Anyone with an orchard full of nectarines, please have patience with me. This is my first nectarine. These trees are not common in the northern clime of central Maine. My baby nectarine has now survived four winters and appears to be thriving. This is the first year it’s had flowers. The variety is from Stark Bros, a Stark Crimson Gold, self-pollinating, heat tolerant, cold hardy and ripening fruit in July. I can hardly wait to eat them!
The tree is about eight to nine feet tall. The branches are covered with blooms. Not sure how many of these will turn to fruit. I suspect the fruit may require thinning. It is especially hard on a young tree to have a heavy fruit burden.The blossoms are large and have a light musk scent. I thought they’d smell like apple flowers, but no. Such a gorgeous pink display for the orchard! This tree is attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds. Soon the pears, apples, cherries and blueberries will all be in full bloom, plenty of food for hummingbirds. I stopped providing sugar feeders for hummingbirds due to the threat of the feeders becoming infected with fungus that can kill the birds. If feeders aren’t cleaned religiously they can get contaminated. I realized I couldn’t keep up with the necessary cleaning schedule. Luckily, there is a good natural food supply for the birds here at the farm.
The second clutch of silver and silver x black Ameraucana chicks hatched on 5/16 with the same results as the first hatch: 24 babies. The ones with the dark chipmunk stripes are pure for the silver color. The rest have black color genes mixed in. I’m working toward breeding the black out. I’m quite pleased with this year’s babies so far. The hatch rate is good, the chicks are vigorous and there are many pure silvers. Finian the kitten is very interested in what’s in the brooding box!
The first hatch is now about 3.5 weeks old. They are enjoying the new-found liberty of an outdoor run. After days and days of rain, the sun finally came out and the chicks have been going out in the run during the day. They are busy, curious animals. But, they still run for the cover of their house if a large creature like a human, horse or dog comes close. Before long I will allow them to free-range during the day. They will learn to return to their house every evening, a big lesson for little chickens.
Phoebes are friendly song birds who like to nest close to humans. Perhaps they discovered that they can take advantage of the fear we instill in other birds to protect their nests and young. They risk choosing the wrong humans when they build so close, but it must work for them because they continue to do it. This particular pair of phoebes has built a nest for several years on the yard light beside one of our doors.
While it was sweet to have baby phoebes so close, having the birds there became a problem. The constant fluttering as they came and went from the nest to feed the young attracted the attention of our six house cats. The cats would climb the screen door trying to catch the birds. When I found the screen partially dislodged and within seconds of allowing the cats out, I knew we had to keep the door closed. Then the cats proceeded to climb the curtain over the window in the door. I had to take the curtain down. Very aggravating, especially since I’d like to leave the door open on nice days to cool the house and catch the breeze.
Last fall I decided the nest had to move. During the winter I searched until I found this solid aluminum shower shelf. It was under $7 with shipping. In March I secured it to the house under the eaves far enough from the door so the cats would no longer see the birds. Then I blocked off the area over the lights to prevent the birds from building there. Phoebes build a large, heavy nest using clay mud. They line it with soft moss, grass, hair and feathers. This complicated nest takes a lot of effort so the birds return every year to the same nest, repairing it when necessary.
I didn’t want to destroy all their work. I moved the nest to the new shelf. It would be interesting to see if the birds accepted the new location of their nest, built a new nest or went off somewhere else to live. In early April the birds came back. It seemed to ruffle their feathers to find the nest moved. After a bit I noticed them hanging around the new location. Then late last week I found mother phoebe on the nest.
It’s wonderful to have the birds nearby and still be able to keep the door open. Phoebes like to have two broods per year so they hang around for most of the summer. I will enjoy watching the baby birds grow up without worrying about the cats tearing the door apart.
Spring is in full swing here at the farm. The primroses, daffodils, narcissus and hyacinths are all blooming. It must have been a fairly mild winter compared to the winter before last. I do remember some bitterly cold weather in December of 2017 before we got snow cover. The flowers were not so impressive last spring as they are this year. The bulbs are strong and both the star magnolia and the forsythia are in full flower. Last year there were only about a dozen flowers on the forsythia. This year it’s gorgeous.
One of the two baby mountain ash trees I planted last spring survived the winter. It’s looking pretty happy about its spot on the side of the hill that supports our driveway. Luckily the voles and field mice did not nibble the mountain ash over the winter. The same can not be said for the expensive crabapple tree I planted two years ago. Even though I wound a plastic tree protector around it last fall, after giving it a good covering with white paint, the voles still got at it. They pushed the plastic out of the way and gnawed off large amounts of bark from the first 2 feet of trunk. I don’t think the tree will live.
Last year we suffered from an over population of field rodents. They attacked grown apple trees, killing a couple dozen, and chewed up large regions of grass roots in the hayfield leaving bare patches. I read that painting the lower parts of the fruit trees with white latex paint will repel rodents. This past winter the rodent population must have been down. We’re not seeing grass damage like last year, nor as much tree chewing. But several apple trees that I sprayed white with paint were chewed. Looks like the rodents just scratch away the bark until the paint is gone then proceed with devouring the tree. They sure devoured my crabapple. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the old adage, but I spent over $100 on paint for the trees, plus my time and effort to apply it, to no avail.The horses, Vista and Maddie, are happy to see green grass! Especially since their hay is almost gone. The weather has been quite chilly, slowing the growth of grass and causing us to use more hay than usual. It’s great to finally have enough grass to sustain two hungry horses.
Vista (on the left) is now 30 years old. It is possible this is her last summer. She is really beginning to show her age. We may have to put her away in the fall to avoid having to deal with a down horse next winter. A sad time for me. Vista has been with me since she was 10 months old. She has always been a loving, loyal, hardworking and willing animal. A wonderful saddle horse, we have spent many memorable hours together including two trips to the carriage trails of Acadia National Park. I will sure miss the old girl.