In case you were wondering, I have been away for a while which is why you haven’t heard from me during the last month or so. Having survived the long, drawn out winter here on the island, I decided I needed a break; no cooking or housekeeping, no near or distant relatives, no pets, no rain or snow; just a pleasant climate with sunshine, pretty views, a nice sandy beach with swimmable sea water lapping at the edge of that beach, and a good book. Time away to recharge my personal battery.
I packed a small bag and travelled to a little village in Mexico, on the west coast, where I have spent quite a lot of time in the past. There, in familiar surroundings, I had the companionship of several like-minded friends who spend the winter months in that quiet and pleasant seaside community. I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday and was a little sorry to have to return to the reality of a late, chilly spring in the Pacific Northwest.
I had left home during monsoon-like conditions and apparently two weeks had done nothing to alleviate the poor weather. Luckily I had brought along a small folding umbrella. Managing to stay fairly dry, though shivering with cold, I made my way, using public transportation, through Vancouver to one of the southern Gulf Islands where C. met me. We spent the Easter weekend with family and friends before driving north and then boating home to our own island.
Spring had arrived while I was away! The daffodils, clematis, wild bleeding hearts, wood anemones, grape hyacinth and a lonely tulip or two are all in full bloom.
The bright green grass in the back yard has grown thick and lush and is ready to be cut. In the vegetable garden the rhubarb has sprouted up tall and thick, the first stalks have already been harvested.
While I was holidaying in sunny Mexico, C. kept busy holding the fort at home. Along with the endless job of firewood harvesting, he built a beautiful looking pile of compost, layering sea weed, sawdust, chicken manure, leaves and kitchen scraps. This ‘lasagna” of compost is cooking away as I write and will soon be ready to top dress the plants in the garden.
C. looked after the tender seedlings that I had sown just before my departure. After the initial bad cat attack (when one diabolical feline managed to dig up half my freshly planted seeds in the indoor seed frame), C. fixed things up nicely, creating a totally cat-proof Fort Knox of seed-starting frames. The tiny bright green tomato and pepper plants plus a few herb and flower starts all looked healthy and have now been potted up into larger containers.
These heat loving seedlings fill the indoor seed-starting set-up with its fluorescent lighting system. The other small seedlings (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts) that prefer cooler weather have been transferred to the outdoor cold frame until later when they will be set out into the vegetable garden. I have placed some spinach seedlings in the cold frame to join the lettuce and spinach plants that I started last fall. These are now quite large and ready to be made into a small salad or to find their way into a lunchtime sandwich. Once they are used up and the weather is warm enough, I will replace the salad greens in the cold frame with basil seedlings that will grow there all summer long.
One of the first things I did after arriving home was to check on my little Mason bee cocoons. They were still in a small, cheesecloth covered jar in the fridge, over-wintering since last autumn when I removed them from their little house to clean and store them, dormant in the fridge until the conditions outside were just right for returning them to their wooden house of holes.
The cocoons looked good, and the bees had not yet begun to emerge, which was a relief. So far, conditions have not been ideal for putting the bee cocoons outside. I thought they might like to start warming up gradually, so I left the jar on the counter in the cool laundry room for a day or so. The weather took a turn for the worse yet again; it was cold, only 7 degrees Celsius. The West Coast Seeds catalogue mentions that Mason bee cocoons should be “put outside on a windless day with a high of about 14 degrees Celsius”. Still too cold for my baby bees! Despite the warnings, the little bees began to emerge anyway. After releasing three bees onto a soggy forsythia bush, I bunged the jar containing the rest of the cocoons back into the fridge to wait for the weather to improve.
A couple of days ago we had a lovely day and I am happy to report that all the Mason bee cocoons are now outside, gradually emerging within the seclusion of the hatching chamber of their little yellow roofed, A-frame house. Soon they will be busy pollinating the apple trees, which have yet to burst into bloom.
Things on our island are normally about a month later than the southern islands, where at Easter, great clouds of plum and cherry blossom filled the air with their soft scents. The bees there were happy, buzzing greedily about their business.
It is an exciting time in the gardening year. I feel pleasantly overwhelmed by all the tasks competing for my attention. Every day, when it is not pouring with rain, I dig a little bit in the vegetable garden, preparing patches of ground as I go. I spread compost over the previously well-limed soil. I add some bone meal, blood meal and Gaia Green, a chemical-free natural organic fertilizer, before planting the vegetable seeds and starts. Here a few peas, there some potatoes (no lime for these), a patch of leeks next to the garlic patch, some parsnip seed there beside the pea patch, and so on until gradually, eventually, all will more or less be planted.
By then we will have reached the middle of the growing season, and there will be bit of a pause before once again, the weeding, the watering, the tending and harvesting will begin to consume the remaining days of summer.