Monday, March 26, 2012

magnolias in minnesota in march

the leonard messel magnolia bloomed march 23rd- 4 to 5 weeks early
The magnolia in the front yard is our daughter's.  I planted it for her first birthday, and fortunately she likes purple and pink, because it blooms in a mix of white and purple and hot pink usually right around the time of her birthday- at the end of April.

This year it burst out a full week before the end of March.  We came home from Gita's last chemo session to find it in full flower- which we took as a sign of good things to come.  Or, more realistically, as a sign of the shifts taking place in our climate.

Either way it was gorgeous.  I had mulched it with leaves to keep the cold in the ground so that it wouldn't flower too soon.  But the buds were swelling last week, and I figured it didn't make sense to prolong the inevitable as well as cause lots of mold to grow in the process.  It only took two days for the soil to warm enough for the thing to bust out like you see in the photo.

I could go on about the weather, but that's already been done enough by others.  It's weird, but I kind of like it.  Cooler today and yesterday, but still no killing frost.  I put the banana plants out on St. Patrick's day and haven't brought them in yet.  The wind has torn the leaves off, and knocked one fully over, but no frost damage.  This will be a test of their true hardiness.  (evil laugh)
no, mary poppins is not their nanny

I was able to turn over the garden this weekend and rake out the leaves that were left afterward.  I left what would have been one or two bags of leaves on the garden over the winter, along with all of last years' stems and stalks and waste and tilled it all under with my rusty old garden spade.  Most of it ended up under the ground and the rest I raked off to the side as mulch for the garlic and future potatoes. 

'purple passion' asparagus in its second year
The end result of six years of this treatment is really black, rich, organic soil.  Each year I re-incorporate organic matter in the form of tree leaves and grass clippings and the remains of last year's garden, and each year the soil seems to get blacker and richer.  I could be imagining it.  But I do have a soil test from the year we bought this house.  I could do a new one and find out.  I should.  Of course it'll go on a list already a mile long.  If I do, I'll post it.

From under the bed of compost I spread just a week and a half ago, purple asparagus has already emerged- also ahead of schedule.  I'm new to asparagus, only having planted it last year, so I'm interested to see what it does.  I'm not sure if I should pick any, not wanting to set it back at all.  But really wanting to taste some of it.  Gita will have her appetite back later this week.  Maybe I should sautee some of it in butter and garlic as a surprise.  If she doesn't read this first.

One thing that I may have missed this year as a result of the early spring is the chance to experiment with grafting.  I was thinking that this might be the year I actually made it work, even joining the Upper Midwest/North American scion exchange (with many thanks to Andy at Autonomy Acres for creating it.)

I thought I might go looking for a grafting knife and some tape last weekend.  But the weekend got away from me, working on that to-do list, and grafting knives were not high at all on it.  By the time I get to it, I think the season will be long over.  Or not.  If someone wiser can advise me on the timing of grafts, I'll listen.

I'm hoping to graft a pollinator onto our plum tree, and another sweet cherry onto the Stella, and maybe some seedless grapes onto the un-named and not-very-tasty concord grape variety that's taking over our west fenceline.   But that may have to wait until next year.

I always hope that next year will be less busy, and each year it's just the opposite.  Time is more precious than money right now, and time spent with my kids is the most precious of all. 

Next year will be the year I start grafting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

it's too nice to be indoors

these two never get tired of playing with water.  they were supposedly watering the asparagus.

Officially it's still winter.  There's still a day or two until the spring equinox, so it's still astronomical winter, at least in the northern hemisphere.

Taking a step outside told a different story though.  Warm, humid, beautiful temperatures, starting the middle of last week, and continuing through the weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

the difference a year makes

the backyard- March 12, 2012
The difference that a year makes?  The above photo was our backyard this afternoon.  Brown, yes, but no snow to speak of.  Tulips are starting to poke up out of the mud on the south side of the house, and the yard smells like rain, earth and the neighbor's thawing dog poop.

Now scroll down and see the exact same yard exactly one year ago.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

stories of kindness and generosity

mom with kids.  seven out of eight chemo sessions done.
I had never intended to write a blog about cancer or about getting through cancer treatment, but that's the major thing affecting our lives right now, and what consumes the majority of my energy and Gita's.   I think we reached peak personal energy a week or two ago, about the time I wrote my last post.

We've rebounded a bit in the last two weeks, and situations that seemed pretty dire now are not so much so, due to the help of family, friends and some complete strangers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

prelude to spring in a minor

looking across our yard toward the neighbor's house

"A" as in apocalypse, that is.  Or "iceapocalypse" as Updraft called it.

No- no actual apocalypse here, and none expected.  Maybe a bit of hyperbole on the weatherman's part.  But it felt like one two nights ago when I woke out of the middle of a dream about tornadoes to hear a loud crash followed by a rumble and feel the whole house shake.