Ah, the sweet moments between Spring and Summer! The fields are back up to a foot or two of growth after their spring mowing and the earliest wildflowers are beginning to bloom — purple vetch and bladder flowers. The concord grapes are all leafed out and the little pin-head sized grapes are forming into clusters as the new vines shoot up out of the grizzled old trunks.
Our vegetable garden is churning out the springtime crops fast and furiously. I chopped down a basketful of spinach stalks that had been ready to flower because I’d ignored them for a week. I’m hoping that by cutting them off I can prolong the spinach harvest for a few more weeks. Normally, I’d toss it all into the compost pile, but I thought I’d give the herd a chance to taste it first and see if they’d like the extra iron in their diet. Eddy couldn’t believe his luck! He hogged most of it but then I scattered it out on the ground so the sheep would have a fighting chance to grab a few bites without him shoving them out of the way.
I’m bringing in strawberries and asparagus every day and trying to work fresh greens into our menu as often as possible. My husband planted LOTS of peas this year, and I think when all the pods swell into ripeness I’ll be overwhelmed with shelling chores. How can you really complain about something so rare and special, though? I’ll freeze them if necessary.
We gave up on our wine grapes and planted new vines this spring, a couple northern varieties that promise to survive our Michigan winters. They are beginning to leaf out already and there are only a couple that may not have survived the transplanting. We had put in about a dozen new trees and are dumping gallons of water on them most evenings to nurse them through the critical months. At least three did not make it, sad to say, but not for lack of love.
My husband has a soft spot for baby chicks and talked me into adopting a few new ones this year even though our hens are producing well. He built a sturdy new box for them, way better than the old warped one that the hens roosted on all winter. I love their cheery peeping and their fuzzy round bodies. Soon, their long wing feathers will begin to sprout and their sweet little heads will turn scruffy and thin. Such a short cute spell!
The poison ivy is leafing out quickly, as well. The work we did to clean the scrubby growth from the bank of trees by the highway exposed more soil and the ivy is rejoicing in the sunlight. We made up a batch of chemicals and sprayed them a couple days ago and I am hoping it will suck right down into the roots to hold them off for a year. Poison ivy is very hard to do away with permanently. I don’t want us bringing the oils back on our boots or on the dogs’ fur and getting us all rashed up. If you don’t try to keep on top of it, it spreads across the fields until it is everywhere.
Another thing I always fight is the Asian bittersweet vines. I don’t know how those things get started, but they are so invasive that it’s almost impossible to stop them. They grow really fast, winding their ways up through the air until they find a branch to grab and slowly strangle. When I find them already invading a tree, the best I can do is chop the bottom so they wither away. They get wound so tight that I usually can’t pull them out of the branches. This year I’ve found them in our perennial garden and they are sprouting everywhere! One or two vines I pulled out were connected to a much thicker root that wound under and around the bushes. This may call for Round-Up on the leaves.
But you know, the summer wars with the weeds are just fine for keeping things interesting. It is like having children to care for, long after the real ones have long left the nest. Nurturing the gardens, grounds, and livestock is a labor of love and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.