Wednesday, May 04, 2011

after the cold night

Working the land is perhaps like engaging in acts of combat. You think you know who the enemy is. You want to eliminate the enemy. And so you invade. But, like in military interventions – you gotta have a plan! An exit strategy! You can’t just destroy and leave!

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of the day.

I wake up to a clear sky. And, having a bedroom with an east, south and west exposure, I can sure tell you the state of the sky just before sunrise.

It was a cold night. Maybe the last of the deep frost nights. I think about that. Must be so pretty out now, with a touch of frost on the fields.

I go out and take stock.


There is a smell of burning wood. The air is crisp. Magnificent, really. I look up at the farmhouse. Solid. Pretty now, in the morning light.


I have a day of student emails and exam question reviews. I go outside, then inside, then out again. Water. Let me water some new transplants. And I paint some wood curtain rod supports that Ed carved out for the windows.

There are new flowering shrubs that I need to find room for. I look around. There is so much land here! It’s easy for plants to get lost. I moved a peony bush just the other day because I was afraid that, tucked where it was, no one would see its fantastic blooms.

I walk down the path to the sheep shed. We’d cleared the beds to the left of the path just a few days back. I want to see how the transplants are doing and if the coreopsis – a favorite of bunnies, chipmunks and who knows what else, survived another day. It did.

My, the sky is blue! Curly willow, plain old willow -- you both look so good this day!


And now I face the raspberry patch to my right. This is what I noted about the farmette when I first came to visit it back in 2005 – that it had out of control raspberries. Ed was incapable of pruning out live canes and so there was a field, a jungle really, of wild, scratching, leafy raspberry growth. Some of the canes worked overtime and delivered magnificent fruit. Many did not. And the patch grew and expanded, and as my traveling companion and I continued to occasionally travel together, I would be inspired to come out to the farmette and work hard, scratches and all, to reign the canes in.

The canes always won. Even as they delivered less fruit, they won.

Ed is fussing now with his old John Deere in the barn.
Ed, I have an idea!
A plan...
I think you should mow down the center of this patch. It’s half dead anyway and invaded by box elder. Cutting things back will only help deplete the mosquito population come summer...

An engine starts. Hey, Ed’s on his tractor, heading for the patch. In he goes.


Dry canes, young box elders (so many of them!) fly to the left and right. I follow, pruning what the Deere has left behind. Burs from burdock stick to my shirt and, too, they get in my socks, shoes and scalp.

Ed! My hair is tangled with burs!
He stops the Deere, takes the familiar and reassuring patient moment to untangle tightly matted hair.
I do this to Isis (the cat) all the time.
Isis has short hair!
Stop thrashing.

The burs are out. And many of the invasives and dead canes are gone from the patch.
What now? – Ed asks. Now? I don’t know... I survey the bare, scalped earth. Truthfully, I did not think Ed would get to this project so soon (or even, let’s face it, ever). I don’t have a next step. The box elder shoots are gone, but what’s left?

The upside: the fruit trees have breathing room. The aggressive box elder population is depleted. But, one should have a “now what” strategy. Because if you simply aim to retire after taking out the enemy, you’re leaving room for anything, good or worse, to fill its space.

I'll be sure to think of something tomorrow.

Evening.  Ed is biking with the Wednesday night riders. I'm working on exam issues. One curtain is up, several to go. No frost expected tonight.