Sunday, March 20, 2011

Duck, Duck, Gooseberry

This being the first weekend of Spring, it was certainly nice that it didn't pour with rain. Both Saturday and Sunday were mixed sun and cloud with quite a nice 10 degree C temperature. I had a huge to-do list waiting for this weekend: prepare the area along the south side of the house for apple and peach tree planting; get the front beds dug under and begin to plan what will be planted in there; and finally, plant the two gooseberry bushes I purchased one day when I was at the nursery for mushroom manure.

Saturday dawned sunny (at least as sunny as it has been in quite a long while) and dry. I quickly ate my traditional breakfast of toast with liverwurst and a couple cups of tea. Pulling my hair back into a pony tail and donning my most expendable clothes, I ventured out to greet Spring. I have to say, it was glorious. Birds were trilling in the trees and watching greedily as I upended the earth revealing all manner of woodbug, earthworm, and even the occasional snail. I started with the peach tree. I have purchased a varient new to me "Frost" which claims to be leaf curl resistant and a heavy producer....GREAT. Exactly what I was looking for. With my tools and bone meal/lime mix at the ready I dug into the ground.

To my surprise, the soil along side of the house is significantly deeper than the 1/4 inch I find in other parts of the yard. The ever present black plastic still needs to be wrangled however, and I quickly find myself cursing whatever landscaper thought it was a good idea to lay it down, seemingly over the entire yard.

The weather cooperates with periods of sun and periods of cloud, so I don't get too overheated doing the really heavy work and in short time, I have a peach tree ensconced in a new home. As I have done my job very well the soil is begging for more, so I add three of my six Blushing Maiden tea bushes around the outside of the area of the peach. I am hopeful they will make good companions.

Two similar efforts and two hours later, I have planted both the Cox Orange Pippin and the Courtland apples down slope from the peach. My heavy lifting gardener is bringing me a load of stone and soil when he gets back from holiday so that I can build small terraces around each of the trees thus saving the water and soil from running away down hill, and potentially giving me space to do more plantings.

I have to say, sitting on the chair observing my work definitely gave me much pleasure but I knew that my back and my butt would be singing a different song by morning!! The last thing we had to do before nightfall was put up some deer detering fencing, otherwise the trees would be stripped bare of bark by morning.
All in all, I was very very pleased with my day.

Sunday dawned, first day of Spring, and I wasn't nearly as stiff as I thought I might be....but I was definitely more tired starting out. I didn't have much left on the list so I focused on the Gooseberries. Well on one Gooseberry.

I walked around the yard looking for a spot with a good amount of sunshine and at least a six foot space for the berry to fill in. We had taken an old deck down in the very back a few years ago and had just left the site bare except for some grass and the intrepid St. John's Wort to fill in. It would be perfect. So I dug a hole 3x the diameter of the pot of the Gooseberry, added half a bag of well rotted mushroom manure, a small scoop of the lime/bone meal mix and popped the little bush right in. Watering it in well, I was done! 

Now I don't know how many of you know anything about Gooseberries. I have never eaten one, nor even see a bush in full production. But I do know they are prolific, they are extremely winter hardy (my Finish variant pictured here claims it is hardy to minus 45 degrees Celsius!) and are soooo thorny event the deer won't touch them. Gooseberries are a good source of Vitamin A, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron and Ascorbic acid, so they will be a good addition to our diet both fresh and prepared.

That bush (and the one still sitting in a pot awaiting its final home) will provide a lot of fruit in a good year. So, a quick internet search revealed several appealing recipes for gooseberry chutney that I want to try. Gerry has also said that he ate some amazing gooseberry pie at the home of childhood friend Richard, so we will definitely put that on the menu. And of course there is always gooseberry wine!

Overall, I think it was a good welcome to Spring....and the yard definitely looks good compared to its previous winter dowdiness. There are Thrushes and Robins picking through the upturned soil. I saw two large ladybugs crawling soo very slowly along the branches of an azalea, and soon we will add bees to the mix. Winter was long and dreary but this weekend made up for it all in one go. It is good to be alive, to be fit enough to enjoy the work, and to live in a place where we don't have to worry so much about war, famine, violence, or disaster. Mingled with they pleasure with my work, I also grieve for the people of Japan, of Christchurch, of Libya and of Yemen. There welcome to Spring is not nearly as joyful as mine. This most of all is what I wish for them.


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