Walking in the Woods

Serviceberries bloom like earthborne clouds now.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is one of the first berries to ripen, in mid June, because it is one of the first to bloom. Distantly related to apples and roses, the Serviceberry trees look like puffy white clouds as you drive down the road in early May. I have several here on the Farm, and I think I may spread some more out in the hedgerows because they are pretty and do have a sweet berry that if I can beat the birds to it, is quite good.

Wild strawberries may be the sweetest fruit in the world.

The tiny blossoms of the wild strawberry spangle the pasture like stars, heralding the fruit that will ripen in the first week of June, and which is probably the best flavor I harvest here at Stonycroft. The fruit will be about the size of the end of my pinkie finger, and if it is too dry, I may not get any.

Partridge berries ripen in spring, not summer.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) is one of those neat little fruits that develops from not one flower but two. They ripen in early May from flowers that set the previous fall. Unfortunately, although they are pretty, they don’t taste like much and have a spongy texture.

Red Trillium

One of the earliest spring wildflowers. They aren’t edible, and as a matter of fact I never pick them, as they are relatively rare.

Young beech leaves are so soft, and neatly pleated.

Goldthread loves the deepest shade.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is named for the bright yellow, threadlike roots. The Native Americans used them for medicine. I haven’t tried that, I just love the tiny blossoms that appear to float over the forest floor, their stems are so thin.

The bright yellow roots give this plant its name.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is such a fun oddity of a flower.

Later in the season “Jack” will become a cluster of bright red berries, but Arisaema triphyllum is not at all edible. The earthy flowers are easy to miss, but a treat to look at when you do find them.

A rare patch of the red trilliums.

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Planting trees

This week I have been planting a lot of things. Yesterday it was raining and I was hurting, so I didn’t do much. Dad and Uncle Mike came down and walked around the garden and farm with Mica and I. Uncle Mike hasn’t seen it in years, as he lives in Wisconsin and visits rarely. Dad had been gone a week, which seems like forever. He was moving a little slowly, but true to form, he wanted to open the beehives and check to see if the queens had gotten out. When you receive a shipment of bees, the queen is kept separately in a tiny cage plugged with candy. Normally it takes 3-4 days for the workers to release her. One of our hives hadn’t gotten the queen out, and it’s been a week. So Dad pried the mesh off one side of her prison and let her free. Now, I had gotten him his veil, but when he started moving beehives I jumped in to help, as he’s not supposed to lift. I got stung right on the upper lip, which made my eyes start to water up a storm. I retreated and got a veil. Bees don’t like being disturbed in the rain, even a light rain!

Christmases yet to come. Planted in an area tilled by the pigs.

I wanted to put some pictures up I took earlier this week, of the trees we were planting. It is soul satisfying to plant trees. They look like sticks now, but I can’t help picturing them when I’m an old lady, tall and stately. I may not be here in NH then, but they will be. The sugar maples won’t be tappable for 20-25 years. Johann will be all grown up and maybe with kids of his own when he taps them some spring. The Christmas trees will see us through all the kids growing up. We got 15 Balsam Fir, and plan to put in another 5 every year to keep our house and a few others in trees each holiday season.

Baby tree... All those rocks came out of the hole I dug for this tree.

The roots of the sugar maples were much bigger than the twigs on top. Pippa had fun helping water the trees and herself!

The pig tractor experiment has been working beautifully. We move the pigs every other day, and in 48 hours, they leave behind lovely turned ground we can plant in. We’ve been using field peas for cover crop and nitrogen fixer. I need to go buy some more seed, actually. The pigs get so excited when we move them they will leap about and frolic, which is funny to see. I don’t know what they are finding under the grass, but I know when we move them to a spot where there’s a rotted piece of wood or log that’s the first thing they go for, crunching it up with those strong jaws to get the grubs that live in the wood. We all like to lean on the fence and watch them work.

Happy pigs in new grass.

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