Thursday, May 15, 2014


Tomorrow starts the second half of May.

Tomorrow, we will be done with weeding the raspberry field and so gardening will again take on pleasurable qualities.

Tomorrow may well be the last day I ever speak to a large crowd from behind a podium.

Because tomorrow is our Law School's Commencement ceremony and (by student choice), I am the faculty speaker.

Preparing the address has occupied my writer's thoughts for the past month. Honestly, I don't know if anyone believes that a commencement speech could have much of an impact on the life of someone in the audience. But you can hope to give a little nudge. Or at least offer a suggestion of something to consider.

I wont write much about the content of what I have finally put together for the address. That's tomorrow's story after all. But I do think that there is a significant marker for me: today versus tomorrow. Today, I am still, in the eyes of the graduating class, a faculty member. Tomorrow, I will move away permanently from teaching, lecturing, addressing students. 

But let's get back to this day, in this first half of May -- a coolish day of morning showers...


(I let out the chickens only to have them hide under the roosting box)


...a day where I thought we would not be doing much outdoor work, except that after breakfast...


...the showers abate and with deep sighs (signifying reluctance), Ed and I return to the raspberry field to finish weeding. That's the next to last step. After, we'll throw chips on our cleaned field and then we turn our back to it.

Except that's not entirely accurate: after we're done restoring the field, the real struggle begins. And you may as well view it as a far deeper struggle that Ed and I engage in as we work the farmette land. Ed wont, of his own volition, prune, cut back, tear down, rip out things that show signs of life and growth. When he mows the grassy stretches, he will sweep gross circles around milkweed (because it attracts butterflies), he will  spin around invasive raspberries, and other plants that decide to make their home in the grass. And that's a very noble attitude, but it makes it immensely difficult to keep the farmette from looking like the northern cousin of a deeply overgrown jungle.

The reason the raspberry fields got to be such a weedy mess is because Ed would not mow down emergent new canes. Within a handful of years, we had a thicket of raspberries, quackgrass, thistle, burdock, nettle and who knows what else. No human could ever get to the raspberries without suffering an attack from all sides, made more brutal by the every hovering mosquitoes who consider a raspberry mess to be some form of Shangri la.

We got the field under control because last year, without consulting Ed, I took a John Deere to the jungle and chopped down a good half of what was there. The rest we took out by hand this year.

But I see the telltale signs of the old Ed coming back. Again he is reluctant to pull out canes that pop up everywhere (raspberries are like a weed -- they take off and grow without asking for permission). This wont do. We did not just spend our last ounces of energies on improving something that may again go into a state of disarray within two or three years.

Ed has an idea. Do you want to sell the extra canes? -- he asks.
Well why not. For sale! Cheap. Great canes, ready to plop into your yard. Maybe $2 each? And believe me, within a few years, you'll have far more than you'll ever have wanted. Because these dudes multiply like crazy rabbits. The ad will go up on Craigs list. I'm hoping that within a few weeks, we'll have offloaded a few boatloads of canes. Leaving us with hundreds still, but at least an orderly bunch, planted and pruned by us.

In other news: Scotch again gave us an egg with twins. How that mega egg could come out of that little chicken is beyond me, but we praised her to high heaven for her mighty efforts on our behalf.

In the late afternoon, we make a trip to our local Farmers Market. And now you can tell that we are not just pretending: we truly are in the thick of the growing season. There is asparagus everywhere!


Our own serious planting of vegetables begins next week. In the second half of May. Last year we rushed it, only to have several nights of frost nearly ruin our crop. We are more patient these days. Satisfied with what's blooming now, excited about the possibilities for the weeks ahead.