Archive for Nature

Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

locust IMG_2745

The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write.  As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the pearly bunches of fragrant flowers. My nose noticed the first ones on April 28, this year, as I was walking out of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire & Rescue Hall where I was cooking for a wedding. But unlike many other years, this year was a good season, with showy, abundant and long lasting blossoms – well over 10 days. Despite almost 6 inches of rain last week, they kept blooming. But all things end, and now they are just drooping, brown and limp, rain water pulling them down closer to the ground… Read more

Signs of Spring

 installing bees 009 comp

March 30:  black currant leaves just visible.

April 2: 14F (14F!!!!!!) at night. Forecast called for 24. I did not cover my newly planted brassicas. A week later they show damage – the outer leaves show large whitish spots.

April 3: spotted the first green deciduous tree on the way to a client – a weeping willow with its acid yellow-green new leaves.

April 5: Keith installs 2 new bee colonies.

April 7: peas pushing through. No sign of the fava beans. Afraid the mice got them.

April 8: we are harvesting large bowls of salad “greens” from the garden. My favorite fast food available again!

fast food lunch 005 comp

April 9:  first bear visit of the year. Yikes! A big fellow (or madam?) too, on the porch, at 2 AM sniffing around empty grain bags. He carried out the box where I neatly fold the bags and proceeded to go through them. No damage done. Noise maker in action…

April 10: First dandelions blooming here. Time to start watching for bee swarms.

April 11: Spice berries clouded in yellow. Can the redbuds be far behind? And we all know what that means



Postcard from The Garden

bumble bee on cosmo 061

The bumble bees – I have really been noticing them this year – and how hard they are working:  on the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the squash, the blackberries and the raspberries – and yes on ornamental too, like this sulfurous cosmos. Thank you, my ladies!

Sunday’s Walk

Sunday’s walk – a day before the long rain. How fresh and green and vibrant was everything in the cool brilliant day.

Shades of green – a case of walking with your eyes up (no morels for me):


Brilliant dogwood, Virginia state flower

pawpaws in bloom

Pawpaws loaded with blooms (edible fruit)
wild cherries immature

Tiny immature wild cherries (edible fruit – various other parts may be used with caution in herbalism)

wild viburnum

Viburnum blooming everywhere

witch hazel

Witch hazel forming fruit (herbal craft)

autumn beries

Intensely fragrant autumn berry blossoms (edible fruit)


Sassafras – new leaves and immature seed head (herbal craft)

basswood in bud

Basswood (American Linden) – new young leaves (young new leaves are edible; other parts used in herbalism)

A Forager Is Always On The Lookout

When foraging, it is important to always keep one eyes and nose open.

It can be hard to see fruiting blackberries in July. At that point everything is green and lush and overgrown. Ripe berries can “melt” in the background as you zoom by. But when the blackberries are in bloom, their dog rose-like blossoms just jump at you. Their pure white seems to flutter like butterflies over the surrounding spring green. It is impossible not to notice.  That how I mark new blackberry patches: I make note of them when in bloom and come back later when they are berrying.

Ditto with pawpaws, a native fruit that grows by streams and in bottom-land and prefer the edge of the woods. I have written about harvesting and using pawpaws. But in September they can be hard to pick out. In late April or early May (that is, now!), when they are blooming, the groves are very easy to spot.

pawpaws in bloom

The drooping maroon flowers are festooning the slim limbs of the trees this year. In the 6 or 7 years that I have been foraging for pawpaws, it’s the first time I recall seeing so many blooms. Their shape and colors are unique and easily identifiable – once you know what you are looking at – especially since the pawpaw is the only tree that has not yet leafed out nor budded. Many flowers will  drop off f course, but we may expect a heavy harvest this year.

I am making notes of trees I had not noticed before and plan to visit in the fall.

A small consolation given how meager the morels have been!



