Friday, May 27, 2011

Farm and Garden Report - May 27

My motto for May must surely be 'I can't keep up.' From gardening to housework to reading to making supper to writing my letters, I am constantly behind. A couple years ago, I offered a Christopher Morley quote:
April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks GO!
That's exactly it, with just a change in month. May is when everything really happens around here. Almost minute to minute you can see the grass grow or a plant come into flower.

The first miracles in the garden are rhubarb and chives.

These workhorses come up year after year, providing food and beauty with no help from me at all. We've got four big plants of each, and we've had to divide them over the years because they outgrow their spaces. I use the chives at almost every supper, and the rhubarb often. I have frozen 9 cups of the latter, and honestly could probably freeze 99 cups! But there are just so many rhubarb desserts that we can eat in a year. I'm trying something different this year. The author of the recipe in Country Living which I posted said that she freezes her rhubarb with a little sugar. I've always just chopped it up and frozen it, so we'll see if the sugar addition makes any difference.

The early days of May were all about color at the bird feeders. After months of the winter visitors, clothed like their surroundings in browns, blacks, whites, and grays, suddenly three kinds of birds brought the bright colors of red, yellow, and blue in the form of purple finches [query: why are they called purple when they are so clearly red?], gold finches, and blue jays. And the mourning doves' orange feet! Have they always been that color and I've just never noticed?? We took down the feeders mid-month. Feeding had slowed considerably, and on the 16th Margaret looked out her window and saw a black bear ambling into her yard. We thought we'd better take away any incentive for showing up at our house. You may remember that I told you in the May 4 report that Tom saw a bear. Wonder if it is the same one? Just yesterday one crossed in front of us down on the main road. Ah, spring.

The first lawn mowing happened on Mother's Day evening. The light was so very beautiful and impossible to capture, just as is the lovely smell of fresh mown grass. Look for a lawn mowing related posting soon.

We've made a decision that we aren't going to build a patio off the kitchen, not this year and maybe not at all. We can't afford it in either time or money. We've just bought six new replacement windows for the study and the living room. We lose a lot of heat through those rattly old windows.

L - old, R - new

L - old, R - new

And we had to replace the porch roof. Remember that beautiful paint work Tom did in the study? Well, the ice built up on that old roof and we had terrible leaks in the porch ceiling and the water dripped right down into one window, and one wall, buckling the sheetrock.

We got a cool slate blue metal roof!

The cost wasn't bad because the man put it on right over the old roof. Maybe someday the whole house will be roofed in blue, but that is quite a ways off. The other thing we want to put time and money into this summer is painting our kitchen. That room has been looking sad for a lot of years now. Tom is almost finished with the butt'ry space but still must fix the window and door before they can be painted.

Heard the wood thrush on May 12, surely the sweetest bird song.

On May 16, 'our' rabbit appeared! We never see more than the one, but he or she usually shows up several times in the summer. We never have trouble with it in the veg garden. I think it greatly prefers the fresh green grass.

The bluebird couple are definitely back, about which we have mixed emotions. The male is that beautiful blue color, and they are spoken of as the 'bluebirds of happiness' after all, but you may recall the anguish and hassle they brought last spring. It's like a romantic comedy in the north pasture. This morning the bluebirds were on the wire, with nesting material in the female's mouth, and they were all shook up because just below them on the ground the male turkey was doing his love dance to two (!!) females. I opened the window to coax the turkeys to move along so the bluebirds could get back to their homebuilding.

Not great shots, because they were through the window with the zoom on the little camera, but you get the idea. But look at this one! I think those are two males. Geez, does that mean we have two nesting pairs??

The robins are already nesting. I only see them occasionally when they come out to get food. No visible nests. I think a flicker is nesting in the old crabapple out back. I've heard a new bird I can't identify yet. A sparrow perhaps.

There are lilacs everywhere.

The early crabapples have come and gone and the later one is in bud.

The honeysuckles - red, cream, and pink are full of bumblebees. This is the height of the year for fragrance.

The lily-of-the-valley is still blooming beautifully, while the violets have started to fade.

After a year of not using cocoa mulch because our store didn't stock it, we're putting it on the flower gardens again.

I really love this stuff. Of course the smell is quite appealing, but also it enriches the soil, and makes it easy to pull the weeds.

As this fleeting month of May comes to a close, I wish my US readers a happy Memorial Day weekend which we view as the true beginning of summer.

I'll close this report with a John Deere ad I just love.


