The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Running late in the spring garden

Daffodil buddha

Wood frog eggsUsually, spring comes to our farm long before the equinox. But the natural world is running a little late this year. Can you believe it's officially spring and the first daffodil is still struggling to open its bloom?

On the other hands, the frogs are calling like crazy, the first hepatica was spotted in the woods Wednesday, and Mark and I each heard a grouse beating on a hollow log calling for a mate. Perhaps we can finally write off Old Man Winter after all.

Early spring garden

In the garden, I'm a bit behind in chores and the plants are a bit behind in emergence. I went into the winter a little remiss because sprouting-straw issues meant that half of my garlic never got mulched in the first place, and snow cover in February and early March meant that I wasn't able to reach the ground to rip out the chickweed that had taken over that open ground. Luckily, a warm week and a lot of rain washed away the snow and I was able to get peas and lettuce in the ground by the middle of the month. Now I'm hard at work weeding and prepping beds for carrots, parsley, mangels, and cabbage transplants, while slipping in a bit of time to weed our garlic and strawberry beds.

Pruning raspberries

I'm also behind on pruning, but purposely so since I was afraid that early pruning during a particularly cold winter would exacerbate freeze damage. The good news is that my gut feeling was right --- early pruning combined with cold weather is what killed back our red raspberry canes last year. This year, an even colder winter (low of -22 New elderberry leavesFahrenheit) didn't nip the brambles, so we'll get our usual spring and fall crops --- success!

On the other hand, the first elderberry leaves are now starting to pop out, so tree flowers can't be too far behind. That means I need to hurry up and prune like crazy to make up for lost time, a good project for wet days like this when the garden is too sodden to make weeding a pleasure.

Even though the raspberries fared well during our winter cold, I still plan to test some bloom buds on each new species before I prune. After all, if the winter nipped some percentage of the peach bloom buds, for example, I'll want to leave more behind to take their place.

Washing foraged greens

Even though our vegetable garden is running behind, wild food is already becoming available. Creasies keep springing up in our garden despite the fact that I'm pretty sure I haven't let any go to seed since moving here, and dandelions always find new ground to sink their deep taproots into. I pulled a large bowlful of these two delicious greens out of the garden while weeding Wednesday, then washed them in several changes of water and sauted with balsamic vinegar and peanut oil. A delicious dose of spring!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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