AKA, The Floods!
[Quick Note: I’ve resisted doing monthly updates thus far, for fear that they would be boring and/or self-centered. However, since this blog is aimed at connecting, and teaching, I’m thinking now that it’s silly to withhold relevant updates about my garden/life. After all, that’s how I’ve learned from others! I am trying to figure out how to balance life in the garden and life outside of it, and even if you don’t have a garden you may still find insights about life tucked in here and there. Hopefully. If nothing else, it will at least serve as a record for me, and perhaps give me/you ideas to elaborate on for future posts (e.g. Grape Pruning, see below).]
It Began With a Bug
February began with me curled in a ball. From a stomach bug, not from the weather. January was so bitter cold at the beginning that I was SURE Feb was going to suck—after all, the only thing good about February is my birthday on the 2nd and after that it all goes to crap. 😛 At least that’s been my mindset for the past few decades (give or take a few years).
But then it got warm-ish. We had only ONE morning of snow flurries in February, and it turned into rain by the end of the day!
In fact, by the end of February it was very warm (historically speaking)–similar to last year actually–and VERY rainy (which did NOT happen last year). Highs were in the 50s and 60s and down came the rains for several days in a row…
then last Saturday (the 24th) the skies opened up and threw down a frightening deluge–complete with LOUD thunder–on an already-saturated ground. We got some water in the crawl-space basement, but being on a hillside meant the rest of the house was pretty safe. All in all we were fine.
Signs of Progress?
Mr Grant continued work on the second bathroom.
So the yard went from: Frozen Brown Ground at the beginning of January, thanks to free-ranging chickens and sub-32F temps, to…Soggy Mud Pit complete with construction dump by the end of Feb.
Seriously, it was/is a mess out there! Between the mud, rain, and debris I have been keeping the chickens within the run more. Otherwise, I constantly have to worry about them eating Styrofoam or plastic… >.< or going through out sand pile that we need for tiling the shower!
I’ve also had to hold off on starting seeds indoors, because the house is turned upside-down, with a few key places now serving as tools & parts storage instead of seed-tray setup. *pouts*
If I sound crotchety about all this, just know that I’m actually a lot better than I used to be during the month of February! Thank you essential oils!! (more on those later!) 😀
The chickens weathered the cold like champs in Jan, and other than scrambling to thaw out their water daily, we had no problems. In February it was smooth sailing, except I started to wish they cranked out more eggs–now that word has gotten around at work how delicious they are there was a spike in demand! I had to raise the price to be more competitive, but it all goes directly back to the ‘egg and feed’ fund for the chickies and if we have profits it’ll go towards the garden/homestead! The week of Valentine’s Day I didn’t get any fresh eggs because they were all promised to customers, including the regional VP of the company (whoa, my eggs are famous!?) haha. Definitely a good problem to have.
Signs of Spring! (Already!??)
All the warmth and rains also brought bulbs peaking out! I don’t believe our Rosemary is very happy (or even alive haha) after 5 degree January days, but the pansies have rebounded from last fall, and the random daffodils, hyacinths, allium, and tulip bulbs I tucked in the soil here-and-there have emerged; in fact, neighbors across the street already have daffodils blooming!!
I’ve also seen Cornelian Cherries emerging, though they are one of the earliest bloomers usually. My garlic chives, also somewhat randomly placed—this time by Mother Nature’s devices—are also popping up everywhere. This stuff is prolific, and I really only use about 3 pieces of it a year! Heh. If anyone has any recipes let me know!
Even the rosemary was not as well-used or well-preserved as I would have liked. Some days I feel like I am just stockpiling herbs in the garden just to say I have them. Just to prove that I can grow them successfully. There is a definite gap between my garden and my culinary incorporation….All in good time. But hey, if you have any amazing recipes that use fresh herbs (especially oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, dill, basil, mint or lemon balm, let me know!)
My Phenomenal Lavender does look, well, phenomenal!! Normally a fan of bright, vivid colors, I find myself really enjoying the silvery blue/green (‘sage-colored’ if you will) foliage that has persisted through this cold, and warmth and rain. Now in year 2, it remains to be seen how long-lived it will be (lavenders tend to be short, 3-5 year perennials in these parts), but in the meantime I appreciate its presence in the garden!
