Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

The weather during the week was sunny, dry and warm. Oh, and windy. The wind makes my allergies very bad so it’s best to just skip over the misery to the beautiful warm, sunny and non-windy days that were Friday and Saturday. They could not have been more perfect. Unfortunately I had to spend most of my day indoors working on Friday, but the evening was mild and relaxing.

Saturday I had work to do. The forecast for Sunday was rain off and on all day. Gardening had to happen this weekend and it had to happen on Saturday. Bookman was at work so he missed out on all the fun. I spent two glorious hours outdoors. I began in the front garden removing leaves and cutting back the remains of last year’s perennials and grasses. I had decided last year that I want to use my tall native grasses to make baskets. I don’t have a huge prairie so they would have to be small or take a year or two to make one of size. No problem. I found out how to do this: cut grasses before they flower, place in a warm area to dry. When the time came last summer to cut back some of the grass to dry I couldn’t bear the idea. I know, it’s grass, it would grow back, but it’s so pretty waving in the breeze. So I decided I didn’t mind some fluffy grass seedheads in the mix and I would let nature take its course and when the grass dried naturally I’d cut it back to use.

When the time came to cut the dry grass I thought, oh it looks so pretty I can’t cut it back yet. I’ll wait until just before it snows. Snow came late but the cold didn’t and who wants to be out cutting back grass when it’s 25F/-4C outside? Spring, I’ll do it in spring.

And as I was cutting back the grass yesterday I understood why it gets cut when it is green. It is fresh and clean, unbroken and unbent. In spring it has been flattened by snow, has leaves and dirt in it. It is no good for baskets, only good for mulch and compost. Lesson learned. So this summer I will try cutting a little from a few clumps of grass and drying it and seeing how that goes.

I must have some new neighbors down the street from me because as I was working a child of about eight I had never seen before was riding his bike up and down the street all by himself. He seemed to be having a good time, zooming along and sometimes singing to himself. Finally his curiosity got the best of him and he stopped and asked me what I was doing. I explained I was clearing away the leaves and dead twigs so the new flowers could grow. He didn’t know what to say to that but sat there on his bike watching me for a bit before he asked if I was “helping the house.” I understood his question to mean was I being paid by the people who live in the house to do this work. I told him no, that I live in the house. His response was “oh” and then he zoomed off down the sidewalk and didn’t come by again. Did I scare him or have I been placed in the “crazy lady” box?

I got one big bed cleared. There is another large bed and a couple smaller ones yet to do. Almost all of these plants are natives and they don’t need much attention at all in order to thrive and do their thing. Unless there is something newly planted in one of the beds, my policy tends to be one of benign neglect. No one took care of them on the prairie, they don’t really need me to take much care of them now.

I was happy to see the gooseberry I planted last year is leafing out and the black currant, which I fretted

beginning ramp patch

beginning ramp patch

over all winter because it looked like nothing more than a stick in the snow, is covered in new leaves too. And, hooray, the ramps came back! Ramps are wild leeks, native to woodlands in Minnesota. I planted a couple last spring and they went dormant a few weeks after that. To see them tall and leafy now makes me very happy. Hopefully in a couple of years I will have a patch large enough I can start harvesting some for an early spring treat.

In the vegetable garden in the backyard I prepped the polyculture bed for planting. I had covered it in leaf mulch for the winter and with the wind most of the leaves had blown away. So I broke up the top of the soil pulled out a few weeds that had sprouted, turned some of the leaves under — found some earthworms yay! I also cut back all the dead stalks from the perennial sunflower that lives next to the polyculture bed. When Bookman came home in the evening we planted the bed with a lettuce variety mix, cosmic purple carrots, red beets and golden beets, parsnips and purple radish. Then we covered it with row cover fabric and weighed down the corners. Since it was going to rain, we didn’t water it.

It did rain a little overnight, not much though. And today it rained only once for about twenty minutes. It was too wet to do any digging but Bookman and I got out in the garden for a little while. We worked on breaking up some old concrete and used it to mark out more paths through the garden. At one point Bookman failed to remember he was swinging a sledge hammer while standing beneath a clothesline rope. He swung the hammer, it hit the rope and bounced back and gave him a glancing blow to the head. I didn’t see it happen, only heard the cursing after the fact.

Bookman is ok. He has a small cut on his forehead, a bruise and a marble-sized lump. But we decided he needed to be done gardening for the day. After a long afternoon rest, however, he did take a few minutes to help me plant sunflower seeds in pots. We have to start the sunflowers so the squirrels don’t dig up the seeds.

But it isn’t squirrels I am worried about this year. The mild winter we had allowed the rabbit population to embiggen and we’ve had several rabbits foraging through the garden over the last few weeks. There was nothing growing except weeds and greening grass so I didn’t think much about it. Until yesterday when I walked around the garden checking on all my shrubs. Bush cherries looking good, black raspberry fantastic, winterberries made it, blackberry not sure, huckleberry — hey where did the huckleberry go? Eaten down to a nub. And it is a good thing I already decided to give up on the blueberries because the rabbits had eaten those too! Nonetheless I was a bit miffed.

My nextdoor neighbor has a large shade tree in the backyard and has told us there is a hawk nesting in its upper branches. I can see a nest but I have not seen the hawk. Is it bad of me to hope the hawk takes care of the rabbit problem? There were three large rabbits. In the last few days I have only seen one. I have not seen any rabbit remains though so maybe the rabbits have just become more cautious? Whatever the case, I now have to take extra precautions and protect against both squirrels and rabbits. Not pleased about that!

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