February has been a motley month. Outside, the days swing from winter snow, to pelting rain, to a golden, sun-infused, warm calm in a few hours. Back-and-forth, keeping us on our toes.
Sunrises are working their way north across our hill horizon, but the transition to spring is erratic. We have ice on puddles some mornings, while in the background we are starting to hear the birds’ spring mating calls.
Perhaps the best harbinger of spring, though, is the maple sap, which has started to flow.
The Bohemian Waxwings have hung around for weeks, dwindling from enormous flocks to smaller groups of thirty or forty. At first, they were spooked if I even opened a door, but eventually they grew more comfortable with us and I was able to get closer for photos.
We took a road trip last week to the FEDCO warehouse, a little more than an hour away. FEDCO is a seed, tree, and garden supply cooperative that is one of Maine’s treasures. On the way home, we swung over to Unity, the little farm town that hosts the Common Ground fair, is next to Bryant’s museum, and has a sizable traditional Amish population (previous Unity posts, Finding Common Ground, and Bryant’s).
Now it has another attraction. A world-class chef, formerly at Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, left the high-pressure restaurant life, became Amish, and set up a charcuterie in the woods of Unity, with no-electricity, in the Amish way. His story has received considerable publicity lately (here’s a link to a great NPR piece amish deli) and, after driving down a rutted dirt lane, we found a long line inside the little store. People from all over were patiently waiting to buy sausage and cured meats, while watching what was kind of a show. This former chef, with a long beard and traditional Amish clothing, talked everyone up while he cut meat on fascinating non-electric slicers that looked like hundred-year-old relics. He was always moving, efficiently wrapping the meat and cheese in butcher paper with string pulled from overhead, while his young Amish assistant rang up purchases on an old-style cash register. We went home with some bacon, smoked pork loin, and smoked cheese. I can attest to its deliciousness. I am continually amazed by what Maine has to offer.
February has been spring-planning time. Our (massively over-ambitious?) seed orders have arrived, we are gauging drainage and soil moisture to plan our orchard and garden bed lay outs. Likewise, we have been paying careful attention to winter sun and wind for locating our bee hive. We ordered the hive early and I happily spent two mornings constructed the frames that will hold the wax foundation for the bees to build their comb.
Much more to come on the hive when we set it up for the bees’ arrival near the end of April.
Our winter garden revealed a new side this month. It sprouted rocks and shells. When we moved here late last May, we could see some shells and unusual rocks peeking out from under the perennials. But only now, with the snow melted and last year’s greenery gone or flattened, is their loveliness revealed. Oyster, clam, mussel, and scallop shells are flanked by small collections of rocks with garnets, mica, rings, striations, and unusual shapes. They are beautiful against the dead winter leaves and stalks. Another unexpected treat from the former owners of this garden. Among the shells and rocks, some sprouts are emerging. Soon we will complete the final first year in this garden, seeing what bulbs will emerge.