Poindexter, our resident gremlin, doesn't say much but the dirt on his fingernails tells the story. He's been digging in the flower beds again. I never know just where I'll find him when I'm in the garden but today he's resting in a bed of naked ladies (also known as hardy amaryllis, which has foliage that comes up in early spring, then dies down; along about August, clusters of naked stemmed, pink flowers pop up out of the ground like dancing showgirls of the '40s). He was under the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) a bit earlier, doing who knows what.
Gremlins, in case you don't know, aren't like fairies, elves or gnomes. Fairies were the little wee spirits who hide in the daytime but come out at night and fluff up the hollyhocks and comb the ferns and teach the ladybugs how to protect the garden plants. Gnomes, on the other hand, don't do a whole lot beyond stand guard. Elves, well, we don't have elves here, they all reside in England as far as folk tales go. But gremlins, they're the mischievous little fellows who dig holes in the garden and blame it on Molly, the dog. Or hide tools, which is their favorite game to play. Ever wonder where the trowel went that you know you just laid down, second ago and now can't see anywhere? Gremlins. And so I have no idea what Poindexter was doing under the spicebush, but I'm guessing I'll find my pruners there later on.
If you don't know spicebush, it's native from east Texas up to Ohio and into Pennsylvania. A great medicinal plant if you have a cold, we use it primarily for it's culinary puproses. It's an excellent plant in poultry, beef or pork dishes, and makes an excellent marinade for tofu. The berries, leaves and twigs are all used. It flowers now, sometimes even earlier in February in the Ozarks, and is pollinated by a little fly, although bees can sometimes be found on it if the weather is warm enough. The fragrance isn't strong at all, but it is one of the sweet fragrances of early spring in the Ozarks. I learned to use this native plant from my friend, Billy Joe Tatum, many years ago and learned its value in seasoning wild game. This is one of the few shade-loving herbs. Growing to about the size of a lilac bush, the plant can be found in the wild in deep forest shade, in moist or lightly damp places, although it will also grow at the edges of fields.
I visited our friends, Olee and Sharon Jobe at Spring Fever Greenhouse this week. They'd just gotten a shipment of 60,000 plant plugs a few days back and were busy transplanting, seeding and generally getting ready for spring. All those seed flat with no plants in them don't look like much now (except a whole lot of work filling the little plastic pots, in trays and getting them ready), but in a few weeks the greenhouses will be bursting at the seams with little garden plants that are being readied for their spring customers.
I'm hearing repeatedly from seed and wholesale agricultural suppliers that there seem to be more people gardening this year than in a very long time. Lots of neighborhood co-ops of people who have gone together to buy seed and supplies and are planning community gardens for the first time this year. Lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet have realized you can but a couple of tomato plants and grow your own tomatoes, with very little effort, for about $4, which is much cheaper than buying tomatoes at the grocery store. Lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, all easy crops, are giving the seed, and hopefully the plant companies, a bumper sales year. Most plant businesses need it because last year was disappointing for sales.
The old mule out front is known far and wide by people who travel past Spring Fever near Ozark, MO. Sharon always decorates the mule with fun things, like the St. Pat's hat here, and in the summer, the wagon behind the mule is overflowing with blooming flowers and later, with gourds or pumpkins. Sharon is a very talented painter and used the side of the shed where their gift shop is housed to paint this welcoming lady with doorway and flowers.
We've had more bird feeders around the deck this year and kept them filled so that Josh's mother, Barbara, can enjoy the birds. Unfortunately the squirrels have seen the "free, all you can eat buffet" sign and have been coming in increasingly larger numbers. We have 2 squirrel proof feeders, one that shocks, one that closes when a squirrel climbs on. That doesn't stop them from trying to gnaw through, tear down or otherwise destroy the feeders. Today I took new steps to deter the little fluffy tailed rats. I got out my stash of bottle rockets and exploding Roman candles. It doesn't hurt them, but it does scare the daylights out of them, and that's what I want. Go back to the woods, there's plenty to eat out there. If they stay around, they'll be attacking the tomatoes and that will be a worse problem than eating the bird seed.