Bonafide Farm

Spring panic

April 11th, 2013 § 0

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that a week ago it was sleeting and now we’ve just come through several days of near-90 degree temperatures.


I feel clobbered by summer just when we should, finally, be enjoying spring.

The heat’s brought on the spring flowering trees, it appears to their detriment. My wonderful Yoshino cherry in the front yard flowered yesterday and already this morning its green leaves were pushing through tired-looking white flowers. In one day. With cooler weather one could enjoy the pure-white flowers and grey branches alone for at least a week before the leaves come in to make everything look a bit ragged.


I was out this morning hauling five-gallon buckets of water to the vegetable garden. I haven’t yet set up my hoses, and with this heat I needed to water the new peas and recently sprouted greens. We’ve had so little rain lately that these young plants were wilting like it was July, not early April. I would say this is not a good harbinger for an easy summer, if there is such a thing around here, but the variability demonstrated by last week’s weather compared to this week’s shows that there are no patterns nor useful predictions.

I’ve been chipping away at my spring to-do list, which is dozens of items long. It’s times like these that I really feel my singleness, my two small hands that are solely responsible for making so much happen. Most of the time I enjoy working alone, but I do know how much more can be accomplished with the extra helpers that I don’t have. If I still lived in San Diego, as I used to, I would totally have gone down to the nearest big-box hardware store parking lot and picked up a truck load of day laborers. But this kind of help just isn’t as, shall we say, visible here in central Virginia. So I go it alone.

One of my main focuses right now is to do what needs to be done to make summer maintenance a little less exhausting. To that end, I am working on defining beds around the house in order to keep turf and weeds from encroaching. I am also going to mulch pretty heavily, with straw in the vegetable garden, double-ground hardwood mulch in the ornamental beds, and pine bark around then pasture trees, in hopes that it will keep the weeds down and lessen drought stress (and watering) on plants.

But of course, this being the property it is, and by that I mean still young and undefined, in order to do all these things I must do several other things first. So for the past few weeks I have been hauling boulders out of the woods to edge the beds, shoveling topsoil, shoveling and hand-spreading mulch. All hard work that’s a race between physical exhaustion and the disappearance of daylight, and usually I push myself until the sun goes down.


I try not to look at the ten yards of mulch that was just yesterday dumped in my field and think that I will need to position it all, shovel by shovel, in place. Instead I just pick up the shovel, start up the tractor, and take it one bucket-load at a time. MulchWeb

Tonight, near eight o’clock, I was shoveling mulch on the front bed when I heard a guitar. My neighbor, a young guy who rents the the house just up the road, was sitting on his porch, strumming and singing in the sunset. I’m not going to lie, I had a somewhat bitter flashback to being a young renter, with no better way to spend a warm, dry evening than just sitting. I wish I could say the “joys of home ownership” make losing all sense of idle relaxation worth it, but the jury’s still out on that.

And while they’re debating, there is still the veg garden to lime, fertilize, straw, and oh, plan and plant. All I have in now are peas and greens, but in a couple of weeks it will be time to pound tomato stakes and transplant the dahlias that I potted up inside a few weeks ago. And sow the cut flowers, and set up the cucumber trellis. And there are the water hoses to set up, the chicken house to clean, the roses to prune, and the tools to clean and organize, among many other tasks. We’re officially in the season of nonstop projects, and those short winter days spent reading by the wood stove are but a pleasant memory.

If it sounds like I am complaining, I am not. I love every minute of all of this work, and nothing makes me feel more vital than these tasks. I feel like taking care of this patch of dirt is one of the things I was born to do, but I know enough about the sequence of spring chores to know that certain issues, if not nipped in the bud—literally!—make for larger problems down the road. I am feeling behind and panicky. And I still need to do my taxes!

The pressure is on in part because I have have wonderful out-of-town friends arriving in a week. I am so very much looking forward to their visit, and I’d like to have a good handle on all these things so I can be the relaxed hostess they deserve, without having to conscript them into mulch spreading! And, my green tractor is ailing—leaking oil from its front axle—and going to the tractor hospital on Monday for bit of a stay. I need the tractor for most of my outdoor jobs, so I need to get those done before the tractor is away on convalescence. And tomorrow it’s supposed to rain most of the day, which is a wonderful thing for the drought, but not so great for my plans to mulch. So the variables are stacking up, and there’s nothing to do but make lists, prioritize, and push through the best I can.

Bump watch

April 9th, 2013 § 0

While others scrutinize royal pea coats for any sign of swelling, and still others seek all “news” of reality star/rapper spawn, my eyes will be fixed in the backyard, right here:


Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are nesting again. I have high hopes this time around, as this is the first early spring clutch since installing my homemade metal baffle, which should help protect the nest from snakes and other predators.


I had mixed success in years’ past, with some eggs disappearing, some chicks mysteriously dying, and then others that made it to—I think—fledging.

I just checked back and it was one year ago to the day that I had discovered last year’s first clutch of eggs. I find this chronological tidbit fascinating.

It’s freaking sleeting

April 4th, 2013 § 0


Spring has forsaken us.

Cold fire

April 2nd, 2013 § 0

For the last couple of days the angle of the setting sun has lit up just the grass in the back pasture while everything else is in shadow. It’s a stunning effect, and lasts but a moment before the sun slips behind the mountain.

Seeing the light play in grass is the precise reason why I don’t mow all of my land. Even broomstraw—especially broomstraw—which isn’t good for fodder and is an indicator of poor soil, is gorgeous as it glows.

Gold SunAWeb

It continues to be a very long winter here in Central Virginia. With snowstorms all throughout March, one would think that turning the calendar page to April might signify a fresh, warm start. But it’s not to be. It’s still cold and blustery, with temperatures running at least ten degrees below average. Easter was drizzly and chilly. The daffodils are blooming, and were even last month, but the ground around them is still brown and quiet.

Yesterday, one of the guest instructors for my master gardener class told us that he had trouble finding weed examples to bring to class—everything is so delayed. And just last week I was in Washington, D.C., where the metro thronged with tourists come to see the famous cherry blossoms. Well, too bad, as nary a blossom was in sight and the peak bloom prediction has been pushed back to April 5.

The ornamental cherry in my yard, which I planted to remind me of my years in D.C., is no where near blooming. Its buds are still tight to the branch, shivering. The peas I planted March 10 just today stuck one leaf out of the soil. I can only hope that this late, late winter means a fewer sweltering, drought-stricken summer days, but I know better. Around here, anything can happen.

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