Sprung Spring

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The digital switch for the trees flipped from 0 to 1 in the last two weeks. Trees that were barren of leaves, now wear the unique chartreuse of spring. Views are now attenuated since leaves block sightlines. Once the leaves return, it is difficult to remember how the trees looked with their wooden fingers extending from their massive trunks.

The daffodils have come and gone already. The first daffodils showed up in late February, weeks earlier than normal. We normally have the littlest daffodils bloom first, coinciding with the late crocus bloom, then the normal daffodils unveil their yellow sunbonnets. But the warmth of February induced both to bloom simultaneously. They held sway until the first of April, but when their grace faded to brown, the white of the jonquils with their multiple heads turned on. We have fewer jonquils, but since they have 2-4 flowers per stalk, they appear to have as many blooms as the daffodils. But now, since the 20th of April, all of them have turned brown and shriveled. Now we have only the greenery of the daffodils remaining, using photosynthesis to feed the bulbs below ground getting ready for next year.

We are in the midst of replacing a hemlock tree that shielded our porch from the street ever since we moved into the house. This is a tree that got topped by a derecho back in 2012, and spent the next several years slowly dying from the top down. If we were sitting on our porch, the branches appeared lush and green, but above that, the branches were slowly dying. So we paid to have the tree removed and to have the roots shredded. It finally was time to gather up the remains of the roots, and use them for mulch on our sloped garden. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to rake up and shovel multiple wheelbarrows of mulch, then spread them onto newly weeded slope. Now new topsoil has been placed, and I will actually attempt to grow a section of monoculture grass. We will come back with some small decorative trees to replace the graceful hemlock at least in spirit.

Spring is when you take stock of what needs to be done for this year’s projects. A few weeks ago, I was outside on our porch when I heard the unmistakable sound of a tree beginning to give way. I was in the right position to see a giant hemlock take its death plunge across the narrowly incised creek bed, and onto our property. It took with it a second smaller hemlock, and a beech tree. The beech tree shattered onto our property about 30′ down the hill. That immediately became my first priority for a long-term project. In the 25 years since we’ve lived here, I bought firewood exactly once, and that was the first year when we moved in during the fall. Ever since I’ve been able to maintain a 1-2 cord stash of firewood either from trees fallen on our property, or from trees felled within the neighborhood. There was one year when I saw evidence of a microburst on our property, with multiple trees down pointing in different directions from the same storm. Cutting and storing and burning your own wood is satisfying. Splitting logs with a maul is a wonderful way to vent frustration. It’s funny, but ever since I’ve retired, I haven’t had the visceral need to split wood. Still, it is fun even if it is a lot of work.

It looks like we’ve been successful this year to gain tenants out in our birdhouses. A chickadee couple has taken residence in a small house at the edge of our porch, while a bluebird couple has resumed residence in the birdhouse we have on our beech tree in the front yard. The electric blue of the male bluebird is a tint that is unmatched in nature on an animal. This is probably the same pair that built a home two years ago in the same birdhouse. I’ve already seen our hunter cat out there by the tree, looking up at the sounds emanating from the house. We will do our best to allow the fledglings to survive the close proximity with our hunters.

We made our pilgrimage out to the lawn and garden department of our local Lowes today. Flowers will soon be gracing our flower baskets where last year’s shriveled corpses remained after the fall and winter. We have a little more birdseed and suet to put out, then we will retire the feeders until the fall, leaving only a thistle seed feeder for the summer bird rush. And within a week, we will hang out the hummingbird feeders, completing the transition from winter to spring / summer.

The first radishes of the year will be harvested this week. I am finally learning how to space these early season crops out so as to lengthen the harvest season and not be overwhelmed with produce at one time. There is nothing quite as good as the first produce of the year. Of course, with our chives, we’ve been harvesting them all year. The chives overwintered and are now in beautiful purple bloom. I’ll try to harvest the seed, then plant another crop for this year in our herb baskets. Cilantro and basil are emerging from their seed cases, and the oregano has awakened from its winter dormancy.

Retirement is good especially when you can spend the time and effort to keep after the growth of spring when the green can outpace your ability to corral it. I am behind on my lawn right now and will wait for the dry weather of next week to allow me to catch up. Then I will need to get right out on planting the remaining vegetables and get the peppers and tomatoes started. Back before retirement, I had to try to squeeze the time in after work and on weekends. It is so nice to not have to rush things, but work on all of the tasks in their own time, and be able to take the time to watch the bluebirds as they begin to feed their hungry nestlings over the next few weeks.

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