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Spring on the Homestead

By Constance Smith

Spring on the homestead is an exciting time. It is the season when the farm begins to awaken after a long, restful winter. We start cleaning out the garden beds, which is followed by amending and planting. Hopes and dreams of a productive garden are sown into the soil along with the seeds and baby plants.

Often in the spring, we find ourselves welcoming new babies to the farm, though this year I chose to hatch out eggs in the autumn. We have a batch of new Icelandic chickens with their “bouffant hair-dos” and multi-colored feathers. They are an unusual variety and are said to be a hardy, ancient “Viking” breed. I can attest to the fact that they definitely have some character. It will be interesting to see how they grow and develop over time.

As the season rolls on, I look forward to preserving more foods for the pantry. Early in the growing season, before anything comes from the garden, one of the first things I find myself preserving is honeysuckle jelly. I make it from the blossoms that grow wild all over the homestead. I’ll also make several batches of strawberry jalapeno jam with strawberries from one of the local farm stands.

It won’t be long before the sunflowers begin to stretch toward the sky, the tomatoes blossom and the bean tendrils wind across the trellises. I’ll find myself spending an entire morning working in the gardens until it is too hot to work outside any longer. Then I’ll come in, clean up and head to the kitchen. I’ll spend the afternoon canning, freezing or dehydrating what has been harvested.

It is always exciting to see what comes from the garden or what discoveries are made. This past year as I was watering the raised garden beds, the bee balm patch suddenly started shaking crazily. I saw little brown things bolt across the flower bed, and a couple more ran off into the yard.

It was a litter of wild baby bunnies. I carefully scooped them up and placed them back into their nest.

Every day I would carefully peek into the bee balm to see if they were still there. Most of my raised garden beds are much too tall to be in danger of becoming breakfast for the rabbits. I don’t mind sharing a flower bed with the little babies. I knew it would only be a short time, and I enjoyed watching them grow. It didn’t take long for them to go off to live their rabbit lives.

What discoveries and challenges will this year bring for the farm? Time will tell. But every year is an adventure on our little Hartselle homestead.

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