Monday Recap: Finally Spring

Despite the calendar which says spring arrived much earlier, I’m saying it really arrived here last week. Other local folks are welcome to chime in and agree, or not, as they see fit. Trees are blooming, birds are chirping, and neighbors are mowing the grass for the first time. All that sure sounds like spring to me!

flowering pear trees in bloom

flowering pear trees in bloom

One thing is missing from the picture though: there’s no sign of asparagus yet. At least there’s no sign of it here. In 2012 spring was running about a month ahead of schedule, and we got our first spear on 3/16. Last year we had our first harvest on 4/10, which was later than usual. This year is obviously going to be later still. The dried brown stalks you see in the below photo are all that’s left of the ferns from last year. We are mulching in the row with shredded paper, and using cardboard between the rows. The cardboard will be covered with straw as soon as I go pick some up. It isn’t real pretty to look at right now but it is weed free. At least we are still enjoying some frozen asparagus from last year’s crop.

asparagus mulched with shredded paper and cardboard

asparagus mulched with shredded paper and cardboard

The bluebirds are running a few days ahead of last year though. Mama laid her 5th egg last Friday. Five eggs is pretty normal here, though later clutches may only have four. I have seen six eggs in a nest one time, many years ago, but only five of those hatched. The eggs of the Eastern Bluebird typically hatch in 12-14 days.

bluebird nest with 5 eggs

bluebird nest with 5 eggs

I was finally able to get onions and potatoes planted here last week. Sowing carrot seed is next on my to do list. After planting I mulched the onions with some aged straw. I also planted a couple dozen of them close together to pull as scallions.

onions after planting and mulching

onions after planting and mulching

I’ve gotten a few harvests lately, mostly spinach. We are enjoying it whenever we can as it will be bolting all too soon. That in the below photo is the heirloom Amsterdam Prickly Seeded, which was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and by European growers even before that. The thick, dark green leaves had a great flavor when cooked. I also froze a bag of it for later use.

Amsterdam Prickly Seeded spinach

Amsterdam Prickly Seeded spinach

I did cut some baby salad greens the other day. It was a mix of lettuces, tatsoi, komatsuna and mizuna I cut from seedlings I had growing in the greenhouse. These are extras that I didn’t need  for planting, but kept growing for this very reason.

mizuna seedlings before harvest

mizuna seedlings before harvest

I usually cut the leaves with scissors just above the growing point, then leave the plants to regrow another ‘crop’. I should get one more cutting if I keep the plants watered and fertilized with a bit of fish emulsion.

harvest of baby mizuna leaves

harvest of baby mizuna leaves

The bowl of organic greens yielded enough for several lovely salads, and they were a welcome treat in a year when spring is late to arrive and many things got frozen out over the winter.

harvest of baby salad greens

harvest of baby salad greens

Lately I’ve been working on a recipe for dark rye rolls and buns. I think I’ve just about got it worked out, but I want to make it again before I share it here. Of course we have been enjoying the taste testing. And amazingly, unlike Subway breads, there’s no yoga-mat ingredients in it! For that matter, none of our bread recipes include the chemical azodicarbonamide, which is banned in Europe and Australia but FDA-approved in the U.S. That is one of many reasons why I am glad we bake our own breads – we know exactly what does and doesn’t go into them. I have been experimenting with rye breads for about a year now, and this is the latest creation. The dark color is a result of molasses and cocoa powder.

dark rye buns

dark rye buns

We also found time last week to make two batches of soap. One was another batch of our Tea Tree French Green Clay soap we first made late last year. The other was a new one for us, a Bastille soap made with 70% olive oil. It is supposed to be good for babies and those with sensitive skin, which means we mainly made it for me! It will need to cure for at least five or six weeks before use. I’ll let you know how it turned out.

cutting bastille soap into bars

cutting bastille soap into bars

That’s a look at a few things that are going on here. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays.

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10 Responses to Monday Recap: Finally Spring

  1. Shirl says:

    I enjoy reading your blog. We have had an asparagus bed for about 4 years now but without much success. We have decided it just never gets cold enough for the bed in the winter. Do you think that is our problem.
    Shirl recently posted…OMG Brownies -Did we say ZucchiniMy Profile

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Shirl! Asparagus is certainly hardy in areas with cold winter weather, but it is also grown extensively in California with a warmer climate. I’m not sure what the problem is with yours.

  2. Daphne says:

    What a nice harvest. I’m still waiting for my first of the year. I so see growth in the overwintered spinach and kale though. So I’m hoping.
    Daphne recently posted…Harvest Monday April 14th, 2014My Profile

  3. Michelle says:

    There’s no room for asparagus in my garden, but fortunately there’s good local organic asparagus at the farmer’s market and we’ve been feasting on that lately. 🙂 I know how wonderful that first salad of the year is, but I don’t have to wait nearly as long for it as you do, I bet yours is extra good. Those bluebird eggs are so beautiful!

  4. From salad greens to soap, a nice spring post. Beautiful flowering pear trees. I certainly envy you all that space.
    Lou Murray’s Green World recently posted…Harvest Monday, March 31, 2014My Profile

  5. Norma Chang says:

    Beautiful colander of baby salad greens, will be a while before I can harvest anything.
    You sure had a busy week gardening, baking and soap making.
    Norma Chang recently posted…Harvest Monday, April 14, 2014 – Windowbox Planting + Seeds startingMy Profile

  6. Stoney Acres says:

    A great looking harvest this week! I’m looking forward to that bread recipe. We make all our own bread now too and we are always looking for new recipe’s.
    Stoney Acres recently posted…A Mid April Garden Tour!My Profile

  7. Mimzy says:

    Every thing looks great at Happy Acres- I’ve been so busy, I feel like I’m missing out on the few days of spring we’ve had. Today were back to winter temps with more cold weather on the way. Keep up the great posts!

  8. PhilaGardener says:

    Hi Dave,

    That shredded paper mulch sure looks nice. I have access to a lot of white office paper (shredded) but was concerned about chemicals from the print. Do you have any sense of whether toner, etc. bring hazards into the garden if used as mulch or compost material? Thanks, and Happy Gardening!

    • Dave says:

      That’s a great question! I do not have any definitive answer as to the chemical residues on paper. I do know our local newspaper uses soy based ink that is non-toxic, but I don’t know about the other paper products. Or cardboard, for that matter. FWIW, we shred paper from a variety of sources to use on our gardens. We use sheets of newspaper covered with straw too. My theory is that if the chemicals in the papers and cardboard are hazardous, I shouldn’t be handling them in the first place! I guess everyone has to find their own level of comfort.

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