Thursday, December 10, 2009

We are all tired of the rain

Two photos: my crape myrtle, to show how beautiful the fall colors of these trees can be. You can select your variety based on flower color, bark color, and fall color (and disease resistance and final tree size). It was worth the effort to me to do some research to find the tree that perfectly fit my needs: lilac flowers, rust tinged bark, and orange and red fall colors. The other photo is of season extending glass cloches in a garden in Williamsburg. We are just now entering our freezing weather for the year, but you can extend your gardening with something this beautiful or something as simple as an old milk jug. You can even cover the whole bed with a garden fabric designed specifically to keep temperatures up and frost off your vegetables. I want some beautiful, hand blown glass covers like these!

My whole yard is wet, really, really wet. In some spots in the lawn you actually sink into mud when you are just walking on the grass. I have to wear boots just to walk up to the gardens, or get mud up the sides of and into my shoes. Just as things start to dry, it rains again, and my shallow hardpan (compacted soil that does not allow water to run through) holds it all at the surface. In the garden the mature broccoli and greens are doing OK, as are the last hot peppers, but the late fall planted garlics are starting to yellow and curl rather than grow strong.

The rain is affecting the creatures who share my gardens as well. The poor hens haven't had a dry spot to stand in for over two months. Even the spot under the hen house that is fully protected is wet from water running under the fence once the lawn got saturated. They have been moulting (losing their feathers, a natural, annual process) but also are listless and not eating nearly their usual amount of food. Imagine having your run muddy for weeks on end! Some straw helps for a little while, but gets incorporated into the mud pretty quickly. They do still get excited, however, for the outer leaves of the broccoli, cabbage and mustard. With the moulting and the short days (less sunlight), they have stopped laying eggs for now. Last week I bought eggs for the first time in over a year. I can barely make myself use them!

The bees, however, have been hardest hit. They can't fly and therefore can't forage or cleanse their systems when it is raining. As a result of the rain they have been trapped in their hives more than usual during the last few months of fall. When I lifted the hives a couple of weeks ago to test their weight, it became obvious that they already have used up most of their winter stores of honey. The two lightest hives have now had one feeding of a 1:1 sugar water mix to try and help carry them over. Yesterday when it was sunny, the youngest hive, Grace, was flying and looked strong. Loretta had one or two bees straggling in and out. Dolly showed no activity. They may be fine and just staying huddled in their winter configuration, but may be lost. I could not bring myself to go tap on the side to listen to see if any bees remain alive there. Maybe this weekend.