It has been an odd past few weeks. Most of the house is torn apart and the rest is playing refuge to the furnishings and other household goods being stored until we finish a room or two. In short, it’s been quite tough to maintain full-time+ work in the city, manage the grounds, and make progress on the house renovations. There were many moments over the past two weeks when I wondered if I’d even remember what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like!
And here I am, I have no light, but I drove into the driveway yesterday evening to find that the heirloom tiger lilies had bloomed down the driveway. First, the daffodils, then irises, then peonies, and now the tiger lilies. It lifted my spirit seeing them escort me to the top of the hill.
Whenever I see friends and blog readers, the first question is almost always about the bees. I’ve learned that people are very curious about them and yet most people don’t know very much about bees. Admittedly, I didn’t either when I started. So, here’s an update on the bees.
I added my third box to each of their hives this week. They are both booming and taking over every available space within each hive. And they are still eating a lot! I keep their sugar syrup jars consistently available, hoping it will help them maintain comb and nectar production. I still don’t know if I will get honey this summer, but they sure are moving quickly.
This picture is of them cooling themselves on a really hot and humid day this week. The weather is finally changing to a consistent muggy temperature, and the bees do everything they can to stay cool during the hot parts of the day. I’ve seen this called, “bearding” when they form a beard-like screen, almost dripping off of the hive and each other.
The bees are currently mesmerized by the magnolia blooms that are just opening outside of the “girls” guest room. (It’s called the “girls” room because it features some interesting hand-painting of flowers and birds from the 1940s. Most of the ladies that visit claim it as “their” room.) This picture is a quick centerpiece from Friday – the huge size and amazing fragrance of the blooms needed no pairing!
The Irises were amazing this spring. These heirloom varieties were likely planted in the 1940s when the gardens were first being restored although there has been some suggestion that they are much older and have been on the property for one or more hundred years. Although there were only three varieties that I found, they were prolific and will probably require a thinning this year. If you know any of their names, please share with me.
The new vegetable garden has finally been planted! As they say, better late than never – even if it is already June. The design and location were the easy parts, but turning and tilling soil that hadn’t moved in a decade or more was tough.
You might remember from a previous post that due to snow and rain, March and April were terribly wet months. With more sun and more time between the May showers, things were beginning to dry out enough to at least mow – helping the soil to breathe as much as possible.
Then came the bargain-priced push tiller on Craigslist, making tilling possible even in the damper conditions – it could handle the wetter soils where the 2 ton tractor just sank as if trying to plow quicksand. After five rounds of tilling, the bargain buy more than paid for itself and the earth was finally ready to plant. It could still use some more soil amendments, but those will have to wait until fall and next spring.
Like last year, almost all of my seeds came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I fell in love with them a few years back when I picked up one of their colorfully illustrated catalogs at their Fredericksburg Farmers’ Market booth. Not only do they have one of the best selections of organic and heirloom seeds, but they also have a large selection of plants specifically chosen for the mid-Atlantic region. And thanks to Karen L. and Judy C. for the black cherry tomato seeds that I love so much!
Knowing that this year was a somewhat experimental growing year, I decided to have fun and made some unique selections along with the classics. Here is a highlight of what is planted:
Hungarian Paprika, Jalapeño, and Sweet Cherry Peppers
Bowling Red Okra
Dolce di Chioggia Beets
Hale’s Best Muskmelon
Green Glaze Collards & Mixed Lettuces
White Acre Peas
Ohio Blue Clarage and Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn
Mammoth Confectionary Sunflower
Pennsylvania Butter-Flavored Popcorn
Straight Eights Cucumber
De Cicco Broccoli
Purple Cherokee, Black Cherry, and Principe Borghese Tomatoes
Some of these had been started from seed earlier in the year, but the delay in having the garden plot ready meant that some just didn’t make it. Most of the list has already been directly sown in the new plot with only a few varieties that still need homes. The peas will need their own space and I’ve got bamboo from the bamboo garden that was dried for the trellising.
And now that I’ve shared my garden plantings on the blog, I’m really hoping that I have something to show for it at the end of summer – wish me luck and lots of energy – I’m going to need it!