Spring Chores

Katsura blossoms

Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) blossoms

Like many of you, spring has called me to do other things, mostly yard work. Initially, I tried to keep my pace on WordPress, but soon realized it was impossible, unless I wanted to forfeit sleep. (Not a good option!)

I’ve been trimming back perennials, raking gardens, clearing trails, pruning and transplanting. Happily, my spouse has been working along side of me, so it feels like we accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.

We suffered a fair amount of vole damage this year, girdling the bark from many bushes and young trees (which frustrates me no end). With the bitter cold weather, there was dieback to trim from some of the more tender hollies and azaleas. I try to tackle a few things every day, but I am not as driven as I used to be. Lots of things won’t get done, so I have to make peace with that.

Daffodils - Narcissus 'Ice Follies'

Daffodils – Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’

I am happy that the daffodils are blooming and tulips are budding. The lawn is dotted in blue and white from naturalized puschkinia, chionodoxa and scilla. Soon it will be awash in a heavenly sea of white and purple violets, which hold a special place in my heart.

I’ve had a hard time this year adjusting to the reality that ticks are now everywhere I go, be it yard, garden, woods or field, and every bite brings the threat of Lyme disease. I, and two members of my family, were diagnosed with it last summer and I know now what an awful thing it is. Trying to put a positive spin on it is particularly challenging given how much time I spend outside. I feel I’ve been robbed of the carefree joy and bliss of gardening – something I really love. Acceptance is slow in coming, but I won’t stay inside hiding. I take precautions and try to stay alert. I’m not going down without a fight! Perhaps I’ll get a flock of guinea hens, which apparently eat ticks. To me, they look silly, like comical cartoon characters. If I do, I’ll have to figure out how to keep them from being eaten by predators, like coyotes and foxes. Sometimes, life can be so complicated!

We have had a wild hen turkey visiting our feeders recently. I wonder if she eats ticks?

Wild American Turkey

Wild American Turkey

She weighs at least twenty pounds, is quite healthy with beautiful plumage. Obviously, she found enough to eat all winter, but I wonder why she is alone? It is mating season and hopefully she will find a handsome tom and lay a nice clutch of eggs. In summer, I often see two or three hens foraging together with their broods in tow, like gangly teenagers, gleaning weed seeds and insects from the gardens and fields. They are entertaining to watch, very alert and good at escaping danger, dispersing at the first sign of threat in a burst of wings.


And for those who read my posts on Froggy Love, the results have hatched and now the pond has tiny tadpoles. The amorous adult Wood Frogs have returned to forage in the leaf litter.


Wood Frog Eggs & Tadpoles

They are very small and I am hoping the larger frogs won’t eat them before they get a chance to grow up.

1/4 inch Wood Frog Tadpoles against oak leaf

1/4 inch Wood Frog Tadpoles against oak leaf

So far, we have had only a couple of male Spring Peepers calling each evening trying to attract females to this small pond, many fewer courtiers than we had last year.

Another spring chore is getting our wood delivered, so it can be stacked in the woodshed to dry over the summer.

Four Cords of Wood

Four Cords of Wood

We order it early before the black flies hatch out, which can drive us crazy, and while it is still comfortably cool doing all that strenuous work. At the rate of four to six pieces per armload, it takes quite a few trips to make this pile disappear! This year I was lucky enough not to stack one single piece of it; my husband and son (yay!) stacked all four cords in two days. That beats our previous record by two days!

IMG_4919There is a lot of security in having a full woodshed – knowing we’ll be warm and cozy next winter. Even though autumn seems a long way off, and spring has barely begun, time has a way of passing much too quickly. We will be glad for the warmth this wood brings us when again the cold winds blow. Now that this chore is done, we are free to focus on all the joy that spring brings, like those red peony shoots I see rising through the mulch.


About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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31 Responses to Spring Chores

  1. Eliza, this has to be one of my favorite posts of yours! The pictures were outstanding and I really got a feel for your life. I love how you admit that not everything will get done that you want to do, but that is o.k. And as a microbiology instructor, I can relate to your frustration about the ticks and Lyme disease. Sorry that you have already been exposed. My favorite bit, given my love of animal totems, was the part about the turkey hen. She is beautiful.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      From your perspective, do you think there is a chance that research will reveal an Achilles heel in tick-borne disease? I am envisioning that with all my might! Your comment about turkey totems sent me looking it up and how appropriate it is! “The symbolism of the Turkey focuses on the connection with the Earth and the abundance it provides.” Thanks Kim, as always, a pleasure!

