Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekend Wisdom: Spring Officially Started Three Weeks Ago
You thought spring started on Friday, didn't you? Well, you would be right, IF you're talking about spring based on the tilt of the earth on its axis. Astronomically, spring began on Friday, March 20th this year, when the earth was halfway between its extremes of tilt towards and away from the sun.

This is what we've all been taught as soon as we were old enough to understand the seasons. Never mind that it doesn't always occur on the same calendar date; it's usually within a couple of days of each other no matter which year we're talking about.

Some years (most years, if we're honest), that date rolls around on the calendar and we're frustrated because even though it's technically spring, it many times doesn't feel much like it. There's often snow still on the ground and the temperatures are anything but springlike.

The red-winged blackbird is a true harbinger of spring
for us here in Ohio.
But then there are the years when we notice signs that spring just might come a little early. The crocuses emerge from ground that is seemingly frozen solid and birds that take a hike for points south during winter are once again munching at the feeders and advertising that they're on the market for a mate.

So what gives?

It's called meteorologic spring and it began on March 1st. It's not based on the earth's tilt and only a little bit on the calendar for convenience's sake, though it is three months long, just like astronomical spring. Average temperature is the biggest determining factor and it also makes it easier to compare seasonal forecasts and trends for people who depend on the weather for their business or pleasure, such as agriculture (that's us!), travel and tourism, etc.

Though it seems like spring didn't come a bit early this year, there were signs in nature that it was well on its way before it felt like it got here. And I like the idea of celebrating all the goodness that is spring as early as possible.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bless Their Little Bloomin' Hearts

No whining about winter, but let's just say that today's predicted high of 70°, a temperature we haven't seen for 140 days, 5 hours, and 26 minutes (but who's counting?), is being ushered in with much hoopla and happy dancing.

The permadrift in front of the house still lives, but those oppressive mounds of snirt that have served as a reminder that we do not live in Zone 7b and that only the strong and patient survive, have finally evaporated, melted, and otherwise disappeared. 

I left here on Friday morning for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with lots and lots of snow, and I came home to brown grass. Can we give that brown grass a big shout-out? YES! 

You'd be surprised at how quickly this greens up once it starts.

 And finally - FINALLY!! - the first blooms of the season!

One little lonely crocus braved the day and even though it's supposed to be much cooler for the rest of the week, I think her buddies will join her before too long.

You can't keep a good snowdrop down!
Galanthus nivalis
f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno' has a
beautiful fragrance, but you have to get close to detect it.
I've got two patches of snowdrops - two different kinds - but only the double Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno' have started to bloom.  The other ones, the common single Galanthus nivalis, have only managed to make it about an inch or so out of the ground. They were covered by a rather large drift of snow for most of the winter. 

 Daffodils and a few tulips are just starting to peek out of the ground, but I'm not seeing much of anything else spring-like in the way of plants. 

However, the red-winged blackbirds were spotted in great numbers over the weekend and late yesterday afternoon, the killdeer. There are insects flying around outside (mostly flies) and the maple sap is flowing fast and steady.

In a couple of the buckets of sap, several moths were getting their fill of
the sweet stuff.

If it sounds like I've got spring fever, that's because I do!  Even mud looks good to me.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Quick 4-Book Gardening Book Giveaway!

My publisher, St. Lynn's Press, is celebrating St. Patrick's Day a little early by giving away four titles from their illustrious repertoire of books. They've made it easy to enter:

Green is good. St. Paddy would agree. How are you 'greening up' the planet'?

Want a chance to win one of our books by Billy Goodnick, Jan Johnsen, Kylee Baumle, Jenny Peterson and the Editors at SLP for St. Patrick's Day? 

Simply visit our page and leave a comment about how you are 'going green' on this status. That's how we'll know you'd like to win one of the books.

Deadline to comment: Midnight, EDT, Friday, March 13th. One copy of each book will be mailed out next Monday to four 'lucky' winners!

So that's it. Just visit the St. Lynn's Press Facebook page (and "Like" it if you'd like!) and leave a comment on the status that shows these four books:

If you want to check out the books further, just click on the covers above and it will take you to the Amazon page for each one. But whatever you do, you'd better scurry on over to the St. Lynn's Press page and enter to win one, because the giveaway closes at midnight EDT tonight! (Friday, March 13, 2015)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Tree Tappin' Time!

The maple tree buds will be swelling soon.
There are certain things that signal the end of winter and in a year that we didn't think could possibly be as bad as the last (but was), we're celebrating each one as it occurs. It's officially the beginning of the end.

Strangely enough, this was a winter that just five months ago, I was dreading in the worst way. Just the thought of what was to come threatened to be my undoing, but here we are on the down side and I'm none the worse for wear! Yay!

This past week brought the Ft. Wayne Home and Garden Show, the first of such shows for me for the year and though I thought I'd not attend this year, I grabbed my cousin Debbie and off we went. I didn't find a single thing that inspired me there, but it wasn't a bad way to spend a bitterly cold day either.

On the home front, we're wrapping up a long-awaited (15+ years!) kitchen renovation and soon the spring season will be in full swing with other shows and travel. But as daytime temperatures finally inch upward past the freezing mark, it's time to tap the maple trees!

Monday, we gathered up our spiles and collecting pails along with the drill and headed out to get maple syrup season under way. It was a beautiful, sunny winter day with a fresh, fluffy white layer of snow covering the ground, belying the interaction going on between the trees and the ground around them.

Both of the maple trees tapped in this photo are large enough to support
two spiles/buckets. The rest of the maples we tapped only have one each.

Five trees are slated to be tapped this year - two more than last year - and we got three of them set up with their buckets. Two trees got two taps each while another one received just one tap. We'll tap the other two when the drill battery is recharged.
After last year's season, we decided that processing the sap for syrup would not take place in our kitchen especially now that we've got a brand spankin' new one. That's just too much steam to deal with, so this year I purchased a portable induction cooktop for use with my stainless steel stock pot (thanks for the suggestion, Susy Morris!) and it will be done either outside or in the garage, depending on the weather.

About an hour after we finished tapping the trees, I went back outside to see if the sap was running yet, and sure enough, three of the taps had liquid dripping from the spiles. I was rather surprised since we've not had any days above freezing yet, although Monday came close at 31°F. Night temperatures below freezing and daytime temps above are what are needed to get the sap flowing.

A sapsicle!

It won't be long before we'll have enough sap to process for some of that unbelievably scrumptious maple syrup, but for now, we wait. You can read about our last year's maple tree tapping experience (our first!) here.

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