Monday, May 18, 2009

The first day

I woke up this morning to a room filled with sunlight filtered through the new green leaves on the box elder tree outside our bedroom window. For some reason, it felt like the first day of summer vacation. I remember one first day of summer vacation when I put on shorts and a halter top and ran outside. By breakfast I had changed to long pants, and a sweatshirt. I was probably ten then. Today, I knew that the sunlight was deceptive. The temperatures have been down in the low thirties almost every night in the last week.

But the cool temperatures didn’t keep us inside. Dave took sugar water down to the bees. One hive is doing very well, one fairly well and one is very slow. But Dave says the queens are all laying eggs, and the workers are all collecting pollen and nectar. The Virginia Bluebells have formed an azure lake under the box elders in the woods above the apiary. When I went down to admire them, I found three little bellworts blooming. A fat, yellow honeybee was wedging his body up into the hanging, twisted petals of the dainty yellow flowers collecting pollen and nectar himself.

The trees in the yard are full of the songs of birds. Brilliant orioles, scarlet tanagers, and sap suckers fight over the nectar feeder, the oranges, and the grape jelly. A low buzz overhead heralded a hummingbird scouting the situation. In the crab apple, gold finches, purple finches, chickadees and the wood peckers sunned and ate.

We planted fifty strawberries in the morning, and fifty trees in the afternoon.We dug holes, added water, and buried the roots of chokecherries and crab apples from the Soil Conservation Service in the west hill of the hay field. We also planted tiny little oak seedlings. Dave had gathered the acorns from under a beautiful spreading white oak in the north central pasture last fall. He scarified them in the freezer all winter and planted them in peat pots in early April. The seedlings had tiny reddish green sprouts, barely 2” tall, but when we tore open the bottom of the peat pots to allow the roots easier access to the ground, we found fat white roots, three or four inches long curled at the bottom of each pot. Hopefully those roots will sink themselves into the hillside and rapidly begin shifting water and nutrients into the oak seedlings, because at this point, they are completely lost in the surrounding vegetation.

The west hill is really too steep to safely pull a hay wagon across, especially a hay wagon loaded with 50 to 100 bales of hay and two people. So we are gradually planting trees onto the hill and letting the alfalfa and grasses grow on their own. The thistles however, we have to do something about, so every year we spend hours with a scythe and an herbicide sprayer, killing thistles. The ground around the trees we planted a dozen years ago has all grown in to grass – no thistles. So we know that in this limited area, persistence really works against thistles.

Now we just have to find the time on one of these beautiful early summer days, to spray the thistles while they are still small and vulnerable. It is not the first day of summer vacation, but the first day of this week, and of another season of growing, harvesting and preserving. The first day, as the old cliche says so well, of the rest of our lives.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo planting oaks!! I'm reminded of Wendell Barry thinking beyond our lifetime. He said, "Be crazy, plant Oaks".