the amount of vitamin C than oranges.  The branches are very thorny, and picking the berries is quite the task.
I love the evening sky.  It's crisp and clear and the fact the sun sets later is a nice departure from the winter months.  I love seeing the contrails of the planes overhead as they make their way to Europe.  I love the song of the robin, as he says good-night.  I smell the heady aroma of the crab apple trees, and regale in everything that is spring - dandelions included.

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