Saturday, March 2
Lillian and I joined our parents out on the land just as the sun broke free from the clouds. We were greeted by our parents hard at work, but more importantly by the ancient, scraggly plums in full bloom.
Concetta was filling the rows with new seedlings. She flipped the hay into the path, and Lillian followed behind broad-forking the earth. Concetta drew three thin troughs down the rows. We teased apart the seed blocks, carefully preserving the seedlings' roots. We placed the young flowers in the troughs. Using our fingers, we pressed little holes into the soil and buried the roots. Whenever we started a new type of flower, we placed a little label so we could track the flowers as they grow.
When the troughs were all filled, we placed a strip of specialized fabric over the entire row. The fabric will keep the seedlings warm and damp while they become a little more hardy. Soon we will raise the fabric up on arches into tiny greenhouses, just like we have with other rows. Inside these little homes, the plants can stretch and grow strong.
Lillian and Hunter built a (hopefully) deer-proof fence around a group of our blueberries. The blueberries will become a guild, a cooperative collection of plants. We built the fence out of re-used material like old chicken netting and bamboo.
We've begun a few other guilds as well, further down the slope. The little guy below is a hazelnut waiting to be planted in it's new home, about ten feet from another hazelnut and just out of shade range of a cherry. The hazelnuts have to be relatively close to each other in order to pollinate and produce nuts. Of course, it'll be a few years before this little twig has to worry about that.
Just as people know spring is coming when the weather warms, so do plants. That's why our plums raspberries, peaches, and blueberries are unfurling their flowers and leaves.
Peaches require a certain amount of cold and then a certain amount of warmth before they open their buds. Once winter has fulfilled their cold requirement, they begin to 'count' warmth. If there's a cold day they cease counting. When the weather warms again, they pick back up where they left off. Once they have been warm enough for long enough, they begin to bloom.
Many other plants follow this pattern, but they all have their own chilling and heating requirements. That's why some trees flower before others, and why after a few hot spring days, the world can burst into color.
Chickweed (Stellaria), bittercress (Cardamine), dandelions (Taraxacum), and henbit (Lamium) are all blooming among the grass. These plants are widely considered weeds, but they are actually valuable members of the land. They attract and feed pollinators. Chickweed and dandelions are edible, and dandelions can even be made into a coffee substitute. And together, all the little weeds contribute to the diversity necessary for a flourishing ecosystem.
The bugs and fungi are just as happy for warmth as the flowers and the people. The crickets and spiders are back, and we're seeing more worms than we can count. Cup fungi and shelf fungi are breaking our wood down into useful goodness.
The weather is calling for rain again, making me all the more grateful for a day in the sun. Spring will begin properly soon, and the plants we have spent all winter readying will begin to grow in earnest.
Spring means new little friends, too. Soon, fingers crossed, our flock will be getting some fluffy new members.