14 April 2006

And then there were peepers...

I feel genuinely sorry for those who live in a place where they can’t hear peepers at night—whether because they live in a highrise in a downtown metropolis, or merely in an area where these little darlings don’t sing their alluring nightsongs. Because once you’ve heard the call of the spring peepers, you know that spring IS here, and that all is right with the world. More or less.

What’s a spring peeper? Pseudacris crucifer, a tiny frog with a delightful voice…I think of them as vocal fireflies, peep peep peeping their bellike voices as soon as spring weather warms up a bit. They’re nocturnal, usually less than an inch to an inch and a half in length, and they have these delightful pads on their toes that look like suction cups, and are actually used to grip and hold onto plants as they are climbing. Peepers range in colour from grey through beige to brown, but they can be easily recognized by a marking shaped like an X on their backs.

Last night was the first night we’ve heard the peepers call; the green frogs have been singing their hearts out for over a week now, but earlier this evening, I went out to take down a windchime that was trying to blow away in the current Bay breeze. And despite the gale—of warm air, to be sure—I caught that distinctive sound out by the pond. Just a few tonight. Tonight, there are many, many more, and the songs will go on until late June or early July, when all the mating is finished (because it’s the males who are sending out this siren song, not the females!). This is the most perfect sound of spring that we know of.

Another sign that spring has arrived in Scotts Bay is the arrival of ‘da fog’. We get fog occasionally during the winter but spring heralds the start of the foggy season in earnest. I happen to like fog, most of the time; it keeps our gardens and grass green when people only a mile or two above the fogline are having to water; it swathes us in cool, soothing moisture when the Valley floor shimmers with heat. It’a actually amusing to watch people drive over from the Valley, in their tee shirts and halter tops and convertible tops down, drive into the fog about at our property line, and suddenly decide they’d better put on more clothes or put the top up. It can be ten degrees cooler here, and while there are times when the fog is irritating, for the most part I wouldn’t trade it for the sweltering heat of the Valley, thank you very much.

The gardens are starting to leap forward in earnest, as there have been several rainshowers as well as unseasonably warm weather the past few days. If I were feeling better, I’d be outside dividing perennials now, potting them up to share with friends or donate to plant sales locally, but alas, the flu I eluded all winter caught up with me and knocked me flatter than a snow-covered juniper, so all I can do for a few days is look outside and watch things grow. And this really IS a time to watch things grow; even from the office window I can see the perennials pushing up out of the ground, the fuzz of shoots starting on some of the earlier shrubs; there are a few tiny flowers of forsythia on the big shrub on the south side of the house, and there’s a rose in the greenhouse that has sprouted up with new shoots. I’m hoping it’s one of the old fashioned yellow roses I rescued from an old farmhouse in Canning, either Harison’s Yellow or Persian Yellow. (There’s certainly something to be said for labeling plants when I collect them…that’s going to happen this year, thanks to the great copper plant tags I got from Lee Valley!)

We have crocus, iris reticulata, puschkinia, scilla, glory-of-the-snow, snowdrops and snowflakes (Leucojum) in bloom in various patches, while the first few daffodils on the hillside coming up the mountain to the Lookoff have also begun to bloom. I’m still a little bit leery of this weather; after all, three Easters ago we had a vicious cold snap that killed off a lot of things, with temperatures in the minus double digits with chillfactor…but that would be highly erratic given the winter and spring we’ve had so far.

Despite being seriously under the weather, I sneaked out this afternoon for about half an hour, with my dearly beloved making me wrap up like it was 40 below, and we walked around and looked at the gardens, then sat on the little deck way out back and listened to the symphony. The green frogs were playing their banjos and a few early starting peepers were tuning up, plus we had a lovely counterpointing melody from assorted songbirds; robins, redwinged blackbirds, chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, and one mournful sounding dove, wondering “who who who who” ate all the birdseed? Two of the cats were chasing flies in the pasture, then parading over to us to collapse in exhaustion and recount their hunting battles to us. And we sat and marveled yet again at this place of ours, and were grateful to be stewards of the land around us.

03 April 2006

Supporting Our Local Nurseries, Continued!

As promised, contact information for some great locally owned and operated nurseries: Not exhaustive by a long shot, but a start! Thanks to those helpful gardeners who have provided me with some of these sites, because I’ve not visited them all—yet.

