Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bears Abound And Rebound All Around

Sunday, June 30, 2013

61.2°  here on the mountain this morning. Quiet. Windless.  The valley below my office window is a field a floating fog that drifts in layers so slowly I have to watch carefully to see movement. My eyes keep searching for Mrs Doe Deer, a recent mother and a frequent visitor to breakfasts of timothy and clover grasses which she seems to prefer. We watched the morning she delivered her fawn in the field in front of us and marveled as she coaxed it to its feet to nurse. It is fascinating how a fawn, still wet from birth, knows how to bump against its mother and get more milk. Mrs. D is ever watchful when she feeds as her ears stay perked up to catch sounds of danger and insure that her baby is safe. 

Spring is an interesting time in Vermont and early summer provides frequent animal sightings. Some of these we enjoy, others we enjoy less. Friday's view of a young skunk heading to my honey bees was neat to watch but unpleasant to think about. I banged on the window and scared the little one away before (s)he encountered the electric fence for the first time. (maybe, maybe not). Just the same, the fresh, spanky clean black and white fur and wet black nose were fun to see, especially from the safety of my office window. 

Less than a week ago, friend Michelle was standing in our dining room looking out the window in preparation to say goodbye after a visit. Then her voice had an obvious "octave experience" as she looked out the window and found that Karl the Wonder Dog's barking was not at the neighbor's oft antagonizing cat but instead at a two year old black bear. The bear was in Gear No. 1, Lowest-of Lows,  and walked so slowly that you wanted to go push him up the hill. No amount of yelling made him go any faster. He had just walked right by the back door and at under twenty feet from the window, he showed no fear and actually seemed irritated to be coaxed along. When Michelle left ten minutes later she had to wait while the bear exited the woods by a neighbor's home and walked right up the middle of the road to Rt 232, not speeding up and continuing to show he was fearless and in charge. I don't know if the "he" was a "she" but it was a two year old for sure.

For three weeks now I have been trying to put the flower farm back together after a terrible wind, rain and hail storm arrived while I was enjoying some hiking in Acadia National Park. The repair work is about down to fence repair and although I probably should have done that as soon as I finished with the downed trees and brush, I put it off. Yesterday as I walked down to work in the hosta display garden, a track in the mud caught my eye. A bear had come across Route 2, walked under the floppy fence, and through the lower daylily garden. What was most interesting was the way the tracks went to the edge of the property behind the display garden and then returned to the daylily rows. This bear was apparently checking buds and looking for pretty but as yet unopened daylily blooms as it went up and down two different rows before returning to Route 2. The Winooski River is running at almost maximum force now and the bear obviously decided it was not going for a swim. 

Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Division reports that we have over 6000 black bears now and the population exceeds what they feel can be properly managed. They have extended the fall hunting season for this year and they are confident they can keep things in control. I am not sure their numbers are correct as last summer we had three sows here at the house that had a total of 6 cubs between them. Work the math and you might see the source of the regular bear sitings. A friend down Route 2 from the flower farm has a bear with dumpster experience and those guys are difficult to retrain (not possible). I suspect I will be commenting on bear behavior again.

A month's worth of rain has kept gardeners thinking of gardening but not in their gardens.There's only so much sqwoosh-sqwoosh, sqwoosh anyone can take and even rain wear gets too wet after day upon day of heavy rain. The sun is breaking through the clouds now and we're hopeful that gardeners will stop by the flower farm and make purchases. The daylily fields are still wet with over 16" of rain in a three weeks but the resulting scape count is exceptional.  Daylilies are well budded and although it appears that the bloom time of some varieties is off by a couple weeks, the display should be really special at the farm in a couple weeks, maybe less if we get some sun. 

We are digging from the fields now although I have to say that it takes courage to dig along the top rows that are heavy clay as boots sometimes sink faster than a shovel or a spade and we end up hosing off the plants and ourselves after digging. The yellows and oranges that are first to bloom will very soon be accompanied by every color but blue and the field will slow traffic on Route 2. Here's an image of what will be obvious in a couple weeks.

Gail, Alex and I hope you will stop by for a personal visit soon or order on-line if you cannot get up/over/down to see us. Farming is difficult work no matter what the weather or the type of farm, so please try to support all farmers and understand the stress that bad weather all over the country has caused. There are dairy and beef farmers all over who have yet to make their first cut of hay because it will never dry and there are folks who rely on single crops like strawberries that have poor crops this year because of the rain. CSA's have typically made bountiful offerings of spring greens by now but rains have not been helpful to even fairly easy crops such as lettuce, chards and choys. I have no idea  how the potato growers are doing but know for sure that in many place save for certain quick draining river bottom soil, the corn crops will never make "knee high by the 4th of July" and some crops have already been replanted at great expense. Again, think what it's like to put food on your plate, flowers on your table and support farmers for what they do.

For me, it's time to get to the flower farm. I'll probably be sitting at the front table in half an hour reading the Sunday paper but when I close up the last section, another day will be under way. Stop and say hello, bring your questions, bring your kids. Gardening is a good way to have fun and keep  family, friends, and neighbors together.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I hear the loons at the pond talking loonish which I clearly do not understand. Friday I saw a loon mom on Joe's Pond with a single chick swimming close to her. It felt good to see another successful hatch for such an interesting and very primitive bird. I love 'em!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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