May is the month of greatest transitions here. Just as the weasel's fur changes from white to brown, so does the landscape shed its snowy raiment for muddy expanses that quickly green up and then flower. Temperatures rose from a low of +6F to +78 (which is too hot for me). Surely heat records for May.
On Mother's Day (May 8) we were able to drop the kayak into a slim slip of open water and bob about close to shore. By May 11, we crashed through rotting ice floes,to huge expanses of water which a diverse community of ducks and geese discovered immediately. Yea! Welcome back, feathered friends! No otters this year though. Right on schedule, the lake was fully liquid on May 15, so we scheduled an air HHHH. HLPH PHHH to pick up Bryan on the 17th so he could retrieve his float plane in Willow.
The land starts out a muddy mess, traversed with the sinuous swales that voles carved below the snow. We gather up branchy debris that fell during winter storms and use it to “courderoy” low wet spots that spell “mosquito nursery” to anyone in the region. Initially, these branches provide a bit of a surface to walk over the water and mud. Eventually, they will break down and perhaps raise the surface a bit at a time. Two big, rotting birch trees snapped during a wind storm and slopped over the sap line. We will cut them into firewood this summer. Meanwhile, I collected 20 gallons of sap from 6 trees elsewhere over a few days. A tasty and vitamin rich spring tonic.
I LOVE wandering about the newly opened brownscape to “visit” wild plants that bounce up out of the snow. To me, they are like snowbird neighbors who have returned after a winter away. Because of several years culling thick swathes of devil's club, sweet grass, and wild raspberries, I enjoy a sunny meadow with a prickly rose “garden” orchards of high bush cranberry bushes, and an expanding ground cover of white starflowers and dwarf dogwood. Wild currants tumble gracefully over spruce stumps and under birch trees. These plants are the first to flower, with small, modest mauve and white flowers that perfume the surrounding air. Opportunistic dandelions are pretty, too, and nutritious. Bumblebees dote on the butter yellow flowers of the domestic haskap (honeyberry) bushes which line the south side of our cabin.
Each autumn, I mulch the raised bed gardens with a soft bed of birch leaves. In May, intrepid perennial plants like rhubarb, chives, feverfew, strawberry, and sorrel are the first to pop through, followed, sigh, by the weed chickweed.
To try to retard that weed in my gardens and greenhouse, I SERIOUSLY FURTHER mulched three gardens, totalling 156 square feet, with the mucky chicken bedding I described in the April blog. I also lay garden fabric on the ground, next to the raised bed in my green house and topped it with spruce rounds as stepping stones to retard the rampant growth of weeds in there. I can already see the advantage because of the ferns growing green and lush beneath the fabric – but unable to grow upward or spread spores... except where they find the edges and openings.
WILD and DOMESTIC ANIMAL HUSBANDRY:
I feel sorry for my hens cooped up all winter. They don't like the snow and cold. So it was such a pleasure to see them venture bravely across the snow toward the cabin, under which there is so much dry, dusty, welcoming dirt. Interestingly to me, it was the “lowest three gals” on the pecking order that ventured out first. I wonder if this is analagous to humans. Were the lower orders of societies the brave sailors, pilgrims, and “miner '49ers” who took off first for points unknown? Out and about on brown and green land, the hens function as shallow rototillers, scratching up the dead grass looking for seeds and grubs. We have added two ducks and five more hens to our menagerie, much to our amusement.
We always see moose cows and calves in late May/early June, but never a bear that early in the year... until now. One night about 10 pm I saw a HUGE cow and her dainty calf walking past the cabin. They headed toward a woodsy spot near the lake and then BOLTED out of the trees back toward us. Clearly, they were running away something frightening. Sure enough, two brown bears chased them up hill. They evaded their predators, because we saw them a week later (this evening).
I also surprised a cow and twins around 11 am when I popped outside to stir the hot tub water. The mom stopped, assessed the danger and then trotted up hill, 50 feet past me.
There is never a dull day in May. Much to do. Much to see.