The First Warm Day in the Garden (onions, garlic, rhubarb, and the elusive robin)

It was over sixty degrees for a pocket of time yesterday without its normal accompanying arctic wind to ruin all of the fun.  I sat in a lawn chair, my face to the sun intermittently reading and sipping a glass of wine until my face felt warm from those glorious rays.

“There are no robins,” I told my husband.  Perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.  If the robins were not even here yet, then spring is not arriving early.

Little flitters of tiny, iridescent wings wafted past me.  I hope they are beneficial as opposed to a nemesis in my gardens.  They landed here and there.  I stood up and stretched and walked around my garden paths.  In the beds were rogue, forgotten splays of green- dark and alive.  Onions and garlic.  A tiny bit of spinach appeared in the pathway.  Funny place to grow.

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I let me plants go to seed in the fall because I am more interested in permaculture and sustained food than I am in neat rows.  (Which I seem to be rather bad at anyway!  The rows look like when I write on unlined paper.)  So the spinach decided to grow there, huh?  Well, so be it.  Bits of Swiss chard grow under a tree.

I am still getting used to the climate where we have moved.  It is warmer here but it is certainly not temperate.  But the growing season is quite different from our old town.  Here, I usually would plant onions and garlic (if I forgot to do so last fall…which I did) when I do the potatoes, right around St. Patrick’s Day.  One doesn’t want the beds to be waterlogged with snow for the next few months because the bulbs will decompose but a nice, damp, rich, fragrant, earthy, heady, malleable bed does call for something to be planted, don’t you think?  So, I took a cue from the garlic and onions that were already growing and planted my bulbs.  It was therapeutic in a way that only gardeners can understand.

I loosened the first four inches of soil.  Along somewhat crooked rows, three inches apart in all directions, I carefully placed their bottoms down and the papery points up, gently pressing them into the ground.  Eighty bulbs of red onions.  Three large heads of garlic separated into cloves.

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And four roots of rhubarb.  Every spring my Great Aunt Donna would call me and say, “Time to get the rhubarb!”  We would drive to Denver and head into her large back yard with her.  She taught me to place my thumb at the base of a stalk and lightly pull just so.  The foot and a half long stalk would easily come loose.  We both had a paring knife and would quickly remove the large leaf at the top and place it in a pile of ever growing foliage.  She would predict what her old apple tree was going to do this year.  Her beds were clean.  The compost was moving along nicely.  She would have me throw the leaves in the bin.  Into plastic newspaper sacks, the rhubarb stalks would go.  She would save a few for herself and send us home with pounds of them.  This will be the first season without Aunt Donna.  What will happen to her rhubarb?  I hope mine gets as full and healthy as hers.

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“Guess who’s here?” I shrieked into the phone.

“Who?” my husband answered, nearly alarmed.  The shrill chirping voice was almost a shock.  I recognized it before I saw them.  A pair of them hopping through the garden beds.  “The robins are back!”

 

Winged Farm Visitors

miller moth
It’s Miller Time!  No, not the beer.  It is time for crashes in the night, torn window screens, and piles of anxious kitties trying to get the little guy away from the other cats.  Here on the east side of the mountains in Colorado we are in the flight pattern of the Miller moth.  A non-descript brown moth that is an indoor kitty’s favorite pastime.  They are fun to watch for about a day but when you walk into your garage and get smacked in the face a bunch from flapping wings, the thrill wears off right quick.  They are only here for maybe a month.  Then we promptly forget about them and are pleased to see one the following June.  They tend to signify summer starting, which is always nice.

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While the cats are busy knocking over lamps, we are watching a different winged visitor.  Towards the end of May we wait with giddy anticipation for the first sound.  The unmistakable sound of a large bumblebee or Moped running across the sky fast as a flash.  The hummingbirds have returned.  The very minute we hear the little helicopters we rush to the kitchen and make a solution of 1/2 organic sugar, and 1/2 warm water.  Shake until dissolved and pour into clean hummingbird feeder that has spent the winter put away.  It takes awhile for the cuties to find it so make sure you change it every three days or you risk botulism, and long black lines in the sugar are disagreeable to our South American royalty.  They will eventually find it and it is worth your time and sugar to change it all summer.  Their beautiful wings flutter so fast you can’t see them.   They land gently upon the perch of the feeder taking in long sips of homemade nectar.  They love the quince bush flowers as well.  They are entertaining to watch and so delicate it is amazing that they found their way to me from such a long distance.  Our new girl has a boyfriend now and the two of them zoom in for a sip several times a day.  Last year we had a hummingbird living the alley near the library.  Every time we walked to get new books we would be bombarded by the new little mom fighter pilot.  She was diligent in keeping her young safe and it always surprised us as we walked by!  Towards the middle of September we will take away the feeder to their (and our) dismay to encourage them to fly back south before the blusterous winter harms them.  They are a treat not soon forgotten and a beautiful addition to living in the country.  We didn’t see them in the city.

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The meadowlarks are out singing their glorious songs with their golden chests newly painted yellow.  I am still waiting on the golden finches.  They will be here any day now.  Streaks of bright blue fly by as the bluebirds enjoy the newly warmed air.  There were two hawks mating in the tree across the street.  Such a commotion seeing two gigantic birds attempting an aerial rendezvous! (I then locked up the chickens….don’t want any after lovin’s dinner.)  The sparrows and red finches never left us and their singing is always a welcome way to start the morning.  The blue jays and mountain jays are busy planting the bird seed.  I have corn and sunflower seeds popping up in all my planters!  The robins are splashing in the bird bath.  The wood pecker with her lacy back pecks and calls loudly from the treetops.  The butterflies will be here soon.

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I love all of the winged creatures that visit us.  They make summer sound that much more beautiful.

(I used free images off of the internet as my camera is out of batteries and I wasn’t able to capture a photo of any of these guys!)