The peonies are poking up, and the fruit tree buds are swelling. I can hear the rumblings of spring on the way... with the hum of bees making tentative flights after almost 2 months in their winter cluster. Things are coming back to life in the vegetable garden, the kale, swiss chard, sorrel and parsley are growing new leaves from plants left last fall. I often leave plants to experiment and see if they'll grow again in the spring, the chioggia and golden beets, along with the spicy mustard greens are growing new leaves. Soon I will be outside, weeding, composting, transplanting, and creating the beginnings of this years garden. I know we'll have more snow and cold, but I always start around the 3rd week of January, it's part of my internal timing. Winter gardening has it's own virtues, like being able to move plants and trees and seeing the bones of a tree or shrub to prune properly. Being able to have a clean slate and start over, and try to learn from last years garden what worked, or didn't.
This week our weather has mostly been in the 30's and 40's, yesterday we even had a mild snow flurry. A couple days ago it was around 50, the bees were flying ( they will start flying in 50 degree weather). In the northwest we can have mild days in the middle of winter, so it felt good to have a sunny day today and be outdoors. I walked all around the garden, the flower beds, and fruit trees, accessing what's growing, and what needs pruning. Today I organized my seeds and gave them a new moisture proof container. Even though I've been storing them indoors, I felt like they were having too many humidity fluctuations with our rain soaked days we'd been having, the rivers and valley are flooding again, and many roads are closed.
I let one of the mini rex rabbit does go in to visit the buck today, we should have babies in around 30-31 days. Tomorrow I'll let another one, and the next day the 3rd one. You always want to take the does to the bucks cage, and never the buck to the does cage. She is territorial and may hurt him, bucks however will happily share their lovenest with the does. The chickens were allowed out to run around for a few hours in the sun, and loved scratching for bugs and grubs. Yesterday we had an evening grosbeak visit our bird feeder. That was exciting, because it is so early in the year for them, I should look up and see where they've flown in from. The robins will be arriving in a few weeks, and their song is a true sign of spring.
This time of year the thought of aged manure and compost is on my mind. Soon we'll be putting an ad on craigslist for aged alpaca or llama manure, we specify aged and a tractor to load, we bring a trailer to haul it in. I have traded with fruit trees, berry bushes, and planters, along with paying for loads. We try to get it a couple of times per year. Our animals don't currently make enough manure for our garden needs, aged manure and good compost are key factors in garden success and worth finding a good source. You can use any farm animal manure, we just happen to like the size and ability to break down with the alpaca and llama.