HRM and South Shore of Nova Scotia (Area code for NS 902)

Lakeland Plant World Dartmouth, 435.5429
Seabright Greenhouses, Seabright 483-7076
Bayport Plant Farm, Bayport, Lunenburg County 766.4319
Pine View Farm, Bridgewater, 543.4228
Village Nursery, Pleasantville, Lunenburg County: 543.5649
Wiles Lake Farm Market543-6082
Cosby’s Garden Centre, Liverpool: 354.2133
Spencer’s Garden Centre, Shelburne: 875.3055
Ouestville Perennials, West Pubnico 762.3198

Western Nova Scotia
Baldwin’s Nursery, Upper Falmouth 798.9468
Canning Daylily Gardens, Canning: 582.7966
Glad Gardens, Waterville 538.8688
The Briar Patch Farm and Nursery, Berwick 538.9164
Maple Hill Farm and Nursery, Aylesford 538.8658
Den Haan’s, Middleton: 825.4722
Bunchberry Nurseries, Upper Clements 532.7777

Northern and Eastern NS

Hillendale Perennials, Truro 897.6791
Woodlands and Meadows Perennial Nursery and Gardens Truro895.8727
West River Greenhouses, West River Pictou County: 925.2088
Gray’s Greenhouses, West River, Antigonish County 863.8111.
Pleasant Valley Nursery, Antigonish 863.1072
Duyker’s Greenhouses, Afton 232-3092


New Brunswick (AREA Code is 506)

Cornhill Nursery
Kingsbrae Garden Plant Centre, Kingsbrae Garden, St. Andrews: 1.866.566.8687
Mayfield Greenhouses, St. Stephen 466-5926
Canada Green, St George 755-2929
The Potting Shed, Quispamsis: 849.6206
H.Erb’s Herbs: Cambridge Narrows, NB phone 488.3344

A Little Night Music

When writing, I don’t like to be disturbed. This is a common trait of many writers, especially those of us without doors on our offices. Well, the truth of the matter is I have half a door; one of those louvered closet doors. Why only half? Well, there used to be two—my office has a wide doorway and needs two closet doors to make the room private. One day some years ago, the writer of this house had a writerly snit at her long suffering spouse and slammed the doors shut…which promptly fell off their tracks, hit the banister with a tremendous crash, scaring all the cats and breaking the top of one door. The long suffering spouse burst into laughter, but also took the doors away…which was fine for a while. But this writer needs privacy and can’t stand to be disturbed when working, so new doors are going to happen soon.

So today was one of those days when distractions got to me, as I mulled over a story that is due shortly. I wanted to be outside grubbing in the gardens this afternoon, but having overdone it a bit on Saturday, I’m still very sore…and after the big rain yesterday, it’s too wet to play out there. But my dearly beloved has also been home today and has been a bit…distracting, asking me questions, talking to me, hollering up from downstairs…and I have been getting a bit irritable.

A little while ago, he called to me to come into HIS office (where he mostly plays computer games and surfs the web.) I was a bit peeved, as the story was almost finished and I was editing, and my feeble train of thought was derailed yet again. Muttering to myself, I stomped along the hallway to his office.

And saw his grin. And the wide-open window. And was glad he had disturbed me.

The glunkers are glunking.

We have a wild pond, full of cattails and edged by alders and reeds and assorted other wild plants, populated by various insects and reptiles and ampibians and other creatures. Redwinged blackbirds perch on the cattails and sing their alluring songs. Swallows dive for insects and water. Ducks come to feed and nest. Dragonflies and damselflies do elaborate ballets among the plants. And then there are the frogs.

And we have lots of frogs, mostly the common green frogs, as well as spring peepers, a few big bullfrogs too. Because we don’t believe in poisoning our gardens or the wild parts of our property with poisons, be they chemical fertilizers or pesticides, this is a haven for assorted types of wildlife, especially frogs. The first to start their chorus are the green frogs, who we call the glunkers. They sound like they’re plucking banjo strings, or chuckling underwater…and tonight, they have started chuckling and glunking and gurgling their hallelujah chorus of spring for the first time. According to my journal, they’re about two weeks earlier than they’ve been the past few years, but we’ve had no snow or ice in the pond for several weeks.

The spring peepers can’t be far behind.

I hope I never get too old, too tired or too busy to rejoice in the sound of the frogs. Perfect night music.

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