This evening, we went for what was initially a damp walk into our woods. By the time we made it back to the house we found ourselves in a dreching and cold, yet refreshing downpour. Upon our entering our woods, we were greeted by a patch of ferns – some of which to be relocated as they have overgrown their original plot. And thankfully the number of Jack-in-the-pulpits sprouting along the pathway into the woods is also increasing. There is a certain charm in the rarity of this native perennial, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more pop up each year. Jack is both humble and a stand out in the woods, when you can find him.
One native plant that is easy to spot is the mayapple. They are fairly easy to notice as they crowd together over time, looking almost as if a bunch of small woodland animals have put up green leafy umbrellas to protect themelves from the sun or the rain. I’ve never seen them flower before, but Tiffany taught the kids and me that the mayapple doesn’t flower every year. But when it does flower, it gives off a lovely apple-blossom fragrance. You can’t smell it from a distance, but up close the mayapple flower is a real treat. After plucking one of the plants from the ground to give it a closer inspection, I reassured the kids that no gnomes, fairies or rabbits lost their cover from the rain.
The ramp remains elusive for Tiffany. I would be pleased if I could trade all of the chives growing on the property for a few ramps. We cook almost daily with our asparagus this time of year. The idea of working with ramps on a regular basis excites me. The hunt continues. What we lack in the ramp department we more than make up with raspberries. Though we are more than a few weeks away from picking our first raspberry, seeing the plants leaf out and sprawl across the woodland floor this time of year brings a promise of warmer and sweeter days ahead. In the meantime, if I could convince Wyatt that he cannot walk through a patch of raspberry plants in the woods would be a solid win for Dad.
We have been very lucky with the weather so far this early spring. Nights have remained fairly mild and we haven’t had to scramble to protect any starts, newly planted plugs or flowering fruit trees. Some of the day time temperatures have been stubbornly cold recently, but all in all I think we have done okay. Hundreds of four inch pots have been emptied with their contents planted into the big garden and various side beds around the house. Though we have a cold Wednesday night coming, the baby plants look to be safely in place for the season with thousands more to be planted over the next few weeks. Though the walk was on the chilly side today, I can’t stop thinking of all of my winemaker friends throughout Europe that have lost much of their harvest due to frost this spring. Though not uncommon, the recent frosts came after a highly unusual warm March which forced vines to bud out, leaving themselves vulnerable to cold snaps. The idea of losing an entire crop for the year gives me pause every time I think about it.
I am not sure if annual task of installing bamboo in the tomato garden is an accurate measurement of the effects of climate change but it is a task that I once undertook with a deep sense of dread. For the first couple of years on the farm, I used a mallet and rebar to make holes deep enough to hold bamboo stakes in the tomato garden. The soil was rock hard, dry and seemingly impermeable. The process took hours over the course of a few days. Thankfully I haven’t had to use the mallet in this fashion for a few years now. I started inserting new bamboo into our clay based soil yesterday and once again it was soft enough for me to push the bamboo the requisite 8-12 inches into the ground. Short of a tropical storm whipping the tomato garden for the second year in a row, our heirlooms should stay upright through harvest.
One of the first perennial flowers to be harvested each year is the peony. We have a number of peonies that have reached the age required to push a good quantity of flowers. However, we have hundreds of peonies that were planted last fall. On our walk in the rain today we looked in on the peony field and upon noticing the first flower buds from the freshman crop, Tiffany remarked, “How in the world am I supposed to sacfrice something so beautiful?” I didn’t know much about peonies until I saw my first flower up close in the garden a few years ago. I concur – the flowers are nothing short of breathtaking. The question is, do we wait another year or two to let these plants take our breath away?