Category Archives: spring

No rest for the weary

We have had one heck of a winter in the Northeast this year.  Boston just broke its all-time snow record for the last 20 years over the weekend, and further out where we live it has been a banner year:

This was the first storm
This was the first storm

Of course, all that snow has to go somewhere, which in our case was a big pile next to the deck:

Mount Cocktail
Mount Cocktail

That’s a pre-Prohibition drink perched up on our hastily-assembled ice bar called Satan’s Whiskers.  Here’s the recipe:

1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. orange juice
Dash orange bitters

Old McDonald likes to stir the cocktail rather than shake it with ice.  Your mileage may vary.

Speaking of Old McDonald, he’s got a new hobby, and oh lucky me, it involves more boiling!  The new farming hobby is……wait for it…..maple sugaring.  We did the first part the weekend of March 13:

Drilling The tapEmpty single bagEmpty double bagsOf course, you drill the taps and set the bags, and then you get some warm days and this happens:

Full single bagSemi-full double bags40 gallons worth of that, as it happens, in just about 2 weeks.  40 gallons of sap is equivalent to about one gallon of syrup, or so we have read.  But to get to that syrup, first you have to boil it:

Boiling photo 1And boil it…..

Boiling photo 2And by the second weekend, you will decide that you should also have a propane burner to assist in the boiling, and to help your wife this summer, when she cans vegetables:

Boiling photo 3We are currently at about 2 gallons of not-quite syrup, waiting for its final boil.  It’s sitting in the fridge, because we ran out of time and daylight last weekend, and intend to follow up tomorrow, just in time to have it ready for Easter.  Of course, the homemade maple syrup needs a label:

Cocktail_Farmers_LogoI cannot even tell you how excited I am we’ve got a logo now, courtesy of Old McDonald and Adobe Illustrator.  I am going to get a coffee mug out of this entire endeavor if it kills me.

Halfway there

About half the tulips are now blooming:

Sunlover on left; Professor Rontgen on right

Apricot Impression


Professor Rontgen

The Sunlover tulips are all from a single bag of bulbs but there is quite a color variation in the yellows and oranges.  I can only hope they will continue to bloom year after year.  I am going to have to put some serious efforts into fertilizing and maintenance in the coming years, which will be nothing after digging that pit as Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on us.  We are still waiting for the Hamilton (fringed yellow), Golden Artist (orange/red trumpet), Burgundy Lace (fringed magenta), Blue Parrot (fringed blue), Sensual Touch (like Sunlover but all orange), Blue Amiable (trumpet blue) and Candy Club (multi-headed soft pink) have not yet bloomed. I’m hoping this means the bed will look attractive for a couple of weeks.

Spring has sprung

So last year everyone who reads this blog/ knows me in real life/ is friendly with me on Facebook/ had the misfortune to get in line behind me at the grocery store -heard all about the 240 bulbs I needed to plant.  The box they came in looked like this:

By October 29, they looked like this:

And this week?  Well, this week they look like this:

In a few more weeks, we’ll see whether they’ll actually flower.  They all made it through the winter, though, which was the first hurdle.

Elsewhere in the yard:

Despite the very cold nights and chilly days, I can tell – summer is coming.

Big Plans

 Well, the tulip bulbs are now in.  While other people battened down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy (which thankfully did nothing to us) we dug up an area of approximately 50 square feet in the front yard around our crabapple tree.

First we cut away the sod and hauled it off to another part of the yard:

Then we dug down about 6″ into the dirt.  We uncovered a few shallow tree roots, which we cut off.  If the tree dies, we won’t be upset because it only blooms every other year and when it does bloom, it lasts about a week, then 8,432,452,917 crabapples form, weighing down the branches and leaving a mess on the lawn.  Also, the tree is crooked, as you can see in this photo:

I added bulb fertilizer to the entire area, then I placed all the bulbs in the pit according to the plan I had developed.  There are 11 types of tulips, ranging in height from 10-12″ up to 24-26.”  So I needed the plan.

Trust me, it’s about 6 inches deep

And now we wait, and hope they come up, flower, and actually look good.  Here are some of the types we planted:

Apricot Impression

Blue Parrot
Burgundy Lace

Golden Artist

Ice Cream
Professor Rontgen

You’ll have to wait until spring to (hopefully) see the rest!

Thinking of Spring

I have always loved planting spring flower bulbs.  Even as a teenager, passing by displays at the local nursery or in Home Depot, I would stop to see what was available and more likely than not, pick up a package to put in the ground.  Daffodils are my absolute favorite flower, but I also really love tulips.

This past April, J and I took a visit to the Netherlands for our April anniversary.  I have always wanted to see the tulip fields.  Interestingly, tulips are not native to the Netherlands – they were imported by Ogier de Busbecq, the ambassador of Ferdinand I to the Sultan of Turkey around 1554, and spread across the continent.  For some reason they took off in the Netherlands.

As our flight was landing at Schipol Airport, you could see these huge swaths of color dominating the landscape.  It was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.

Near Amsterdam, in the town of Lisse, is the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens, a flower park featuring more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.  We took a day trip out there to admire all the flowers:

Ice cream tulips

Keukenhof very thoughtfully has several tulip vendors situated within the park, where you can view their color catalogs of tulip bulbs, make your selections, place your order, and those vendors will very helpfully ship those bulbs to you in the fall for planting.  It’s not legal for you to pack the bulbs in your luggage because they must be inspected by USDA inspectors before shipment to the United States, and if you had to carry them back in your luggage you might feel more restrained in your purchasing.  By simply filling out the order form and handing over your credit card, buying tulips is virtually painless!
Until half of the 240 tulip bulbs you ordered show up on your front porch one cool October afternoon:
I will say that these bulbs appear to be the healthiest I have ever purchased – a quick inspection shows they are free of bug damage, rot and mold that have plagued purchases I have made in the U.S.  I would hope they would be a higher quality, given the cost associated with them.  However, the tulips were ones I had never seen here in the U.S., so they were worth it.  To me, anyway.
I can’t help but think that in 16th century Amsterdam, I might have been a victim of tulip mania.  Probably not, though.  I don’t play the stock market now, so I would have been unlikely to speculate on the value of something I would be most interested in planting in the ground.
“Every person is like a single tulip.  While they may blend when together, each one is special in its own light.” – Daniella Kessler