Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Of Peeps and Peepers

This winter has seemed endless.  On Saturday, we woke to sleet, snow and slush (the trifecta from hell) which dissolved into a day-long drizzle fest.  Naturally, we had things to do that entailed our being outside all day – namely driving to Ticonderoga to cut some trees and pick up a 16-foot utility trailer, and then spending the afternoon reworking fencing.  By the end of day, we were soggy and chilly – but I heard a few tentative frogs in the wetlands to the east of the house. 

Sunday was drier and warmer, and while it was hardly a sunny Easter Sunday, it was pleasant to be outside.  We finished 90% of the fence rehab, played with the trailer, and played with the horses.  Around 7:00 p.m., after eating dinner and heading outside one last time to put animals in, I heard it – the sound I long for all winter long and relish with squealing delight – the full-throated enmasse voice of the peepers in the wetlands both east and west of the house.

One of the great things about having wetlands is that you have the serenade of peepers in the spring.  And our chorus doesn’t just peep.  They roar.  Their window of opportunity is a relatively short one.  Depending on the weather, they only keep this joyful sound up for a month or so, to be replaced by the more sultry summer sounds of crickets when things really warm up.

We sleep with the head of our bed directly in front of a window, which has been open for a month or so now.  The sound of the peepers mingles with the smell of wet, warming soil and that, my friends, is what I want my last memory on this earth to be.  I have often said to hubby that when I die I hope it is in the spring, with warm weather and those wonderful sounds and scents around me, and not in the winter, curled up in a spastic ball of cold muscles and frozen hands.

(I can, however, do without the sound of the sump pump expelling gallons upon gallons of water out of the basement all night long – also right under our bedroom window.  We jokingly say that the house has bladder control problems, but then I’m the one up twice a night to go to the bathroom.  Think water fountain effect.)

Sunday also brought those Easter staples – peeps.  Yes, I know they aren’t just for Easter anymore, as I’ve seen orange pumpkin peeps and green Christmas tree peeps, but come on, people.  You can’t mess with a tried and true thing.  The Lawyer Lady (my boss Cherie) indulged me in a couple of packages in the weeks leading up to Easter.  It’s amazing the variety of ways people enjoy peeps.  My personal philosophy is that they have to be eaten within 90 seconds of the cellophane being broken.  Any staler and don’t bother, just give them to the horses.  But that’s just me.

On Monday Cherie and I spotted some peeps being used as outdoor decorations.  A couple of cars parked by the post office had peeps on the tips of their antennas.  They looked a little bedraggled, like they had been drizzled on, but they were definitely pink and yellow peeps.  Then we saw some peeps stuck on the ends of bare tree branches, and more adorning a shrub in front of the church.  While it seemed a bit sacrilegious to be impaling peeps around town, it was nonetheless amusing and I would dare say a good way to deal with extra Easter candy.

They were probably stale to begin with.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Wildflower By Any Other Name...

I recently finished a three-Wednesday course in perennial gardening. I have to keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to resist the urge to attempt a massive overhaul of our yard.

We at the 30 Acre Wood do our best to keep things easy, natural and low maintenance. This seems to fly right in the face of our homestead motto, "We Take the Path of Most Resistance." If a project might be difficult, let’s see how much harder we can make it to get the same results.

My beloved husband hates, hates, HATES to mow grass. So in his inaugural year at the house, he rototilled the entire yard - front, back and sides - and threw down wildflower seed. I need to have some law and order, so I mowed one-pass wide paths from the back door to the barn, to the compost pile, to the garden, etc., something that took me a total of 10 minutes to do every couple of weeks and looked way cool.

The first couple of years, the flowers were outstanding. The three blooming seasons each had their own color pallette and scheme, and an abundance of flowers and species that I tried hard to identify. Unfortunately for me, this is one area that my brain just doesn’t seem to retain information. I could I.D. a few - foxglove, sweet william, coneflower. With each year, we had a few different things - the annuals from the first year came back a little from their own reseeding schedule, and the perennials did their thing for the most part. The grass that really didn’t make much of an effort to be a part of the scene when Larry first bought the house now suddenly wanted to stake claim to the yard. We retilled and reseeded a few areas.

Then last year, a lot of the same looking type of plant started coming up - EVERYWHERE. I am forever worried about pulling up a suspect weed - what is it, really? is it a flower? is it a weed? they all look alike! should I pull it? should I leave it? AARRGGHH!! - so I left things alone and keep an eye on it.
It was goldenrod. Tall, invasive, flash in the pan goldenrod. Everywhere. This was not the look we were going for.

What the wildflower seed companies dont tell you (and geesh, I wish they would) is that to keep this idea going strong, you need to retill and reseed every three years or so. Now, to me, this goes against the whole point of doing this in the first place. It is not maintenance free. And unless you live in a flat, rock-free environment (and our 30 acres are neither), rototilling an entire yard with a elderly and cranky rototiller is, as Larry puts it, like riding a bucking bronco.

So last year I started thinking about sticking some perennials in strategic places. I checked out some brightly colored and promising looking books from the library to educate myself. Unfortunately, I suffer from "analysis paralysis" in several areas of my life and this proved no different. When I saw the perennial class, taught by local perennial guru Kerry Mendez, offered in the local college flyer, I jumped on it. Her approach to flower beds is low maintenance, easy, and if it’s a fussy plant, out it goes. I could relate to that philosophy. I gained a wealth of information and, while I still feel a little overwhelmed, I am no longer catatonic. On Saturday I mapped and graphed and colored and put sticky notes in catalogs. I stood in my yard and looked at where the sun was at various points in the day. I plotted and planned.

The goal will be to still do quite a bit with a renewed wildflower seeding, but I have a few areas where I'll attempt to bring some rustic class and style to the yard, a little bit at a time. The goldenrod will never see it coming.