Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cutting Garden Seeds, Part 2

This week I've been self-medicating my winter depression with flower seed catalogues. We are just a couple inches away from breaking the record for the snowiest winter of all time here in Newburyport, but I've been thinking about color instead of white. My second stop for seed shopping was at Johnny's Seeds (my favorite). These pictures (obviously) are all from their catalogue. 

Florist Blue Boy Cornflower

Apricot/Peach Mix Strawflower

Covent Garden Market Baby's Breath

Sun Ball Drumstick Flower

Arena III Apricot Lisianthus

Chinese Forget-Me-Not

Animation Mix Snapdragons

Johnny's Sublime Formula Mix Larkspur

I really can't wait to get these started. It's like planting hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cutting Garden Seeds, Part 1

What's the best cure for the winter blahs? Flowers!

Last year I didn't do much with the cutting garden because I was in Costa Rica for the height of the season, and Kirk isn't much of a flower guy. (And, to be fair, it would've been a lot to ask for him to take care of all the food and all the flowers.)

And even though the cutting garden is still under four to five feet of snowpack, I cheered myself up today by spending a couple hours of quality time browsing seed catalogues. I think this year I will try a lot of annuals instead of looking for more perennial for the cutting garden. Perennials are awesome but expensive, so going the seed starting route will be a bit more economical.

Here's what I picked out from Park Seed (all the photos are courtesy of their online catalogue, by the way). The flowers are all in the color palette I have already planned for, and all were chosen for their long, sturdy stems for adding to bouquets.

Chantilly Mix Snapdragon

Charisma Blue Lisianthus

Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass

Night and Day Snapdragon

This was just the order from one vendor. There's more to come! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Taste of Spring

Look what happened today:

That's right: temperatures above freezing! Despite it being just 7 degrees for my errands downtown yesterday morning, today it was sunny and almost 40. It's the first day like that all month, and after shoveling away last night's snow (yes, it's still snowing here), we enjoyed a walk without our coats and hats

When we got back, Kirk fired up the snow blower again to carve out part of the patio:

First he had to find the entryway. If you look carefully, you can see that on the right side of the path a bit of the lavender has been exposed. That was excellent: it made the whole area smell great.

After getting through the beds, he cleared away a decent-sized circle. This heretofore untouched blanket of snow is a great reminder of just how much of the white stuff there still is. This is about 3 feet deep, though the entrance to the pathway is above my shoulders. 

This area should be just big enough to set up the fire for boiling down sap for this year's maple sugaring. Today's weather definitely felt like it's time to get out the taps and buckets, but tomorrow it will be back to the same old frigid air we've had all month long. Still, it made sense to get prepped and ready for when the temperatures are consistently this warm. 

The bird's eye view of our maple sugaring "room" shows just how much snow is still here. I think it's been easy to forget that this isn't normal. You get used to seeing giant piles of snow everywhere, and it starts to feel pretty regular. Opening up this spot today was a good reminder that this winter has been something else entirely.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Still Digging Out

If you're not from around here, a quick reminder on the state of the winter here in eastern Massachusetts:

1. It has snowed at least a foot every weekend for the last four weekends in a row. It is supposed to snow again this coming weekend, but could mix with sleet and rain.

2. Though it fluctuates daily, this February is the coldest or second-coldest on record. 

3. We're up to about 96 inches of snow in Boston and 111 inches in Lowell on the year. We got another couple inches here last night, so those stats are already out of date.

Even casual readers of this blog know that Newburyport is a terribly windy place, but this week the Arctic blasts have done us a favor (for a change) and uncovered some of our greenhouse tunnels:

We haven't yet dug them out, but plan to before this weekend's storm. If we do end up with rain on top of the snow, they'll be frozen shut until May. Since I'm hungry for some leek soup, I'm hoping there's a sweet spot of opportunity to clear the still-fluufy snow while it's cold, then take advantage of above-freezing temps to dig up some leeks. We shall see.

Of more immediate importance was getting snow off of the roofs of the outbuildings. We hadn't bothered up until now, since the roofs are steeply pitched and the snow is light and fluffy, though there's a good four or five feet of it in spots. But with rain a possibility, Kirk had to move as much as possible ASAP, or else it would act like a sponge and soak up all that rain, getting very heavy in the process. You can see in the photo above Kirk using our decade-old and very tired snowblower to re-open the path that was filled in when he cleared off the roof to the chicken coop.

Just another day in the neighborhood: Kirk isn't the only person we saw up on a roof with a shovel today. Luckily it was almost 30 whole degrees out this morning, which felt positively balmy. The sun was even out for a couple hours, which encouraged actual melting (though by the time I took this photo the clouds were rolling in and, sure enough, it snowed a little more this afternoon).

Like all good New England homeowners, we have one of those long-handled roof rake thingies. I think it's a pain in the ass to use it on a good day, and Kirk said it was incredibly awkward now because the handle kept banging into the snowpack on the ground behind him, forcing him to do some absurd contortionist shit to get this job done. The garage ended up being only partially cleared (as far as the rake could reach), but even that will take a lot of weight off.

Although according to the calendar I should have started some cabbage and broccoli seeds this week, I didn't. It's hard to feel like a late start will matter much: will there be anywhere to plant them in another eight weeks anyway? Still, it was nice to see some proof of the brief but real period of melting we had today when the sun came out:

We can see our smallest apple tree again, so that's something. I have no idea when we'll get to prune it this year, but at least I know where it is.