Signs (and sounds) of Spring – Ditch Daffys


Signs (and sounds) of Spring – Ditch Daffys


It’s been an unusually cool wet spring here, but we’re seeing signs of spring all around us. The forsythia and flowering red currant bushes that we see from our kitchen window are in full bloom, with battling hummingbirds dive-bombing each other, engaging in turf warfare in the sky. Hard to imagine that those cute little guys will NOT share with others of their kind, not for landing rights to a nesting area anyway.

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The sounds of spring are unique to our area here. We are close to a rather large cattle ranch (not Texas-size, of course) and mom cows are giving birth this time of year – you see lots of baby calves wandering around in the pastures, their clean white faces giving away their recent arrival. Plus, the cows bellow at all hours, when giving birth and when they are separated from their babies for any reason. Plus, the Pacific tree frogs are starting up their chorus. There’s a wetland across the fence in our neighbors’ orchard, and once the weather reaches some particular temperature, they start to croak. A lot of ‘em. All night.

The currants are beginning to bloom, and that’s a good sign. I pruned hard this winter, and am anxious/curious as to how that will affect the fruit set. It had to be done – it was getting jungle-like in the rows – it looks so much better – hope the currants appreciate it. The garlic is going great guns from last fall’s planting, and still have some chard, green onions, and Chinese cabbage that made it thru the winter for picking now. And I’ve hauled buckets and buckets of seaweed off the local beaches to tuck in under the fruit trees. This was a suggestion from a fellow orchardist who’s been doing it for years. I tried it last year, and wow, Nellie, we’re still trying to get thru the boxes of apples as a result, here in April.

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So what about “ditch daffys”? Well, it’s a local riff on the phenomenon that I saw back in Minnesota, especially south and central rural areas. You’re driving down a lonely country road, not a house around, and there are these huge blooming daylilies along the roadside. Where, you ponder, did THOSE come from?? Apparently, they are escapees from someone’s garden, possibly a long time ago, maybe brought there by animals or birds. They found a good spot, sunk down roots, and took off. There, they are called ditch lilies. There’s even a real nice women’s bluegrass group back in St. Paul that call themselves the Ditch Lilies. Out here, where there’s barely enough summer heat to grow tomatoes or daylilies, it’s the yellow daffodils that have somehow escaped their original garden and have found a new home in the ditches around here. A sure sign of spring, and a wonderful shock of color in a rather dreary time of the year. Sick of winter, not sure if there’ll ever be a summer, but by God, there are those cheerful ditch daffys. Makes one hopeful. Makes me realize that maybe I’m a ditch daffy, too. Not content to stay in my original garden spot, making a new home where my roots are better suited. Not as spectacular as I might be, but much happier, doin’ my thang.

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