Sunday, March 20, 2016

Goodbye Winter! Hello Spring!

It's finally here - Spring!

The weather the last few weeks has been crazy - sunny one day, and like yesterday, loaded with a dreary attitude and rain.

But, today? Today is loaded with sunshine, although it's still quite cool. We had a freeze warning overnight, so I worried about these little rhubarb nodes that were just starting to peek through, and leaf out. The first picking (and, maybe the second as well) will go to a local winery for (what else?) wine. But, then? My mom's Rhubarb Upside-Down cake, Rhubarb Sauce, Strawberry-Rhubarb Preserves, Rhubarb Custard pie, Rhubarb in the freezer (and, maybe even a few midnight Rhubarb runs, much like those wrongly accused Zucchini drops) - it's a very versatile plant! If I decide to thin out the patch, I can even use the roots as a fiber dye for some amazing reds! And, did you know that the Rhubarb stalks can also be used as a stain remover? Truly!

I pick my Rhubarb all through the summer, until the leaves start yellowing, and it starts slowing down in growth. Many people will tell you that "You can't pick Rhubarb after July!" That's just not so. Like my Mom, when the blossoms start to appear, I just pull them off, and let the plants keep on doing what they do. As long as you don't let them go to seed, you'll have that 'Pie Plant' available all summer long.

I know, I know - the patch needs to be cleaned up. That's the plan for this coming week - hauling out the big, brown yard waste bags, and getting things in order - something that's gone undone for the last couple years. (No excuse other than being pre-occupied in the role as sole caregiver for my husband. No regrets.)

While I was poking around for more signs of this long-awaited season, I found what I look for each year. My neighbor's Snowdrops are almost finished blooming. They were early this year. Normally, they don't poke their heads up until about now, but they've been showing off since the first of the month.

The last of the blossoms are in the lower right-hand corner of the photo.

When the Snowdrops are in full bloom, I know that these little Scilla around my bird bath will be blooming soon. They're like a miniature Amaryllis, with their tiny, trumpet-like blossoms at the end of a tall (for them) stalk.

Of course, we can't forget the little Dwarf Irises, and Day Lilies, and Amaryllis.

I know they don't look like much now, but when even the lilacs are starting to show some green at the ends of the branches, it's a sure thing that warmer weather is not far behind.

I'm a little behind getting my seeds started, but considering it's still quite cool, I don't think it will be a problem. So, I get to start my canning and preserving a little later in the year - no problem. At this stage of the game, I'll do what I can when I can.

The canning season for me will start when the violets take over the back yard. Why? Because Violet Jelly, that's why! In case you didn't know, Violets are one of many edible flowers, and they make the most amazing shade of Amethyst colored jelly you'll ever see. My Mom made it, I make it, my daughter has made it - it's not a strong flavor, but more like a mild flavored honey. It's a specialty, but a fun one. So, don't destroy these little gems. Or, the Dandelions! No, don't do it! They make an amazing wine, but also great for making lotion bars and scrubs.

You should see those patches of Chives and Oregano - they're coming on strong, and will provide a good amount to dry and use during the winter months. And, the strawberries! My goodness, are they going wild! I even found some little fiddle heads where my Painted Ferns reside, so I'll be able to use them for things like these Cheese Plates, and platters, and buttons, and spinners' tools, and, and, and..... Hopefully, my Lavender will start coming back soon, too, so the blossom stalks can be used in the same way.

This website has some very valuable information on gardening, with recipes, and tons of other great information. (They're also on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.)

I will plant tomatoes, and potatoes - all in 5-gallon buckets that are easier for me to tend any more. Container gardening can really pay off with tons of produce, as long as they're taken care of. Lettuce and herbs in hanging pots? You betcha!! But, the Farmer's Markets also play a big role in my 'grocery shopping' - I'm not only getting the best and freshest produce, but I know where it's coming from, and supporting my local small businesses as well. It's all important.

Go dig in some dirt - make yourself a garden. You'll thank yourself for it - for many reasons.

Happy Spring, everyone!

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