Small Miracle On A Snowy Day

Woke up to the smell of bread baking, teasing me awake…

Since the oven was hot already from the bread baking, I decided to make a cherry cobbler and a peach cobbler – using sweet cherries and peaches picked, processed and frozen last summer. Fresh local fruit is really hard to come by in winter (besides apples and sometime pears), so I rely on canned and frozen. Frozen cherries work perfectly for baking (and are great in smoothies or ice-cream too). I look forward to fresh fruit season every year, when I am able to bite into a perfectly ripe peach or pear, or delve into sweet cherries or figs. But this has to do. And it does.

Played with developing a new recipe – first results are very encouraging: carrot sherbet. Will have to play more, but yes, there is potential.

Admired seedlings in the greenhouse. Should not be too proud, that might jinx something.

Took a walk under lightly falling snow  and witnessed a cow giving birth. Never had seen it. I did not even notice her on my way up. On the way back, in a wooded area (it’s fenced and part of a pasture where cattle is kept), I hear this sudden brief  “moo”, turned my head, just in time to see a cow standing and her “plopping” something large and soft. I was incredulous. A birth? Sure enough, she started to lick the thing – so yes, it was a calf. I don’t know how long I stood there, on the other side of the creek,  watching her and her new born – maybe 30 minutes? She licked it, stopped for a short while, licked it again. It was at first laying down quietly, with its ears flipping now and then. After a while, it  struggled to get up and stay up on its tiny wobbly legs, falling several time (more licking). When it was strong enough  to stand,  it leaned against its mom (more licking), and was finally able to start drinking milk. She was all muddy from having laid on the wet ground. It was amazing watching it all happen – albeit from far: the snow falling, the cow alone in the woods going about her mom business. Humbling.


I know nothing about cows, but  I expect she went into the woods because it is more sheltered than the open pasture. Still, I hope they are both able to regain the massed safety of the herd. Coyotes prey, unfortunately. I think she ate the placenta (I was a little far to see well) so I hope that removes some of the smell that would attract those predators. They have attacked fawns, lambs and sheep, and I understand calving cows…

I hope to see a tiny calf tomorrow…



Postcard From The Hollow

Elle est belle ma campagne… She’s is greening, pastures growing for cattle and sheep…


In the garden, things are also fattening (lettuce & mustard greens) and  pushing up: fava beans up (yeah!!!!), peas 2 inches tall, potatoes, and first asparagus tip showing its purple nose yesterday.

Of course, that tip was just the vanguard. Every year, a few show up in early April, push the soil apart to see the sun, check out the weather and then just wait until they decide the conditions are just right to grow more – several looong weeks later. They also send word down to their brethren that there is no rush since it’s just the few of them (and yes, it is mostly their “brethren” since most of my plants are male).

It’s going to be a good year in the garden. Of course. Every year in the garden is a good year. Promises, broken promises, failures, joys… life.

Are you taking the slow road with me?


On Relativity

100 feet to clear of snow to the chicken coop cum compound…


… or 1/4 mile up an unplowed dirt road and then 1/4 up the hill – plowing as you go, and don’t forget the gates – to bring hay to the cattle?


Makes you appreciate all the hard physical labor, planning, resourcefulness & ingenuity it takes to be successful farmer.

Also makes one appreciate much better why so many of the old farm houses are pretty close to the road (not 1/2 mile over a remote hill) and the tightness and efficiency of how the buildings were grouped.

More snow is falling sow, fat flakes falling straight. We certainly have had precipitations this winter – the winter I decide to leave the dahlias undug outside. Let’s hope for an abundant morel season come April (will be somewhat of a consolation from having to buy so many new dahlia tubers…)

Post Card from Up the Hollow

To go or not to go?


She went.

She is – after all – partly Turkish Van.



Can you guess which one is the river and which one is the road (and that’s less water running through than early this morning)

No matter, we are stuck here! And the rain’s not over yet.


First order of the day was to move the chicken to higher – and drier – pasture, since the one where they were is under water.  While they did not like their coop moved (while they were inside), they certainly don’t seem the worse for it and are now joyfully attaching fresh grass. Lots of chicken butts to see.


And one of the big advantage of an electronet is that you can move it fast and easily. Also it catches leaves and straw debris from the running water. At least I get to keep some of my organic materials.

Although I am sure the water will leave debris behind too.

Isn’t that how the Nile Valley used to be fertilized?