Thursday, March 26, 2009

Come on, Spring!

Spring is coming slowly to Northwestern PA this year. Usually, there are a few days between February and April that warm up into the 60’s and 70’s, but that has not really happened this year. It has been wet and cold.

Surprisingly, the damage from the winter has not been too great, considering we had almost two feet of snow the week before Halloween. I had some carrots which ended up over wintering in the garden. Most of them were not really storage carrots so they were no good, but some Bolero carrots went just fine with a pot roast just a couple weeks ago. I’m planting those for sure again. Also, I never got my strawberries mulched, and it seems they are not going to make it this year. that is also fine, because I never like the location they were in. they were a permanent feature of my lower vegetable garden that had started on the edge but had somehow gotten into the middle after a couple garden expansions. My neighbors are nice kids, but they use herbicide between the little row of arborvitae they have planted as a property line marker, and my strawberries suffered mightily from deformations cause by herbicide blow off. Not sorry to see them go, though I still have not decided where a new strawberry patch should be placed.

Seed starting season is here. I have a good selection of really fun sounding plants this year. I ordered from a lot of different sources. One of the seed companies I order from sent the order really late along with a note of apology. It seems they needed to hire a bunch more people because so many people were ordering garden seeds this year. I feel like my orders were really conservative, actually, about equivalent to last year, though I also ordered a fancy potted plant which was a splurge. I’m working full time. I should have a fancy dwarf pomegranate, right?

Right now, all I have started is my onion plants and some slow to germinate herbs and flowers. I’ve never started onion plants indoors before, but that is how they sell them at the farm coop, in big clumps of pre started plants. You can get sets, too of just really normal types of plants, but for specialty things like sweet onions, they sell plants. My onion plants are for red onions which are also supposedly good storage onions. I am a little tired of never having red onions for summer salads, so this is plan C 2.0.

We are getting into some landscaping plans this year. I have a raised bed I’ve never been happy about, and this is the year it gets new sides, a fresh load of topsoil and compost and hopefully a new lease on life. Right now, it’s full of stove ash, and the cats have been using it as a littler box. Except for the one kitten my old dog Zora chomped, we still have all of last year’s kittens. The girls Bili and Boots have been moved into the house and spayed. Our regular vet has turned out to be a great advocate of kitties and is willing to accept the wild cats from the garage for spaying a neutering as long as we can get them in. One of the cats has already been spayed. We kept it in the house right after the surgery to keep it clean, but it appears to be a combination of very scared and very stupid, and hasn’t gone back outside yet. I’ll be going downstairs in the middle of the night to take care of the fire and I’ll see it crawl up into the ceiling of the semi finished basement room or it will fall out of a closet when I go to hang up clothes. We keep leaving the basement door open for it, but no luck.

Speaking of pets, I took the plunge after saving up money all winter for another Weimarnaner puppy. I had a couple of kennel visits lined up and more cash than I needed to get my truck last year. By chance, I was at the bank and one of the neighbor girls who just moved to a house down the road from me mentioned she was getting a puppy, and I said I wanted a puppy, and the other bank lady said her son just got puppies, and I said I wanted a Weimaraner, and she said, these were Weims, at least their mom was, and there were a lot of them, and they were cute.

So a couple days later, I went down to see some half Weimaraner and half chocolate lab puppies. Interestingly enough, some of them were female and dark brown but most of them were black with a little really dark brown on the ears and male. One of the little brown females was still there and, she was really pretty. According the the lady we got them from, the last of the little brown females was actually going to some relatives in Texas.

One of the males, a kind of chunky labby-looking boy crawled right into my mom’s arms the second she knelt down by the puppies, so I had to get that one for sure. Then, I picked the prettiest one I could find who looked most like a Weimaraner despite being almost black! That was also a male, so I’ve spent the last month and a half having my house torn up and laughing my rear end off at these crazy boys!

Spencer is the little goofball on the left, and Bruce is the handsome “angel” on the right!
I wish one as the good one and one was the bad one, but mostly, they just take turns! It’s good having young dogs again! I actually use my back yard now to make the dogs run around. I barely walked back there for months!

Other than puppies, not a lot going on right now. We went to the outdoor show up in Erie a few weeks ago, and that was nice. you can always visit with land management people, but I missed the retriever demonstrations. My mom chatted up a guy who sells deer plot who recommended clover and chicory as a good seed for our wet back field. I found yet another taxidermy person, but this time we were actually able to get my uncle’s tiny bear skin to him. I personally love fur and would probably trap or shoot something for fur except it grosses out my mom, so I only get to indulge myself at things like outdoor shows or fur trapper re-enactors. There’s this newer arts festival they’ve had out in Russell the last few years which I consider like a “man” craft show with lots of furs and blacksmithing and things like that. Possibly an idea for a future entry!

Also, I can’t keep my mouth shut about a couple of issues in the news I’ve seen recently. One was under the headline: “Alternative energy quest threatens birds” and was about how domestic energy production like growing crops for fuel and windfarms threaten birds’ lives and habitats. Lumping in with this, bafflingly, was mountaintop removal coal mining. Now, logically, you can look at a toll of birds randomly hitting obstructions at wind farms, or habitat displacement due to more corn farming for ethanol as a change that will have a toll on birds, but none of these could possibly compare to the complete destruction of mountaintops in WV and KY and the filling in of miles of streams in the valleys in terms of habitat loss. And when did coal mining become alternative energy anyway? I’m not against even strip mining in a lot of cases. You can fix that once you get the coal off the top layer, but the tops of mountains can’t be put be back on and no one but no one is going to do the work to restore the streams once they’ve been filled in. And I know the Obama administration’s EPA has recently put on hold a lot of these permits to do his mountaintop mining, but it was also the Obama administration’s EPA that grouped mountaintop removal mining with wind farming as a threat to habitat.

From the EPA to the FDA: There is no stopping a proposal that has been floating around the FDA and the Agriculture department to have all farm animals marked with microchips and RFD tags. People who keep livestock, eventually at any scale, ae going to be required to report on the location and condition of the livestock using electronic monitoring and questionnaires on the internet. All of this is going to be done at the owners’ expense, which will be considerable for small “homestead” type farmers and basically only benefits big producers. The idea is the keep the food supply safer by tracking livestock from the farm to the slaughterhouse. It’s of course vastly counter-intuitive since most of the contamination takes place in the slaughter house after the individually monitored animals have been mixed with hundreds if not thousands of others. This is basically expensive window dressing to relieve factory farms of liability for who knows what, but it is also looking to add significant costs in money and time to small farmers who possibly only produce meat for their own consumption.

No time today for links to either of these issues, but google both of them, and you can see that it is real, AP news type outlets which are reporting on these and not just conspiracy theory people, sitting in little houses, in the middle of nowhere, trying to decide how many tomato plants to start this year because we’re getting lulled into sheep-like complacency by government agencies which dictate the sugar content of processed food to guarantee a certain amount of sleepiness, obesity, and disease in an increasingly failing effort to distract and occupy the rich, vital energy of our people!

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