Every year I write the same things. I don’t mean to plagiarize my own self — it simply happens. I looked back over my March columns for several years and nothing changes except I’m older and tireder.
Bear with me . . . this year is no exception.
Most years I try to plant a few potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day to have some sort of connection with my Irish forebears. We have a family story dating from the 1700s. The family headed by Gideon Irons left Connecticut for western Pennsylvania in the area of present-day Port Allegheny. This is located at the headwaters of the Allegheny River.
Anyway, Gideon left one daughter, Dorcas, at the new homestead after the spring planting to travel back to Connecticut for more family members. Dorcas ran out of food. She dug the newly planted potatoes, cut the edible portions for herself, and replanted the “eyes.” By the time her dad arrived back from the long trip, the eyes had sprouted and the crop was flourishing.
This year, sadly, I didn’t get any spuds planted on Monday. How interesting that our traditions bind us to our past.
I left several rows of carrots to winter over in the ground as is my custom. I did not cover them with a thick layer of hay until it had frozen hard. Big mistake! Most are mushy and not edible. Usually, they are sweet and delicious after a winter underground protected by a cozy layer of mulch. Everything I’ve ever learned comes from mistakes made in the past.
While turning over some beds inside a hoop house, I discovered two tiny sweet potatoes with sprouted ends. I was properly astonished. They are such heat-loving plants. How could they sprout after freezing solid this winter? I promptly planted them.
I’m enjoying pea shoots, lettuce and spinach grown in large tubs in the unheated greenhouse I planted in January right after the Solstice. They took forever to germinate but finally they are harvestable.
The weather hasn’t quite caught up with the light change. My chickens are laying like crazy. Good thing! I was sick of feeding them for one or two eggs a day, if I was lucky. I never put a light in the coop to trick their bodies into laying during the dead of winter. A hen, like a woman, has every egg she will ever produce at birth. So you can trick the hen but it means her egg-laying life will be shorter. I like to keep them several years. I do become quite fond of them.
My witch hazel is blooming, but it pales when compared to the specimen on Skiff avenue in Vineyard Haven. I believe it belongs to Doris Billings? To the casual observer it can be mistaken for forsythia but it blooms much later. There is another witch hazel blooming in front of Middletown Nursery.
I started cutting my lavender. I had grown it from seed several years ago and have a long row of beautiful plants. I like to cut them to within an inch of their lives in early spring. Otherwise they go all woody and unkempt. Same is true for thyme and sage. They outlive their usefulness if not severely pruned yearly. The good news — they are easily grown from seed.
The hyacinths are up and showing their potential. The flower buds look like lime green pinecones emerging from the ground.
The Vineyard community lost one of its finest last week — Capt. Louis Larsen — a wonderful human being with true joie de vivre. Kudos to his family for carrying on his legacy of generosity and fair play!