Green Wizardries: A Brave New Spring

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“Come look at this,” my husband called.  The ewe lambs were chasing a pair of ravens around their paddock.  It was really cute.  The ravens were trying to pull tufts of wool off the lambs and the lambs objected.  By lambs, I mean little sheep under one year of age.  I do not like to lamb until much later in the spring when the sweet little babies can be greeted by pleasant weather.

The ravens love to line their nests with lambs’ wool.  Another sheep farmer told me the same thing is happening to his flock and, indeed, this happens every spring but I have never seen them try to steal wool so early.

Ravens in the southern part of the province tend to lay their eggs in February which means building the nest in later January but ravens are very wise and this pair are quite old and they are successful parents.  I expect they know more than they let on.  Spring may well come early this year.

Which brings us to the seed order.  I have various favourite seed sellers.  My top pick is Sal Dominelli’s Sweet Rock Farm on Gabriola Island.  Sal has been growing seed for more than twenty years and is an organic producer of open-pollinated and heritage seeds.  I got some Island Star cannabis seeds from him a couple of years ago and grew a monster plant that has kept us and our friends in marijuana which we use to make ginger snap cookies as sleep aids.  I really like Island Star because it is an old-fashioned cannabis strain that does not tear the top of your head off.

Sal produces about 90% of his own seeds but does bring in a few varieties from other organic farmers. He only has three varieties of cucumber but the varieties he produces are excellent and his seed is always very fresh and he packages ample seed in each envelope.  Other seed companies are not so generous.  I will buy most of the seeds I purchase this year from Sweet Rock Farm and no, I don’t get a discount for promoting his excellent products.  

Dan Jason’s Salt Spring Seeds has lots of varieties to choose from and he is an organic producer and a very nice man.  I like the quality of his seeds and if Sal doesn’t have something I want, I can almost be sure of getting it from Dan Jason.  

My next favourite seed company is Richter’s Herbs.  They have an encyclopedic variety of culinary, medicinal and magical herbs.  I limit myself to three new herbs a year so I can study them and learn how best to prepare them.  Richter’s does not advertise their magical herbs but they do hint at the folklore behind some of them.  I recommend John Micheal Greer’s Encyclopedia of Natural Magic if you are interested in developing a magical garden.  

Other garden jobs in January include putting another layer of mulch on any root crops you still have in the ground.  The carrots and beets will thank you if you can get this done before then next really cold snap.  Frost damages their tops, causing them to rot.  While you are at it, the leeks would also appreciate a few more handfuls of leaves tucked between their stocks.  

If it looks to be going to minus five degrees Celsius or lower, especially if there is no snow cover, it is a good idea to cover any leafy greens such as chard, kale or lettuce that you have in the garden with tarps or whatever coverings you can drag over them.  

It is important to remember that you cannot pick any vegetables in the garden while they are frozen. If you do, they will thaw to mush once you get them indoors. I will go out and get a supply of leeks, carrots, beets and kale before we get a big freeze.  I leave the vegetables in an enclosed and unheated porch where they keep very well. If your root crops are well mulched, they will not freeze and will be fine to pick even if you have to dig them out from a layer of snow.  I just prefer to dig them before all that unpleasantness.  

By the later part of January, it will be a good time to start pruning fruit trees, grape vines, fruit bushes and kiwi vines.  I saw one small orchard on Denman that is already pruned to within an inch of its life.  I checked the trees of one of the older farming families on the island and they have not yet started to prune.  I think I will follow their lead.  

Keep your secateurs clean between each tree or bush.  I like to wipe mine down with a Dettol-soaked rag.  Dettol is not as hard on the steel as bleach is.  

I have the first bright yellow aconite blooms in my garden.  I think this is going to be an okay year.