  2. dorannrule says:

    I too love this post Eliza because of the similar fears we have and the feeling of being robbed of joy in the garden. My niece contracted lyme about 4 years ago and is undergoing a brutal treatment program. I live in the country where deer are numerous and so are ticks. I feel paranoid wearing boots with pants tucked in and spraying with “Off” and resisting going out to dig even though I want to get out there in the worst way. We too have grand big turkeys in what I call “herds” of 20 or more. Similar lives – similar fears. I love your photos here too. BTW – our crepe myrtle has a full dress of brown leaves. I don’t think she’s dying but have you ever heard of such a thing in spring?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Did you have record cold this winter? Your crepe myrtle may have got nipped by frost. Or perhaps something has girdled its roots.
      Undiagnosed Lyme is brutal indeed. It is very destructive. I went on the CDC website for stats by state on Lyme and the Northeast from VA north is the hardest hit, followed by the upper Midwest. In some states 3/4 the population has had it. Epidemic. Hello NIH, are you doing anything about this?

  3. Lyme’s disease is so brutal. Best wishes in managing it. We have so many ticks here, too. I put the tick meds on my dogs but they still seem to hitch rides in on their fur. I’d go for the guinea hens. Sounds like a fun adventure!

  4. mk says:

    Eliza, you’ve painted such detailed picture with your words and photos. Although I admit, much of what you describe is like another planet. I can only imagine, with your help. I like the thought of a full woodshed, and turkeys, and trails. But the ticks I find frightening. I could let my imagination get the best of me.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Truly, this was a four-season paradise until only a few years ago. For most of my life, ticks were rare. It is a mystery as to why Lyme has so suddenly become an epidemic. (Theories abound – but I’ll spare you that!)

  5. Amy Pinkrose says:

    My Heart is with you, Eliza, for I too am involved in Spring cleanup and reopening of my gardens. I am so sorry to hear about the ticks. Mother is so out of balance from what man has done to Her. I have seen how the insect world is going crazy. Super bugs I call them. And in huge quantities. I am hoping that our brutally cold winter has killed a lot of them off. I am hoping!!!! All my best to you! I am well aware of the aches the pains and the exhaustion!!!! Love, Amy

  6. ladyfi says:

    How gorgeous – especially that first shot!

  7. Mandy says:

    This is a beautiful post, Eliza! All that wood reminds me of when we used to bring in cords of wood–stacking it was something I loved, it was so beautiful afterward. We made the mistake one year of stacking it inside our attached garage not knowing it was full of hibernating bees! I have one crazy question since I’m just starting to take pictures of my plants: The daffodil photo has blurred flowers/foliage in the background. Was that intentional or did it “just happen?” I love it!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Mandy, for your kind words and wood story. How did you deal with the bees or were they wasps? Re: the daff photo: I was too close to get all of the flowers in focus as a group, so just the front two were focused. Does that make sense?

      • Mandy says:

        First, on the bee/wasp question: I think they were wasps (this was 30 years ago) because they were long and skinny. Can you tell I don’t know much about bees. Other than I usually have the kind that seem to be angry all the time and chase me! On the daffs: well, if that wasn’t planned, I’d say it was a great happenstance! 🙂

  8. twoscamps says:

    Sending good wishes your way…. I hate ticks! Be well.

  9. I nominated you for one of the Liebster Awards. If you want you can visit my blog to accept. all the info is there. It seems a good way to promote others I think. cheers!!!

  10. Your pictures are beautiful! I can’t wait to get into the garden. It’s taking to long to warm up this year!

  11. Robbie says:

    “I try to tackle a few things every day, but I am not as driven as I used to be. Lots of things won’t get done, so I have to make peace with that.”
    That is exactly how I feel this spring…it bothers me, so I guess I need to make peace with it, too:-)

  12. I feel like I’m there with you! lovely piece – thanks for sharing your view. 🙂

  13. Trifocal says:

    Like these photographs very much; the first and last offer a wonderful contrast between fragility and solidity.
    We have a very small pond (more of a large brick-edged puddle really) and for many years had a flourishing colony of frogs. Then in my ignorance I accepted the gift of a few newts. Unfortunately these seem to have eaten each year’s frog tadpoles since. Very sad to see the adult frogs getting older and older each year and slowly dropping in numbers. Sadly there has been a lot of disease in the national frog population here in England, so we have always avoided adding any new tadpoles or adults. The pond is surrounded by a set of gardens with houses and old high stone walls completely enclosing them, so I had hoped we could keep the colony going until the disease burnt itself out, but…

    • Eliza Waters says:

      So sad to hear about your frog pond. Can’t you return the newts, or is that impossible? 🙂 Amphibians the world over are suffering, I’m afraid. They are our canaries in the coal mine, but few are paying attention. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!

  14. Sharon K. says:

    Darn ticks! I’m sorry they’re such a problem on your property.

    This post gives a great feel for your life and land. It sounds like paradise!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Sharon, it does feel like paradise. We’re learning to adapt to the ticks – being more diligent checking ourselves, bug spray, “sweeping” with a sheet the areas we frequent. We’ve been spoiled all these years, so now it is time to pay the piper, I guess!

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