  1. Thank you for another one of your beautiful and interesting reports! I wonder why the bluebirds are so upset when the turkeys are there; they should know that these do not represent any danger to them, and they do not even compete for the same habitat or food.
    My mum made a very delicious rhubarb chutney with rhubarb from my parents' garden, we ate it with meat, and it can be stored for quite a long time. Let me know if you'd like me to post her recipe.

  2. Lovely report, Nan. Wish I could smell the honeysuckle. Maybe we'll plant some of those at the new house. We'll just have some beds up close to the house and let the rest go native. Oh, and my brother-in-law is going to give us a bunch of bluebonnet seeds to cast around the yard. It would be wonderful if we had them all over next spring.

  3. Nan, it sounds like your little slice of heaven has been just perfect this May. I hope the bears don't decide rhubarb is on their menu. You would never get rid of them. You will be happy with those new windows next winter. They look great. There never seems to be enough hours in the day durning spring. Happy spring.

  4. Nan, I bet you miss the snow, huh?? LOL

    Seriously, love all the green and colorful flowers/birds.

  5. Thank you, Librarian. If you read the link to last spring's bluebird situation, this will be clearer. They just seem to be easily rattled. I wonder if this year's pair is the same as last's. What else could I eat with chutney besides meat? :<) I don't believe I've ever eaten it. Is it like a relish?

    Kay, I may be wrong but I think we have different honeysuckles. Jimmy Buffett talks about 'chewin' on a honeysuckle vine' - and I don't think that's what's up here. I should really look into this - I've wondered about it for a while. Oh, how lovely to have a field of bluebonnets. We have talked about the Tomie dePaola kids' book, right?

    Lisa, I don't think anything eats rhubarb! I just heard a big crunch up in the woods - either a bear or moose, I'm betting bear.

    Diane, it is such a beautiful time of year.

  6. Your pics are why I long for this time of year...I love seeing the birds come back, our large toad reappear in the hostas, the two rabbits and the flowers blooming!!! I love to mow the lawn and would ike to do it today except the rain just will not stop here in Michigan!!! I love your new windows!!

  7. Nan, I have no idea what's the difference between a chutney and a relish... maybe you can enlighten me :-)
    I'll ask my mum for her recipe, it is really, really nice and a good way of doing something with the rhubarb. My mum often gives pretty jars with nice labels (she prints them out on her computer or hand-writes them) with her own preserves to people as gifts, and they are always welcome.

  8. Honeysuckle is a weed in South Alabama, where Jimmy Buffet comes from (I know because his parents were neighbors of mine). You pull off a flower and chew it at the base. There is a sweet nectar there. Not honey, but a nice sweet taste to suck on. Have you read any of the book excerpts from my blogs? The love scene is up on the Fairhope blog now, being critiqued by my readers.

  9. I love the pictures you post! When I was little bluebirds used to perch along the fence my grandfather made in their back yard, and then they really disappeared from our ne Ohio landscape. But now there's a real comeback in progress and I've spotted a few. Seeing them does bring me happiness! With all my arthritis, I am so slow that I think I'm only really going to be gardening on the deck now. But I also belong to a CSA farm so I get a lot of wonderful organic local produce....Love your blog!

  10. When I saw you had a farm report, I hurried for a cup of coffee. Of course, now, thanks to your cocoa mulch, I'm starting to salivate and will need to make up a batch of brownies. Love that stuff! Loved your report.

    We haven't yet attracted bluebirds to the house. The sparrows seem to think it is theirs. We have had several robins' nests, all have flown by now, and two sets of ma and pas are working on another family. We're in Illinois, where it is cold and damp today, which is usually the case around Memorial Day, but, looks like a warm day on Monday for the Memorial Day Parade.

  11. I know the new windows will give you much needed warmth and cut down on your heating bills, but I really like the old windows! They are so perfectly old farm house.

    When I was a child growing up in the deep south we used to suck the nectar from the honeysuckle flower...that's what Jimmy Buffett refers to I'm sure.

  12. Hi Nan - We were just enjoying a little rhubarb discussion here. (Husband said let's use some for dessert tonight, and I said the kids would not touch it with a barge pole). I am going to try cutting a few stalks up with some sugar and freezing it. Happy spring.

  13. SO many beautiful changes for May, such a nice time of year! Your chives are so pretty and so thick. Beautiful flowers and nice changes around your house!

  14. Those lilacs are just beautiful. You must be so happy the snow is gone. I just made strawberry rhubarb oatmeal for breakfast-just chop up your fruit-add walnuts and cinnamon, oats and milk and bake it in the oven-it is like having dessert for breakfast. Hot out of the oven I toss some yogurt on top.

