Sprung!

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Yeah, it’s been a while. And it’s just within the realm of possibility that some of you have been wondering what’s been going on here over the last three months. Well, I’m here to tell you!

Winter.

Winter was what was going on here, seemingly for the last several years, and there just wasn’t much to tell. Would you have liked to read about how we had to dig the truck out of a snowbank for the third time that day? Or perhaps about how we were running out of both heating oil and propane because the delivery trucks couldn’t navigate our icy driveway? Or how the snow cost us two taillights and our sanity?

I didn’t think so.

But then, yesterday, it finally ended. Yesterday was the day, at last, that the ice that had entombed our lake broke apart and melted. Our 110-acre lake went from completely iced over to completely ice-free in 36 hours. And, with that, spring broke through.

The filthy piles of snow that lined the driveway are all gone. The ground is soft underfoot. The perennial herbs are doing their magical perennial thing, and sprouting little green shoots. Today, we unwrapped the fig trees. We cleaned out the raised beds. We let the chickens range free.

Chickens always want to help.

Chickens always want to help.

As we take inventory, there’s good news and bad. The oysters are the bad news. Because our seed from 2013 had almost 100% survival, we had many more oysters in the harbor over the winter than we usually do – probably 60-80 thousand. Usually, the threat in the winter is ice, which can push all your equipment off to Portugal, but most of our trays were still where we left them. The oysters, though, couldn’t survive the low temperatures, and it looks like we have about 90% death. It’s heartbreaking, seeing all those beautiful, near-legal oyster shells empty of oysters. But we knew it was a risk leaving them out in the harbor (the alternatives were also risky), and we’re picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and starting over.

Death

Death

But let’s talk about the good news: bees! We were very skeptical that our hive would survive what was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, but they appear to have come through, probably because Kevin built them a hoophouse-like shelter that kept snow and wind off, and probably helped keep the cluster a little warmer. Outside temperatures haven’t been high enough for us to open the hive and see what’s going on, but we’ve been slipping pollen and fondant under the inner cover, and we’ve seen the big crowd of bees. They’ve started foraging, but there isn’t much out there yet. We are cautiously optimistic that this will be our first successfully overwintered colony.

Bees, protected over the winter

Bees, protected over the winter

Also on the good news front, we ended up not running out of heating oil or propane, and we found that our sanity returned pretty quickly once the snow started melting.

And then there’s the closets. The reason we stayed on the Cape this year, rather than fleeing for warmer climes, is that Kevin wanted to do a little home improvement, in the form of adding some much-needed closet space. He moved a wall (our guest room is now a little smaller), and configured two spacious, functional closets where two cramped, odd-shaped closets had been. It was only when I put all my clothes in one place that I realized just how ratty and outdated they really are.

While Kevin was renovating, I was also working. Honest. Some of you know I write a column for the Washington Post on food supply issues – and I’ll confess that it’s one of the reasons I’m not posting here nearly as regularly as I used to. The column, I’m happy to say, is doing well, and I’ve been nominated, for the second year in a row, for a James Beard award. So that’s good, too.

All winter, we’ve been eating down our supply of venison, chicken, and fish, and we’re very much looking forward to the beginning of the season in which we add to, rather than subtract from, our larder. To that end, the sugar snap peas are going in tomorrow, with the radishes. Our hoophouse functioned as a woodshed over the winter, and we’ll clear it out and begin planting there, too. Kevin will unwrap the boat and make sure it’s running smoothly. Our first viable fishing isn’t for a few weeks yet (tautog and squid), but we want to be ready when it comes.

And, as it does every year around this time, hope will edge out experience as we look forward to a fruitful, interesting, successful year.

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Comments

  1. Winter was CRAZY. Sorry to hear the bad news. I am happy Sping is here and glad to hear your good news. Nice surprise to see this post on your blog.

  2. Hey! Glad to see you guys are still alive, even if your oysters aren’t; what awful news- I’m so sorry to read it.

    You said there were risks to leaving them in the harbor but risks with the alternatives; I’m curious to know what the alternatives were and what the risks are with them- more of an education thing (mine- not yours).

  3. Accidental Mick says:

    Welcome back – we’ve missed you.

    I do read your column but there is much more humour in your personal blog and so it is more fun.

    May the Spring bring everything you wish for.

  4. Glad you are back. Been wondering how you wintered. Fantastic news on the bees! Have given us an idea with the mini-hoophouse. Sorry about the oysters (ouch). Hope spring progresses well for you from now. We are praying for no more frost out here in Idaho. Trees very early with blooms and way too early. Apricots look like they survived last weeks freezing nights tho so we’re hopeful

  5. Hi, Everyone! Glad to see you’re still around. Paula, the alternatives are just finding a way to keep them at temperature on land, and if you don’t have refrigerator space (which we didn’t), one way is “pitting,” which is just keeping them in a hole in the ground. Some people do that successfully, but we didn’t have confidence that we could, so we stuck with the harbor.

    Mick, I have to keep the silliness to a minimum in the column, so I’m glad I have an outlet here!

    Hope to hear all of your progress as the growing year gets going!

  6. Oh nooooo, not all those beautiful oysters, what heartbreaking news!

    Great to hear that the hive is doing well though!

  7. Hi Tamar,

    Good to see your back, sad to hear about all those oyster but then as your said spring is here and another year begins.

    Hope to see your name appear as a winner of the James Beard award.

    Henry