Saturday, May 14, 2022

Meanwhile In The Orchard


Vivid hues of crabapples

Will we have pears this year?

The orchard is a-buzz with activity as the warm weather coaxed the blossoms from the trees. Our new bees are delighted to find something new every day. Orioles, bluebirds, catbirds and hummingbirds flit back and forth.

It was two years ago that we spotted this distinctive nest of the oriole in a pear tree. Where have they hidden their domicile this year?

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Happy Pollinators

Dandelions! How they grow when there a few warm days with sunshine!

Previous generations welcomed the arrival of dandelions every spring. Leona Matteson Tasilllo, our beloved "Auntie Snip" went out into the garden and orchard on this old family farm every spring with her paring knife to harvest dandelions well into her 90s. Then she'd carefully wash and cook them and leave a message that we should stop at her place on our way home from work to pick up the greens for our dinner.

I have to admit I wasn't much of a fan of dandelion greens until I tried Auntie Snip's offering. Now both Arthur and I forage in our hoop house every spring for those tender greens while outside the snow still blankets the yard.

My grandfather loved dandelion greens too. He writes:

"Some folks are as delighted over the advent of the odiferous leek as I am over the appearance of the lowly dandelion. Everybody to his or her own liking. Dandelions were on the menu at this domicile Monday night. Best food I've had since last dandelion season." 

And later in the year he writes:
"Dandelions are blooming in most delightful profusion all over the landscape.  Some folks cuss 'em but with the green of the May grass, they are beautiful just the same."
Today, we rely so much on mass-marketed foods displayed in our full-serve supermarkets, we don't recognize many of the edible resources looked upon as weeds.* 

Dandelions are but one very visible example. How did folks come to loathe this tooth-edged plant with its bright sunshine-y flowers and begin to wage war on it by dousing it with chemicals?

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, homeowners use more than 10 times the amount of herbicide and pesticides on their lawns per acre than farmers do. That is a stunning and alarming statistic. 

This wanton use of harmful chemical herbicides is tied to the loss of pollinators across the globe. Without pollinators, our food systems will collapse and we will starve. To refresh your knowledge about pollinators, follow this link to the USDA.

In the United Kingdom, a public awareness campaign was launched by the Pesticide Action Network aimed at celebrating the role of the dandelion in supporting pollinators. One of its goals is to stop the application of herbicides and allow the dandelions to complete their life cycle. They urge residents to use these materials to inform local governments and other organizations about the loss of pollinators.

So here's to keeping our honeybees alive, keeping nature in balance and celebrating the arrival of the dandelion each spring.

*Update: May 13, 2022

I came across this clipping from a 1975 edition of The Potter Enterprise, from the Womanwise column penned by Muriel Lindhome.  Mildred Bashline and her husband Stanley had a small rustic cabin on Denton Hill and a big vegetable and flower garden. The last I knew, her blueberry bushes, trapped behind their falling-down chicken wire fence, still bear fruit, likely enjoyed only by the catbirds and robins.