This has been a very unique winter for upstate NY. I’ve seen warm winters before, but this one was the most extreme. On December 24th I went into the garden to pick arugula, only to find honeybees working the flower blossoms on it. That was certainly a first for me. (And those little bugs)
On January 10, 2016 we had a beautiful rainbow that followed a thunder and lightning storm. I have never seen that in upstate New York before during that time of year. The odd things was it was displayed in a different part of the sky than is normal during the summer. I had never thought about that happening.
I periodically do reconnaissance around the yard in the winter to check on the plants, the vermin, and the varmints. I was out the other day when there wasn’t a flake of snow on the ground. The frost had already begun to go out on the top 3 inches of the soil. The voles were clearly coming out of their winter holes and were trying to find food. But that wasn’t surprising because those little guys are known to make tunnels between the snow and ground. One found some Sweet Sicily popping up and made a small meal out of it. I took steps to eliminate the little bugger. Voles are devastating to the roots of shrubs, overwintering veggies, grape vines, and trees. They were particularly hard on my blueberry bushes last year and the year before nearly wiped out my rhubarb. They eat the roots during the winter.
What was surprising in my trek was that my daffodils alongside the house were half grown and had some blossom buds. Yeah, they will be toast tonight when it gets down to around zero degrees. That will kill of most of my southern exposure spring flowers. Fortunately the daffodils I planted in the hugelkultur garden have only shown me the tops of their leaves.
Another bush that will see no flowers this spring is the quince. The flower buds were 1/3 open. Crazy!
As usual, the deer have been coming through. There are two bucks ( a yearling and a two year old) that have decided it is more fun to buck-rub my young trees in the open yard than to use any of the half million trees in the wild. They killed several of my trees in prior years by rubbing the bark off them. It isn’t something to take lightly. I wrapped one tree with fencing and I will deal with them on a more permanent basis in the fall.
My other trees are faring well so far and have tight buds. That is the key. Once they crack and swell it is all over at this time of the year.
We finally received about 3 inches of snow. It is always interesting to see what type of animal tracks will be found in these light snowfalls. I found deer (of course), skunks, rabbits, and squirrel. There was either a small dog or fox track as well. The bad news is that last year’s fawns decided it would be fun to walk through my electric fence. (That was disconnected for the winter.) That is really bad news. I will need to train them all over again. I reconnected the fence, but the little buggers still went through. The snow must be insulating their legs from the ground. So out I was again stringing a ground wire. That should to take care of things.
On a good note, the deer are eating the apple drops in the orchard. The apples can harbor bugs for the next year, so it is always best to get rid of them somehow. I like it when the deer do it for me. They can have all they want, just so long as they don’t breach “the contract”.
On a similar note; I had so many hanging frozen apples this year that I made some apple ice wine. I must have looked strange out in the winter picking brown frozen apples. I love it! The wine finished fermenting and will be racked this weekend. So far it smells great!
I have no idea what will happen to my plants come springtime. The warm and cold shifts are the worst situation for plants. Some plants are mulched in nicely to keep them frozen, but others might not be able to take it. I sure wish we could get two feet of snow and then keep it until the spring melt.
Beekeepers are probably sweating it out too. If bees stay too warm they will come out of the hive too much and then chill. They will also eat more honey reserves because their metabolism will speed up during the warm days.
If you are wondering, my onion and leek seedlings are doing great! Best year yet. I made a few changes this year and it appears to be working. Two onion seedlings were albinos. Albino plants cannot live because they do not produce photosynthesis.
The apple seedlings are also doing very well. I experimented with them too. I have three from my Freyberg tree and two from my Cox Orange Pippin. They will not bear fruit like the parents when they mature because of the genetics involved. As long as they taste reasonably good I will be happy. They will be front yard border plants along the stone wall. I planted several Mulberry trees along that stone wall last year. In about seven years it will be a fruiting wall! The Mulberry trees were planted to draw the birds away from my good Mulberry trees. The apple trees are just for fun. Yeah; my form of entertainment is much different than most people's. Mine lasts for years!
The cheery seeds have been removed from stratification, were scarified, and then planted. I do not expect anything because the seeds were seriously neglected last year. (Dried up for months on top of my tool box.) Who knows? It was worth a shot. I ordered another tart cherry tree so I can eventually get enough cherries to make a grape wine blended with cherry wine. The cherry wine adds a bit of peppery flavor. Yum yum!
I have been eating fresh lettuce, arugula, and spinach from my indoor hydroponics system. No listeria tainted lettuce from the supermarket for me!
There is no rest for a farmer type and I’m not going to be the one to break that rule. I have been busy engineering new seed starting contraptions. One was placed into operation today and the other should be fully functional by next week. They will make my seed starting marathon easier.
On another good note, the germination rate for my lettuce and arugula is incredible. (I used my fall collected seeds for the hydroponic system) The germination rate for my onions was also incredible.
Unfortunately, the long-eared beavers (a.k.a. rabbits) destroyed my spinach crop last year so I will need to rely on purchased seeds for them. It never ceases to amaze me how much a little varmint can eat in one sitting. Hopefully the population has been reduced enough to protect the crops for this year. So far none of the fruit trees have been girdled by them like last year. I lost a beautiful Macoun apple tree to rabbits last year and may lose a Freyberg if it does not recover enough. I will bridge graft it this year to see if that will help it along. In light of the damage last winter, I wrapped many of the trees with hardware cloth. It is working well so far. I actually need to credit my have-a-heart trap for most of that success. They are a gardener’s best friend.
Amaryllis flowers are always cheery in the winter and mine has come through once again. I have found a method to get it to bloom twice a year. This year it is sending up two flower stalks and is growing a second bulb.
I need to get back to editing my fourth book. There have been many changes.
Don’t merely exist; get out there and live!