  15. You were NEIGHBORS with his parents?!!! Oh, I love JB. Thank you so much for answering a question I've had since I first heard the song. I knew it wasn't 'our' honeysuckle. And no, I haven't read anything ... yet. I want to put in good solid time and will do so when I can, Mary Lois.

    Thank you, Kristi! You can get a lot of gardening done on a deck. I just saw a wonderful balcony garden you might like to check out:

    And CSAs are so wonderful. I love the idea of surprise foods each week or whenever they are delivered. It's a wonderful way for people to get fresh food.

    What a nice thing to say, Penny. I am exceedingly fond of sparrows, and for quite a time on the blog I had Gladys' quote about being a 'sparrow, a stay-at-home bird" :<)

    Well, Jill we had them thirty years, and who knows how long they had been here before we bought the house - probably a hundred years or more. The new ones look really good - they are wood on the inside and aluminum on the outside. Tom is hard at it right now putting in some more. :<) I love being able to open them without using sticks to hold them up!

    KSV, I think even kids might like the sugary-buttery crisps and crumbles!

    Carol, I'm wild for chives!

    Esme, this sounds perfect! And so easy.

  16. So lovely to 'visit' the farm again, I do so love these posts. The thought of bears is still freaking me out!!

  17. Carole, thanks so much. I'm going to email you with a couple bear stories soon.

  18. I just love these reports Nan! I think I was truly meant to live in the country and maybe when this crazy thing called 'work' ends I will move out there and live the real life.
    But on another point, I am a rhubard maniac and wondering how to get some of that growing in my own yard. I never find it for sale in the markets around me so what would you suggest I do? It seems that many people that have it are quite attached to their plants and not ready to divide.

  19. Oh Nan I love this post! As I always do your farm and garden reports. I can almost smell that lilac (and they'll be gone by the time we get back to Oregon)...but Cyndi has honeysuckle all along her front fence (It's like that pinkish yellow one you show) and it seems to bloom beautifully all summer, so we'll be there for that one.)

    I think you do have two bluebird couples -- and I can't wait to hear the rest of their story,

    Happy wonderful Spring and thank you for taking time to share!

  20. You've brought spring right into my home! What a fun report :)

    My mom used to have a terrible time with the rabbits eating our veggie garden; between the rabbits and the deer, she almost gave up on planting entirely :(

  21. "Nest"...this word reminded me of the old film staring Jack Nicholson. The reason why he has to be killed by the big guy in the end has been the film's enigma to me.....

  22. Wonderful post. Love all your flowers! Have a great day!

  23. Thanks for a delightful visit to your farm :) I wish we got bluebirds here - I don't think I have ever seen one in person.

  24. anangloinquebec, I'm amazed people won't share! They are easy to divide, and it wouldn't deplete a plant a bit to take some. Otherwise, you might try a garden center, or the seed catalogues. Wish I could just pop over with some of mine.

    Sallie, I thank you for your always kind words. Our lilacs are just going by. :<( I think the honeysuckle you are talking about is a different plant, since ours blooms now and then the blossoms are over. Maybe it is the same one Kay and Mary Lois and Jill wrote of???

    The Book Girl, I've read of so many people having trouble with both rabbits and deer.

    Yoshi, I don't know what movie that is. I don't think I've seen a lot of JN films.

    Diann, thanks!

    Susan, we never have had them before last year, so don't give up hope. Over the years, there has been an occasional one in the spring that we'd see for a minute and that's it. For some reason, now they are here. They've been using a box we bought many years ago which was called a bluebird house, but until last year it has always been used by swallows. I just wish I knew where the swallows are nesting now. Why are they gone and the bluebirds here? Mystery of nature.

  25. Nan, love this post. I feel as though I have been on a vacation :)
    If I am still living when my cottage roof needs replacing - I will go with blud. My porch swing has never been painted. Think I will go with blue...

  26. Thanks, Ernestine! I like blue, too.

  27. Bears have started showing up here in our Central Jersey community the last few weeks.

  28. Hughes ap Williams, the local papers are full of warnings about feeding bears, and keeping trash covered tight. We live out in the country, but in town they have a lot more trouble.

  29. First things first--I love your new header with the lupines!! Absolutely gorgeous!!

    Your farm and garden reports are such a joy to read. I do think you should compile all of them into a little book someday. What fun it would be to look back and reread them as their own little diary.

    I saw a bluebird in the Colorado mountains last weekend. They are such pretty birds!

    I can almost smell that honeysuckle...

  30. Thanks, Les! Lupines are so very hard to capture, I think. Nice idea about the book, but I guess my hope is that blogger will just not lose the blog. :<)


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.