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Harbingers of spring...
Lewis Co., WA
375 Posts
March 17, 2020 - 3:10 pm

Yesterday, after listening at length to international news about the ever-expanding Coronavirus situation, it was very pleasant to walk outside into the sunshine and enjoy the yard.  I saw the first bumblebee of the season (apparently a Bombus mixtus) visiting hyacinth and dandelion flowers, then a newly emerged Bombyliid fly visiting the minuscule white flowers of of our widespread Cardamine oligosperma.  As usual, I sat in the yard and whistled for my resident birds -- my friendly local feathered theropods -- and the Oregon Juncos, Spotted Towhees, Song Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, etc. came out for seeds and attention.

Today, after more updates on the radio, I stepped out the front door and was greeted by the first Rufous Hummingbird of the season, who zinged past me as a rusty-colored streak, swung around the pump-house, and flew straight at me flashing its bright metallic throat feathers....

Things might be looking and feeling a bit bleak right now, but instead of wishing to go to malls, or movie theaters, or restaurants, don't forget that the GREAT outdoors provides beauty, solace, fresh air, exercise, and the joy of the original human environment!  What better time to hike or explore than with the wondrous renewals of springtime!

Life will go on.  Just be sure to follow all competent recommendations regarding hygiene and interpersonal contacts.  If everyone co-operates and follows the rules, we'll get through this historical period sooner than later.  Think of this as the extra time that you always needed for spring cleaning both in the house, and out around the yard.  🙂


(P.S. -- My Violet Green Swallows should be arriving from the south any day now.  Can't wait!)

Clark County, WA
519 Posts
March 17, 2020 - 8:23 pm

Thanks Reinettes for the nice report!

Today I planted two rows of Kennebec potatoes.  I had bought the starts at a Winco before the big rush there.  Lots of earthworms in the soil.

I also replanted the genetic dwarf almond to a more permanent spot.  It's only a foot tall, so it will be a while before I know what happens.

This weekend I grafted about a dozen apple varieties onto Bud 9 and Geneva 222.  Also three varieties of hybrid chestnut onto a tall seed-grown tree to see if I can get pollen and chestnuts on that tree.  And two grafts of a peach curl resistant peach seed-grown peach, onto some Lovell to see if I can propagate that tree.

Dandelions and daffodils and some early plums are blooming. I haven't seen bumblebees, would be happy if they are there.

Apple and pear buds are swelling nicely now.

Tomato and Swiss Chard seeds are germinating nicely on a heating mat.

I'm in self quarantine.  I had a cold, after being exposed to a traveler who had a cold.  It doesn't seem like it's "that", not severe and no fever, but I quarantined myself anyway.   Then I got a report today that someone where I volunteer had an exposure, so I may have been exposed there too.  At my age, I should be on isolation for the time being, and I don't want to get anyone ill, so it's just the house and garden for a few weeks at least.

Lewis Co., WA
375 Posts
March 19, 2020 - 4:56 pm

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your posting.  Spring is definitely springing!

When in doubt, self quarantine.  It may be trite, but it's always "better safe, than sorry."  My wife and I are amazed at how many people we see who are apparently oblivious to the very real threat of communicable illnesses / diseases.  This coronavirus is nothing to poo-poo!

My wife is taking time off due to her recent pulmonary problems, so we get a chance to gripe at each other and enjoy our time together.  Today we drove to Raintree Nursery with our dog so that I could pick up my grafting rootstocks for the year.  It was nice having so little traffic there and back, but people that we encountered seemed to be following none of the recommended protocols.  

Anyway, I've got a lot of grafting to do over the next few days, but with the weather so nice and spring-like, I really need to start revamping the vegetable garden.  After the 2008 financial "meltdown", a few people resuscitated the concept of the "Victory Garden", but that didn't last long.  I think it's time for people to reconsider the tremendous value of growing their own food, especially if we have to "hunker-down" for quite a few more weeks or months (--God forbid!).

