Once upon a time, a little mouse (who in fact was reincarnated from his previous life as a ground squirrel) spent his (or her?) winter in a lovely, warm and protected environment that was more commonly known as a ‘greenhouse’. After a surprisingly short winter, the little mouse was interrupted in early spring by the invasion of those huge bi-pedal humans. While noisy and disruptive, the humans didn’t seem all bad. After they left what to his wondering mousy eyes should appear but trays of dirt with one little tasty seed sitting in each little divot.
It was like an Easter Egg Hunt with snacks! Surely no one would notice if he took these ten seeds here and nibbled these wee lettuce sprouts there, right? Despite our current efforts with peanut butter and mouse traps, our small four legged greenhouse resident has not yet taken the bait, literally. Nate and I occasionally assume very traditional and archaic roles- he the hunter and I the gatherer. That is why you’ll find him checking the (mouse) trap line in the greenhouse and me eating weeds in the garden. I find I’m pretty content with our respective roles, as I do not like rodents eating my vegetables but am admittedly quite squeamish about mice. I hope the mouse is caught soon, as the plants are taking a toll from his gourmet eating habits. Speaking of gathering, I collected a nice bunch of chives, garlic chives, chickweed and garlic mustard to jazz up somewhat ordinary tacos for dinner. Not too shabby for March 20th!
Last week, we were astounded at the summer-like heat wave, and to my amazement, the streak of 80 degree days continues.
Some of my fellow gardening friends have wondered if it’s okay to plant cold sensitive crops like pumpkins, melons and tomatoes but I’m not convinced that the spring just skipped us. We’ve still stuck with keeping the plants in the greenhouse and planting outside by our schedule, not by the sense of urgency I feel after day upon day of balmy Florida-esque weather. Despite the hell-bent mouse, some plants are looking well, like these Napa cabbage starts (I confess I am showing you THE best looking tray of starts). Almost all the brassicas have come up and have grown their first set of true leaves.
Nate with his insatiable appetite for soil fertility, ordered up two dump truck loads of compost from Bean’s Farm this week. We’ve gotten several loads from them in past years and have had nothing but positive experiences.
As you might notice from this flattering shot of my favorite shoveler, that’s one big pile of sh**! Today when the owner of Bean’s Farm was out delivering the pile, he paid us perhaps the nicest compliment the Fox Plot has gotten-”This isn’t a garden, it’s a farm!” The Fox Plot has always seemed an appropriate name to us, as we are really too big to be a home garden, yet still too confined to a suburban acre to ever be a farm.
Finally, the honey bees who live next to our garden (allow me to anthropomorphize for a moment) seem rather content these days, though busy. I think I would like being a honeybee. They are industrious, focused, cooperative, have a work ethic beyond anyone I’ve met, and they eat some of the best food on earth. Correction: I would like to be a worker bee, not the queen or a drone bee. The worker bees have diverse roles in the hive, that change as they ‘grow up’. Last week I fed the bees some sugar water, as is recommended in early spring in our northern Illinois climate, as a bit of insurance to get the bees through the month where there isn’t much food. Our fellow beekeeper John (the handy one of the group) had handcrafted these feeders over the winter. They are top-feeders, meant to be placed on top of the hive, below the lid. The narrow screened area in the center allows the bees to crawl up from below and then dip down, coating their bodies in the sugar water. They seemed to take to it just as soon as I put it on and filled up the reservoirs with sugar water. However, within days of feeding them, every other stinking tree in the neighborhood seems to have burst open with blossoms, giving them plenty of food to forage! In any case, I don’t think I’ve cause any harm and perhaps I can soon add an empty super for them to begin filling with honey.