Solstice Surge

It is nearly July and life in Virginia is thriving. It is warm and wet and plants grow rampant: pull up a weed and another weed will occupy that patch of sunlight within the week; tomatoes, cucumbers and squash erupt from the ground, boosting egos of gardeners everywhere. The surge of life in early summer is not a new routine, but it is always amazing.

One of our earliest indications of that surge comes when we open up the beehives to attempt swarm prevention. This hive maintenance begins well before June, but the threat and promise of swarms continues into the month. Here is a smaller swarm that we failed to prevent but succeeded in capturing.

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Another early clue that nature’s yearly rampage is coming is the unchecked growth of strawberry leaves. Only six weeks prior to this picture, these plants were patchy, small and greenish purple with brown-crisped edges. But these June bearing berries respond to warmth and light by reaching out with stolons to produce numerous clone daughters around the mother plant. This creates a thicket of berries that must be laboriously picked every other day for about 3 weeks. We are through with our strawberry season and are moving on to blueberries, which are a vacation in comparison.

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The Christmas trees are not dormant in the heat. Their tender new growth emerges from the tips of all branches and begins to harden into familiar blue-green needles. Left alone, these trees would grow more than a meter per year (they are the tallest tree native to eastern North America and likely reached heights over 200 feet in pre-colonial times). Our biggest project this time of year is setting back this growth and ensuring it is more or less conical.

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We are still enjoying berry season, but will soon be moving on to tomatoes, potatoes, squash, beans and even a few concord grapes. Our first year of Community Supported Agriculture is going well and lots of food has been doled out in the last five weeks. Our first round of broiler chickens are now in the freezer (alas), the layers are roaming free (as always) and we are now anticipating extracting honey from the hives in July. We know storms, heat, and days that require 3 shirt changes are ahead, but it is a pleasure to live and work so close to so much life in June.

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