Another benefit of warm temps was the opportunity to poke around and clean up the garden without freezing and/or having to wear 50 layers! I cut back liriope (ground-cover in between the sidewalk and the road) and tall grasses, and even thought about planting kale. I haven’t cut the rosemary down because I’d like to see if any part of it comes back. It probably won’t but…. It’s worth experimenting. A good rule of thumb in gardening is, if you think it’s dead, wait til spring. My mother once made this mistake with her Butterfly bush (buddleia), which is The midwestern Comeback Kid if ever there was one! She thought the shrubbery skeleton of sticks was done-for (and who could blame her!?) and pulled the whole thing out of the ground before the end of winter. I have a mini, 2-3 ft one out front right now that is indeed nothing but sticks…except, with this warm spell, little silvery-green leaves have popped out along the stems and random intervals! Hydrangeas can be like that here too…it’s because they can bloom on old wood; Crape-myrtles are similar, and you never know because they are borderline growers here (similar to butterfly bushes, and rosemary). It’s not quite a warm enough climate–or rather, it often gets too much winter cold in Louisville to have a crape-myrtle survive without some extra protection. When we had the Polar Vortex winters of 2014 and 2015, many homeowners saw those trees die back and regrow from the base or not come back at all! Butterfly bush has a similar MO, either sprouting back from stems that look long-gone, or rejuvenating from the bottom.
I also made time to prune back the mature grape arbor!! Ever since I’ve been around it (the vine was planted long before Mr Grant ever got the house or I got involved), I’ve tried to figure out what to DO with the tangled mess of vines. Grape vines are such weirdos that even in the height of summer they look like crusty, old, dead wood. The bark is exfoliating, you know, peeling, and the thin stems are very bendy! The best way to tell if it’s REALLY dead is to lightly bend a stem: if it breaks off in your hand, it’s dead. If it gives and flexes some, let it be!
Anyway, I can go more in depth on another post, another time. But the exciting things are this: last fall we FINALLY re-built the crazy leaning structure (also a relic from former owners), and in doing so, shifted and thinned out some of the grape. I am just happy I remembered to prune it this early in the year (again, thanks to warmer temps!!) I historically didn’t get around to it til the grapes had come out of dormancy, so any time I tried to cut living vines back they would ‘bleed’ or drip sap for DAYS. It was weird. Not life-threatening, especially to such a large vine, but unnerving to me and certainly not the healthiest practice for the plant. So kudos to me for finally getting on the right schedule!
Mission Accomplished…for now…mostly. Close Enough. 😛
I do have to say I felt pretty successful last month. I raised money for Charity:Water for my birthday this year, something I get the urge to do every so often (I think the previous time was when I was in California, broke, and learning about permaculture for the first time!). I also made it to the rank of Senior Star with Young Living Oils! That source of income has been an unexpected blessing within the past 6mo, and a fun motivator this winter! Also, the oils themselves have made a NOTICEABLE difference in my moods and energy levels. Between all that and the warmer temps I have been able to break out of the usual Winter Blues. Though I haven’t been able to start peppers, I don’t think I’d started them by this time last year either, and everything turned out alright; there’s always next month! I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff. Other than that, building a new bathroom is quite an achievement (ok it’s not done yet but he got a lot done and I helped!), not to mention PLANNING A WEDDING.
Mr. Grant has finally gotten on board helping Wedding Planning, and I am happy to report that he had no idea how much work and politics was involved! Haha. We also got out and did more swing dancing than we have in awhile, thanks to Mardi Gras and Valentine’s celebrations (3 times that week alone, each with a live band!), and attempted to get back into shape, not only for the looming Derby Half Marathon (or Mini as it’s called in Louisville) but also for the wedding—now only FIVE MONTHS AWAY! Did I mention wedding planning?? >.<
Since apparently this year February Showers have brought March flowers, I wonder what March will bring?? (probably snow, with a vengeance!)