Skip to content

Blackberry winter

⬆︎ A cold spell in May is nothing new in this area. Older generations, more engaged with the weather than most of us are these days, called it “blackberry winter” — a cold snap while the blackberries are blooming. This blackberry has invaded my abelia bush, but I’ll leave it for now. Spring this year has been oddly cold and dry enough to make me nervous. Is it La Niña?

⬆︎ The crimson clover bloomed about two weeks later this year than it did last year.

⬆︎ White clover perennializes and spreads. Crimson clover doesn’t. I’m making a tradition of sowing at least five or ten pounds of crimson clover in the yard each fall. I stop mowing to let it bloom. There is nothing more cheery than a stand of crimson clover on a spring morning. But where are the bees? A neighbor’s theory is that there’s a lot of things blooming for the bees right now, including trees in the woods, and clover is not the bees’ first choice.

⬆︎ My rhododendron has achieved a very respectable size.

⬆︎ Spiderwort. I have both white and blue.

⬆︎ The garlic is doing well. I’ve had to water it often, but the garlic likes cool weather.

⬆︎ I pruned aggressively in the orchard during the winter. The trees are tall enough that I was able to trim lower limbs to make mowing easier. Because of the pruning, the blooms were more sparse this year. I think that may be a good thing, though. Last year the peach tree, in particular, had far more fruit than the tree could support. I’m not sure that one could learn enough about keeping an orchard even if one had three lifetimes in which to learn. Every year is different. Fruit trees are like willful, unruly children. Some errors in keeping an orchard can be fixed. But there is nothing I will be able to do about the woods that adjoin the orchard on two sides. The squirrels come over the fence and steal.

⬆︎ This amazingly green romaine will have the honor of being the first thing in the garden to be eaten. The early garden this year was almost a total waste. The soil was just too cold for germination. My experiment with a cold frame did not go well. I hope for better luck later on, using the cold frame for winter vegetables. This romaine was started from a plant that I bought at the mill in Walnut Cove. We still have nighttime temperatures in the 40s (F) for the next week or more. I’ve put in a few summer vegetables, all of them plants from a garden shop, and will add more in a week or two. It’s still too cold, though, to plant summer seeds.

⬆︎ Each year, the house seems to recede a bit deeper into the woods. Still-young trees in front of the house — poplar, maple, and sycamore — will overhang the driveway in five or ten more years and pretty much obscure the house from view. That is according to plan. Many of the trees in the abbey’s yard are volunteers that spread from the woods. But the trees that Ken and I planted, including the many arbor vitae trees, were carefully placed so that eventually the house will feel enclosed in a stand of woods a bit less sparse, and more managed, than the wild woods at the edges of the yard. To live here is to forest-bathe, especially on the back side of the house. There may come a time when some trees will have to be sacrificed to provide more sun, especially uphill where the garden is.

⬆︎ I have only five acres. The adjoining property owners have much larger holdings of land. Fortunately the way they choose to use their land is agreeable to me. Even their gun range down in the creek bottom, though it’s noisy sometimes, is a good thing to have nearby. I practice my shooting there, with no apologies to the local Republicans that I’m a Democrat. They find it highly amusing, actually, that a San Francisco liberal is such a good shot and has a concealed carry permit. They might be surprised, actually, how many San Francisco liberals know how to shoot. That’s an antique rifle in the photo, a sniper rifle made for the army.

⬆︎ The neighbors seem to have, or to have access to, all sorts of heavy machinery. Here they’re digging out a spring on their land up on the ridge to the south of the abbey. The spring produces about five to ten gallons a minute. Their plan is to pour concrete and to build a springhouse. Stokes County is known for its springs, which a hundred years or so ago attracted summer tourists to the area that is now Hanging Rock State Park. The plan for this spring is to make it into a natural, backup water supply. Everyone in these parts has a well as the primary source of water.

⬆︎ This new bee hive belongs to the neighbors and is on the south ridge near the spring. Game cameras up there often get pictures of a young black bear whom they call Yogi. I’m concerned that Yogi will smash the hive, but so far so good. My clover is only about five hundred yards away as the bee flies. Hopefully it’s the sourwood in the woods that the bees are working right now, since they disdain my clover. Sourwood honey is the most prized of the local honeys.


  1. Chenda wrote:

    I’m loving that gothic facade David, its all looking very Tolkien-esque 🙂

    Monday, May 10, 2021 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Chenda… Thank you!

    Monday, May 10, 2021 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *