Harvesting Leaves

Gardening hasn’t really gotten into full swing here yet in northern New England but soon it will and I’ll have lots of garden details and photos to share. For now, I’m taking walks in the almost-snow-free woods, planting a few packets of seeds every week or so, looking for dandelions to eat, and thinking about how to transmute the vegetable garden into a food forest (and yes, alchemy may be involved).

A week ago, snow lingered in a few places in the yard.


I did some clean-up last weekend, including clipping perennial stalks, pruning a few trees and shrubs, and cutting back grasses. Unfortunately, sadly, I discovered a bird’s nest too late under one long Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracilimus’ grass. I guess the good news is that there weren’t any eggs in it yet. But I carried the significance of this event with me this week.


You can see that the birds had used the nearby sedum (S. forsterianum ‘Oracle’) as the perimeter material.


I collected the grass cuttings, the leaves and grass I raked from the lawn and beds, and the long hollow stalks of the Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), echinaceas, and other tall perennials, plus some big wads of comfrey, and cut, broke, bent, or twisted them all into mulch, some of which went back on the beds and some of which is saved for future use.



Also during this past week, I hand-cut, over the course of about 6 hours, all the prunings from the peaches, dwarf ‘River King’ birch, and Nishiki willow tree — plus branches that broke and fell during the winter from all the deciduous trees — and created a ramial wood pile.


I ringed the birch in its own branches and some of the ramial wood cuttings, to 3 or 4 inches of thickness.


This was also the week for cleaning the septic system after five years of use since the last cleaning. Everything looked great! (I won’t show you the close-up, but take the word of the professional for it. His truck’s license plate said “Poopy.”) I keep that part of the yard purposely lawn so no plants are disturbed when it’s cleaning time.


That night, we got a little more snow.



But it had mostly melted by the next afternoon and is gone now.

I am still putting up the feeders near the house, and taking them down before dark in case of bears, though we haven’t seen a bear yet on the motion camera. We do see plenty of other animals regularly, including fox, skunk (not pictured), raccoon, and for the last couple of weeks, deer again.

During the day, we’re seeing many sparrows — white-throated, song, and American tree — and juncos, chickadees, mourning doves, nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins.

The goldfinches are still around, and I saw the redpolls and pine siskins (in left photo) earlier in the week.

The chipmunk learned how to get into the finch feeder recently.


It also likes oranges!


The grey squirrel seems content with seeds on the ground.


The red squirrel alternates between the feeders and the ground.


The chives and crocuses, always the early birds of the plant world, are up.

Over the past week, I started planting seeds directly into the ground outside, including:

  • Green Arrow heirloom shelling peas – Botanical Interests, 65 days
  • organic arugula – Fedco, 47 days
  • organic Astro arugula – Fedco, 21 days baby, 35 days mature
  • tall Lavender English heirloom (Lavandula angustifolia) – Botanical Interests, perennial
  • chervil – Botanical Interests, herb
  • Bishop’s Flower White Lace – Botanical Interests, annual
  • organic Yaya carrots – Fedco, 58 days
  • Red Cored Chantenay carrots – Fedco, 70 days
  • Columbine McKana Giants heirloom – Botanical Interests, perennial deer resistant

In about 10 days, I plan to plant these seeds:

  • French Breakfast radish – Fedco, 26 days
  • Early Wonder beet – Botanical Interests, 48 days
  • Alyssum compacta Basket of Gold – Botanical Interests, deer resistant, perennial
  • Cleome Fountain Blend – Botanical Interests, annual, deer resistant
  • Penstemon Firecracker – Botanical Interests, perennial, deer resistant
  • Bee Balm Lambada – Botanical Interests, annual, deer resistant

… along with Swiss chard and broccoli seedlings.

There were a few interesting surprises this week, including a Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) wasp moth caterpillar.


and a small colony of poisonous gyromitra esculenta (false morels) that sprang up seemingly overnight. As the linked page says, “Despite its specific epithet “esculenta” meaning “delicious,” this fungus should not be considered edible. … Although they are much sought after in Europe as an edible species (Gyromitra esculenta), 2 to 4 per cent of all mushroom fatalities are associated with them. … The active ingredient is called gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine), which is metabolized to monomethylhydrazine (rocket fuel!) in the body.” I’m leaving them alone.




Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

— Wendell Berry, part of the poem Practice Resurrection





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