Sunday, August 2, 2015

Garlic Harvest 2015

Last weekend we harvested our garlic crop at my parents homestead. We've lost count how many years now that we've been growing garlic….but every October we plant nearly 500 bulbs and every July we pull nearly the same number out of the ground.
My sister Amy and my nephew-in-law Sid from India pulling this year's garlic crop.

We sort the bulbs into large, medium, and small. The large are saved for the fall planting. The smalls are used first, and the mediums--which make up most of the crop--are dried and used all year long, until next July.
Garlic is a very easy crop to grow. We rely on a covering of straw for weed control and the weather for watering. We spend a day or so prepping the rows and planting the cloves and then less than a day harvesting. And that is it. Easy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Four Peepers and a Bear Scat

A few times each year we think about moving, to find a smaller house to clean and heat, a shorter driveway to clear of snow, less yard to care for, and where we could walk to a store or the library. These thoughts usually last about an hour or two. In that span of time we remember all the reasons we'd rather not move, at least now yet.

Today--despite the sweltering hot temperature and high humidity--I saw a few things that just reinforced why we are staying put. On my yard walkabout this morning to collect Japanese beetles into a soapy yogurt container, I spotted four different spring peepers. In the morning, the backyard is shaded and heavy with dew, so the tiny frogs sit comfortably on broad leaves and wait for prey--spiders, flies, ants, beetles. They get a bit restless when I loom over them with my iPhone camera, but they usually cooperate.
My next morning "chore" was harvesting veggies from the garden (first remembering to turn off the electric fence): broccoli, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard, lettuce, arugula.
To avoid the worst of the heat, I took Kodi and Henna on our daily walk to a nearby conservation area,just down the road a bit. We always see something there: a family of turkeys, snakes, turtles, hawks, mink, deer, signs of coyotes. This week, including today, I spotted large, fresh piles of dark scat full of berries.
Okay, not the best transition from the lovely collection of fresh vegetables, but I'm interested in animal droppings too. I'm fairly certain a black bear is leaving these piles, a mammal that is not that common in this part of New Hampshire. Kodi did seem a little more alert and turned back before we got too far. It could have been the heat, but I think he smelled the bear.

Four peepers and a bear scat. It doesn't get much better!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bug-Sized Peepers

Spring peepers are small and loud. In spring, a chorus of high-pitched calls from dozens or hundreds of peepers emanate from every wetland, but they are nearly impossible to see. Adult male peepers defend breeding territories of just 4 to 16 inches in diameter--a good indicator of their small size.

Young frogs move away from their breeding pond in summer. These bug-sized juvenile peepers (about one-half inch in size) hang out in our backyard, on the leaves of raspberries, among jewelweed, goldenrod, Joe-pye weed and sedges. And they are as cute as baby pandas.

Friday, July 17, 2015

First Tomato--Something to Celebrate

It's been awhile since I posted here at Spicebush Log. The last post in mid-April. Spring is always a busy time, this year especially so. My 93-year old parents had some health issues and we are committed to helping them stay active and independent as long as possible, which includes staying in their home of 60 years. It's the place I grew up in and learned about nature, bird song, playing barefoot outside, growing vegetables and animals, caring for the planet and people. That place is as special and important to me as it is to Mom and Dad. I want them to stay there--a nursing home is just not an option. But it takes some time and energy, thus less time to write here at the Spicebush Log.

Other things have intervened as well. Last fall we finally completed foundation drains around our house, something we should have done when we bought the place 20 years ago. Since the front of the house was all churned up last October, I asked my landscaper friend Patty Laughlin at Lorax Landscaping to create a design that included pollinator and edible plantings (e.g., highbush blueberries) and a walkway to our front door. That plan was implemented in May and we've been watering new plants and enjoying the results ever since.
Then it was vegetable garden planting time and we decided to install a solar-powered electric fence to keep out the deer. A local farm -- Walnut Grove Farm in Lee, NH -- sells all you need for electric fencing. It was simple to install and so far the garden is deer free.
What finally motivated me to sit down and pen this post was the ripening of our first tomato of the season. Something to celebrate!
The tomatoes are growing well despite a cool stretch of weather in June and into July. However, the eggplant and peppers were stunted during that period and struggle to put on height. The same is true for the okra, so I covered them with Reemay and in just a couple days they are looking healthier.
As happens with gardening, we are already getting overloaded with summer squash and broccoli, but that feels like a good problem to have. The greens--Swiss chard, beets, kale, arugula, lettuce--are all doing well, as are basil and cilantro and the other herbs along our new walkway.
I'm feeling good about the gardens this year. We've kept ahead of the weeds, the solar electric fence is keeping deer at bay, tomato hornworms have not yet appeared, and we harvest a handful of blueberries each morning for our granola. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Sightings

Apologies to my friend JoAnne for the blog title photo of a garter snake. She's not keen on snakes, but I always enjoy my first snake sighting of the spring. This one was catching a patch of sun in a woodland that we visit often.

The vernal pools are full of quacking wood frogs. We noted a few roadkill spring peepers on our early morning walk today with Kodi and Henna on Bald Hill Road. Otherwise we haven't yet noted a huge amphibian movement in southeastern New Hampshire. Tomorrow night promises to bring some major movements given predictions of heavy rain and temps in the 40s. It will be a good night to stay off the roads to avoid running over frogs and salamanders. Better yet, head out on foot with a flashlight and help as many as possible across roads.

We spent much of the weekend stacking two cords of red oak, pausing now and then to watch a pair of broad-winged hawks soar overhead, and to absorb the beautiful sunshine.