The camellias are blooming, a little later this year than last. We have had a week of relatively dry and balmy weather (well, in the 50s) and the bees have been out foraging pollen from them and also the neighborhood filberts, probably some early crocus and a few other things. They have also been all over the yard collecting water, which tells me they are getting into their honey stores….raising the baby bees of spring! All four hives have been flying, so it should be pretty exciting around here come swarm time. I am really looking forward to this year’s growing season.
We bred the bunnies in late January, and Snacks is already exhibiting very maternal behaviors…I caught her today collecting nesting materials for her bunny box. If you have never seen a bunny with a mouth full of hay you are missing out on some serious cuteness. And Snacks is already pretty adorable across the board: very pretty, friendly, easy going, loves her food and her treats, even seemed to like Poppa bunny. Momma bunny is much shyer and less sociable, and also eats a fraction of what Snacks does, although she is a year older and more petite generally. She also still is not a huge fan of Poppa bunny, though I think she was successfully bred this time around. We shall see. You can tell when a male bunny has mated successfully: he makes a little bunny squawk and falls over on his side.
The girl bunnies are currently housed over the new asparagus patch. We grew our own crowns from seed last year as recommended by Steve Solomon, with pretty great results. Hoping to harvest a few spears this year from the new crowns. Asparagus loves plenty of fertilizer so we put the rabbits over the 9 year old patch in January, and now they are fertilizing the new patch this month. Poppa bunny is housed over the new chicken run, and together they are fertilizing and tilling and weeding one of my new raised garden beds! Huz made my garden all raised beds for my birthday present this year. This should help me maximize space used to grow food, keep weeds under control, and save Huz from my ire when he goes stomping through the garden in his big boots. No more “Uh, honey, you’re standing on the garlic……(sigh) NOW you’re standing on the potatoes”. I am also moving the perennials and herbs back by the honeybees.
February is the time to prune the fruit trees, and I really whacked back the Autumn Russet with a vengeance. That tree has always had a weird shape and when it was competing with the plum (now gone) for light it really reached for the sky. Hopefully the laterals that are left will thicken up into a better more balanced horizontal structure. I really need to bring the comice pear back down, but fear without a better ladder that it is too tall to safely prune already. I have heard that apples are remarkably resilient, and really you can do no wrong with pruning, although if you over prune the tree will not bear a good crop that season. A good rule of thumb until the tree is in balance is to prune about a third a year. The other good rule of thumb that I probably violated is to leave a dominant terminal bud. This bud produces the hormones that help limit watersprouting. Hmmmm. I suspect the Russet will not make too many apples this year, I think I pruned it back closer to half. The Prima apple had a huge crop last year, so (even with all my thinning) between that and the pruning this will probably not be a banner year for apples. That’s ok, it will be a banner year for something! Maybe pears. Maybe bunnies. Maybe asparagus…..
My niece and I took some chickens to a processor in Willamina, OR last month. It was frighteningly easy, I am afraid to report, to drop off a cage full of live birds (in my case, the 8 surviving chicks from Whitey’s bout with motherhood last fall, who had been out on pasture at Big Table Farm), go out to breakfast, and return an hour later to cleaned, packaged, and chilled ready to eat chicken. Processing cost was a little over 3$ a bird. We had one of the pullets for dinner last night, and she was absolutely delicious. It was a very small operation, family owned, and everyone was as nice as they could be. Here is the link to their website: Mineral Springs Poultry, for anyone out there who has birds they want to process. They will do small numbers if they are not too busy, but you must make a reservation in advance. It was nice not to have to do it ourselves, I must admit! Be warned, Willamina is a haul from Portland, so might not be worth the trip unless you have several birds to process. A lovely drive though! I wouldn’t mind finding a farm in that area, that is a very pretty pocket of Oregon.