Spring Has Sprung

Unlike my home town, in which magnificent blossoming cherry trees, crabtrees and redbuds herald the onset of Spring, here in the Maine mountains it’s not so much about a show of color, since most of the trees are pine, birch, maple and beech.  Rather, it’s a time when our little world seems to wake up after a long, hibernating winter.

Yesterday we saw our first moose tracks along the bottom of the driveway.  Usually the moose begin to surreptitiously visit the pond at night around this time of year.  As it warms up and the blackflies become unbearable the last two weeks of May, the moose start visiting the pond during the daytime to get relief from the incessant biting of the blackflies as well as ticks, mosquitoes and deerflies, and it makes for some exciting encounters and great photo ops (from a safe distance).

The North Conway Daily Sun (North Conway is just over the border from us, in New Hampshire) reports that the bears are already up to an unusual amount of mischief  in populated areas.  It seems they’ve figured out how to open car and truck doors and they’ve been vandalizing vehicles in the middle of the night (no one around here locks their cars or trucks when parked at home, since there is almost never any theft).  How do police and NH Fish & Game officials know it’s bears and not people doing the vandalizing?  One bear left behind scat (yep, stinky bear poop) on the front and back seats. Sticky, sandy paw prints were left inside the car as well as on the doors.  (No, detectives did not fingerprint – – I mean paw print – – the vehicles).   Imagine being the person stuck with detailing that vehicle!

One bear let himself in to someone’s car – – and then managed to become trapped when the door shut behind him.  After ripping the lining on the doors, visor, and dashboard, it broke the front side passenger window and finally managed to escape.  There have been more than a dozen bear break-ins reported since the end of April.

The bears’ only objective is food.  They are hungry after a long winter of hibernation.  In most cases, vehicle owners had left snack food in their cars.

One 400-lb  bear – – after being trapped and moved to a different location many miles into the forest – –  returned, so it was again trapped and – – sadly – – euthanized.  But the bear break-ins have continued so clearly that bear did not act alone.

Lt. Chris Perley of the Conway Police Department urged residents to safeguard their food and garbage. He said drivers should lock their vehicles at night to protect against four-legged invaders.

“These bears can open a door, but as far as we know, no one has ever reported any bears that can pick a lock,” he said.

Not yet.

Meanwhile, because the days have been cool and windy, I’ve been dashing like a madwoman to get my garden planted before the blackflies become intolerable.  The breeze keeps the bugs away.

Everywhere you look Maine-uhs are tilling soil in preparation for the short growing season.  No one has really started planting yet except Yours Truly.  That’s because the “frost date” in my part of Maine is until May 15, which means one risks losing whatever one has planted to frost if planted before May 15.  But I will be travelling at the peak planting dates, and I wanted to avoid those pesky bugs, so I decided to take a chance and plant a little early this year.

I planted rainbow Swiss chard and red bell peppers; lots of stevia (a plant whose leaves have 3x the sweetness of sugar; you dry the leaves and crumble them into whatever needs sweetening and it’s unprocessed and calorie-free); and lemon verbena (the dried leaves make wonderful tea that completely relaxes me without making me feel drowsy; it seems to relieve my insomnia),

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Yes, our landscape is rugged. So rugged, and full of tree stumps from old logging, rocks and roots, that I simply cannot till the soil. We got estimates in the thousands of dollars to have it excavated but that was not exactly cost-effective for a vegetable garden. Hence the raised beds.

 

Good overview of the solar panels, composter (to left of solar panels), pots and raised bed garden.

Good overview of the solar panels, black plastic composter (to left of solar panels in bottom corner), pots of herbs,  and raised bed garden.  We’ve never planted grass because we don’t want to have to mow more than necessary, and we want to keep the rugged look of our land.

 

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Stevia and Lemon Verbena, red bell peppers, and tomato cages awaiting tomatoes, along with marigolds, geraniums, and petunias. Our woodshed is in the backtround on the left; our house is in the background to the right.

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Stevia and Lemon Verbena

 

In this box I've planted some chard and will add kale next week.  I had to be careful to choose vegetables that would not grow too tall, lest they throw a shadow on our solar panels, which powers the house.

In this box I’ve planted some chard and will add kale next week. I had to be careful to choose vegetables that would not grow too tall, lest they throw a shadow on our solar panels, which powers the house.

 

I also planted geraniums and marigolds alongside; they act as a repellent against bugs and will hopefully reduce pests without the use of insecticide.   I still have to buy some kale and tomato seedlings in the coming week.  The garlic that I planted in the Fall is doing really well.

I had covered the planting box with straw mulch to help the garlic overwinter.

I had covered the planting box with straw mulch to help the garlic overwinter.

I managed to prune the apple trees, too.  The first buds are slowly appearing.

Tiny leaves are forming on the apple trees

Tiny leaves are forming on the apple trees

 

As a final touch my husband drilled some pots onto the entry stair posts, and I planted some purple petunias to make the front door a little more welcoming and less austere.

(I photoshopped an artistic filter onto the picture, but this is really how it looks)

(I photoshopped an artistic filter onto the picture, but this is really how it looks)

I am leaving much to chance, since I will be traveling to Israel for a couple of weeks starting next week and I won’t be around to water, so hopefully there will be adequate rainfall while I’m gone.

The bright sun has the bees buzzing around their hives.  It was warm enough today to make some yogurt (it cultures only in warm conditions; I have it in my car that is parked in the sun).

We can see the pond at the bottom of the driveway quite well in winter.  Probably by next week when the foliage returns, the pond will no longer be visible.

We can see the Little Pond across from the bottom of the driveway quite well in winter from the house (you can see very blue water peeking out from behind the trees if you look carefully in this photo). The pond will no longer be visible as soon as the foliage returns, probably by next week.

 

 

The only thing I haven’t been able to do yet is go fishing.   With the stiff breeze, the water on the lake gets very choppy and I’m always over-cautious when it comes to kayaking this time of year.  The local lake and pond ice melted only a week ago (this is known as “ice out” and contests are held in every town throughout Maine for residents to guess when “ice out” will take place each year) and the water is still freezing cold.  If I were to capsize the kayak, G-d forbid,  it would be difficult to make it to even a close-by shore before hypothermia set in.  So until the wind dies down, I am not going to venture out in the kayak to try my luck with fishing, even though I of course wear a life-vest whenever I am on the water.  Just this week someone was rescued from a lake when their canoe tipped, and the person needed to be rescued because hypothermia set in so quickly due to the very cold water temperature.  In his case, though, the lake was populated with other boaters.  Around where I live, things are very quiet, and it’s more than likely that no one would be around  to rescue me if an accident ensued.  Better safe than sorry.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Great post. Here in central Maine, we are just getting tiny leaves on some Maples. That’s right, I actually saw a “leaf.” As far as the gardening goes, we’re not having much luck. Our plants are withering. Hopefully we can figure out the whole planting system up here.

    Reply

  2. I don’t know what you planted so I can’t say for sure but it might be stuff that needed to go in after May 15. Another thing : I’ve given up planting from seed…no success. Now I spend $2 per established seedling at a local organic farm and transplant and it grows nicely.

    Reply

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