January Melt of Art and Gardens

The snow was great while it lasted!  We had a big storm just after Christmas that kept snow on the ground, and accumulating, for a couple weeks.  At it’s height we probably had a foot and a half of snow, which makes for a cozy and festive holiday season.  I know it’s old-fashioned, but I can’t help myself: I have to put on Christmas music when there’s snowflakes falling.

But today marks the end of that season, for now.  It’s definitely a little liberating to walk around the whole yard, not just on the paths that I tediously carved out.  And I haven’t had to worry about the ducks’ water freezing over, a responsibility that was more like another part time job for a while.  Easy living these days now that the chickens have finally emerged from their coop and the ducks have left their hideaway under the porch.   We even covered up the windows in the duck hut with some wax produce boxes to keep out the snow—a perfect fit!

And now that the chickens are out and about, I thought I’d take the opportunity to photograph the (empty) nest boxes in our sweet coop.  I think our last chicken egg was a few weeks ago.

It’s a good set-up, if only the days would get longer, ha.  Our ladies have been ‘cooped up’ with not wanting to get snow on their feet for some reason, so today was a very special day all around.

The birds were feasting today!  And me too…I capitalized on the thawed ground to harvest some leeks.  A little beat up from the cold, but fresh nonetheless!

They still took some effort to pull, mostly because of those roots!  These leeks are just about one year old (to the day), so it makes since they’re thinking themselves rather permanent.

And it’s rather fitting, since the first leeks of 2013 germinated today.  I’ve got the shop lights set up in the bedroom this year (perfect!  Simply turn them on when I wake up, shut them off when it’s time for bed).  Not much room right now, but I’ve got no more seeding til February, whereupon it’s time for the leeks to move to natural light anyway.  So for now, look at their first moments above ground…you can barely see them:

It’s so exciting.  I’ll have to get into time-lapse photography at some point.  :)

I’ve also been cultivating springtime in the home by forcing bulbs.  In the basement I’ve got pots of Montreaux tulips and Thalia narcissus that are just about to finish their chilling requirement.  In the meantime the paperwhites have been putting on a heady display.  I’m a big fan.

And meanwhile, back outdoors, the mache is prime for the harvest:

The best on burgers.  Have I mentioned that?!  Really any sandwich that calls for greens needs mache.  We’re lucky it’s cold out!  Chervil is another plant that loves the cold weather (a winter harvest can be prolific!).  It hugs the ground for a few months but stays green and harvestable, and in spring it goes to flower in a beautiful way.  Some people say it’s difficult to grow, but only if you’re trying to grow it in full sun in the summer. I love chervil’s pretty fern-like foliage in the garden (it’s in the carrot family), and it adds a delicate licorice flavor when finishing stews, especially a beef shank braised with rosemary and thyme, although you’d want to add those two earlier.   Yum!

That’s the garden in January…a suprising amount of activity!  I’ll leave off with a picture of one of our oldest sugar maple trees, the one that had the most damage with last spring’s late snowstorm.  It’s been in my thoughts as these 50-degree January days linger.  We don’t tap this one in particular, but it seems like maple season is already upon us. Hey, I’ll take the sap as long as it runs, but keep those leaves tight in bud til May!

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