I recently purchased a couple of favorite potato varieties for planting, and have another heirloom variety coming in the mail any day.  Vegetable seeds I have galore, but need to not just prep sowing areas and plant them, but also effectively protect them from birds, rabbits, deer, and elephants.  No--... wait, no local pachyderms.  Need to sow carrots, parsnips, beets (--love beets!), Swiss chard, rutabagas, lettuce, mustards, cabbage, kale, collards, and any other "kuuuhs", onions, and some summer and winter squashes, some of which are hybrids of mine that I need to take to the F1, F2, or F3 generation for selection and hand-pollination.  

I wish that I could graft and grow peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and --indeed-- almonds here, but our heavy clay soil and high NW Anthracnose pressure, along with various other diseases, make it quite difficult.  I wish that I had an acre of well-draining glacial alluvium on the property where I could grow them.  The best homemade wine that I ever made (or tasted) was Pineapple Guava wine ... but that was in southern California about 26 years ago.  I can't grow Pineapple guava here, but theoretically, I could grow cherries.  Before I die I want to be able to make some homemade cherry wines.  Along with making my own cider to supplant beer, I really, really, really want to be able to make a small batch (maybe 25 bottles) of genuine cherry wine!  

It's not a lot to ask, and -- after all -- we're all gonna live forever, right?  🙂

Best wishes to you and other Forum members, enjoy the season, self-quarantine, read some good books, enjoy the great outdoors, and let us all get through this intriguing historical period together,... safe and sound!


40 Posts
March 19, 2020 - 8:35 pm

Saw my first bumblebee today.  Kept hearing a buzz while I was working in the yard.  After words, cleaning up the mess, water a few pots, I saw one flying around near the ground.  Nice day.

Lewis Co., WA
375 Posts
May 5, 2020 - 10:19 pm

Well, I sorta wonder whether I "jumped the gun" on my proclamation of Spring.  Seems like shortly after the post, the weather returned to rainy and overcast.  I've "only" been in the Pacific Northwest for 20-21 years now and I'm still trying to figure it out and adjust to it.  It makes all the difference in when to sow seeds and such....

Thankfully, it finally seems to be settling-down a bit.  ...Ever more insects emerging, and now the summer-migrant birds have been arriving:  my beloved Violet-Green Swallows, Wilson's warblers, Golden-crowned sparrows, Black-headed Grosbeaks, etc.  Yesterday, my wife and I saw three Turkey vultures soaring far overhead (--hopefully not any omen--).  Just as San Juan Capistrano in southern California has celebrated the annual return of their swallows, apparently Hinkley, Ohio, celebrates the return of their Turkey vultures.  I guess that everyone needs something to celebrate in springtime!

I figure that we have at least 7 different species of bumblebee on our property.  My wife is confident that she's now seen 5.  There's a certain amount of seasonality to which bumblebees appear when, so I have an idea of which won't show up 'til a bit later.  A very few European honeybees have started showing-up, but in the meantime, our bumblebees have been visiting the apple and pear flowers, and doing a perfectly fine job.  After all, the latter are native.

DanielW:  I still haven't done much in our garden.  I've never grown Kennebec potatoes; don't know what they taste like.  I have sets for 'German Butterball' and 'Rose Finn Apple' (which should be known as "pink fir-cone" if the Germanic name had been translated correctly:  nothing to do with the Finns or with apples).  I just wish that I had some starchy "baking potatoes" like 'Russet Burbank' to plant.  An old potato (late 1800's) that I ordered hasn't arrived, I'm thinking that it may not get here this year.  Normality has been tossed into the air.

During this "whackity-doo time", I hope that all of you Forum folks are religiously following science-based protocols -- not just for yourselves, but also for the safety and well-being of those around you as well.  It's gonna go on for awhile, and it's not going to get better as various restrictions are lifted.  We're still in the midst of it, and the impatience of politicians will only result in an increase in the number of deaths related to the coronavirus.  Please -- all of you -- heed what the truly knowledgeable have to say.  Elderly, middle-aged, or young, we're all vulnerable.  We're going to get through this, but only if people don't act selfishly, and "play by the rules."


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