The first tendrils of spring have started to gently grasp western PA in its grip and there is only one thing to say ~ Whoo Hoo!! It’s about time! For the past week each day has been either wall-to-wall sunshine or very warm or sometimes both. The brown grass now has an undercurrent of green, the formerly semi-green grass is now definitively green and the grass over the septic field is verdant and growing. Weeds are sprouting, the first spikes of the day lilies by the backdoor have pushed their way up through soil and remnants of last year’s flowers and the buds on the maples have begun to swell in response to the strengthening sun.
Sure, there will definitely still be coatings of snow to come and temps dipping into the low twenties or lower, but spring has sprung! With the tilting of the earth’s axis, the shift from the dead-of-winter to late winter has clinked into place with a resounding ka-thunk. And as each week passes, the grip of the shiny new spring will grow, swaying the west wind to blow warm and help banish the cold north wind for another year.
The birds have begun to return in droves, which would include the grackles, red-winged blackbirds, robins, Canadian geese and cowbirds. Seagulls were spotted at the strip mall yesterday. (Ok, the nearby state lake, Lake Arthur is big enough to support its own small flocks of gulls. The gulls seem to be extremely fond of fast food and haunt the local malls looking for handouts. But what do you expect, they’re gulls.) Surprisingly there has even been the return of a few solitary birds, such as a goldfinch and a red-tailed hawk. The males have started the wooing, hoping to entice their mates, though I have not seen any sign of nest building yet. But it’s still early.
Birds are not the only creatures to be making a comeback. Skunks, possums, the groundhog that lives under my shed and even a chipmunk or two, have all put in appearances. Yes, Harry’s back and guarding ‘his’ compost piles from all others. I just hope that Harry notices the neighbor’s cat that’s been frequenting the front yard before the cat notices him.
Gardening is still a bit on the slow side. The ground is saturated and still semi-frozen a few inches down. The most I’ve been able to do is to start clearing the remains of last year’s plants, breaking the stalks into pieces and leaving them to rot in place. I’ve found that it’s much easier that way, instead of dragging all to the compost pile and letting it rot there. This way it doesn’t need to be returned to the garden beds the following year and it keeps the compost pile down to a manageable level.
This year’s seed catalogs are perused and seeds are ordered. This coming week it will be time to start peppers, tithonia and petunias. The best seed starting method I have found is using Parks’ biodome system along with heating pads placed under the seedlings. The biodomes are reusable after a quick wash in bleach water; all that needs replaced are the bio-sponges. The seedlings roots have no problem breaking through the sponges as they do with jiffy pots. It’s fast, clean and affordable. Even the smallest seeds are easy to germinate.
Starting your own seeds is… satisfying, rewarding and crucial for serious gardening. After thirty-some years gardening, I truly believe that. Starting your own plants opens up hundreds of different types of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash and flowers that the local gardening center just doesn’t carry. The wealth of variety available is staggering.
One more bit of advice about seeds ~ shop around for a seed company. Find a company that grows its own seeds and is located in area of the country. I order mostly from Johnny’s Select Seeds , a company in Maine that specializes in seeds for northern gardeners. I figure that if the veggie or flower can be grown in Maine, I stand a very good chance of success in western PA. There is little more frustrating than discovering that maybe the reason you’re not having any luck with a certain cucumber is that it was originally grown in Thailand or been mispackaged in Thailand. Been there, done that.
50% sun/ 50% clouds, slight East wind, 27°F/-3°C
She is very shy and usually just flies away when anyone goes outdoors.
He's not quite as shy as the female. Still, we played chase-the-bird-around-the-tree for a while.
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker (JDinWPA
She has been visiting my feeders every day, all winter long. The male hadn't been seen since last fall. This was taken right after the male showed up and, wow, she was not happy. I've never heard her make such a racket!
This male cardinal has been hanging around my yard for the past two years or so. He used to be smaller than the other males and a lot easier to pick out. But he's also the one that loves to raise his crest.
They're back and they loved to pose.
There is just the slightest hint of green in the grass.
They're not the kindest birds, but their coloring is striking.
His tail is fanned getting ready to fly off. Please note the swelling of the buds in the maples tree. :}
Please note the swelling of the buds in the maples tree. :}
It's not too clear but I caught the nuthatch in a dive for one of the feeders.
This afternoon there were seven bees buzzing the bird seeed on the deck rail. They had to be picking up the corn dust from the milling.