Saturday, March 31, 2012

With all due apologies to Joyce Kilmer:

I think that I will never find,
a thing as loathsome as a sign.
A sign that springs up overnight,
where before the scene was clear and bright.

A sign, black letters, screaming yellow
saying “Posted, no trespassing, my dear poor fellow.”
You may have been here all your life,
But I bought this land and now it’s mine.

To do with as I please, though it may cause strife,
I’ll haul you to jail, you’ll pay a big fine,
If you hunt or fish on land that’s MINE.
I own this land and I don’t want you here.

Your heart resides on this land you say?
I don’t care, I still say nay.
To hunting, fishing, berry picking and more,
Hiking, living, loving the shore.

My posted sign is a warning to all,
though your feelings and senses it may appall.
I bought this land, to do with what I might.
So I tell you, “No Trespassing,” It’s my legal right.

And under the law I put an end to a culture
that once was free and decent and kind.
I did this with money, the law of the land,
By the simple expedient of a “No Trespassing” sign.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March Goes Out Like A Lion

Hope deferred makes the heart sad, so goes the proverb. And in the case of spring, 2012, hope was deferred and it has made my heart sad.

Specifically, my trout pond had thawed nearly two weeks ago. Ice-free, no trace of winter. Snow and ice had become so “last year.”

But news of cold temperatures and an impending snowstorm brought all happy spring hopes to an end.

Thinking on my feet, I decided to take the tarp, which I had used to cover my boat for the winter (I had already un-winterized the boat, a bad idea) and place it over my crocus bed. This trick worked once before. If crocuses get covered with snow, they turn into something like wet crepe paper. But covered, they can weather the storm, literally.

So today, Friday, March 30, my crocus bed remains covered because it is far too cold to remove the cover. Contrast that with a little over one week ago, when temperatures soared to the low 80s.

Now back to my trout pond. The pond re-froze and is once again completely covered with ice. And of all things, the hatchery truck is due to arrive this afternoon to deliver this season’s batch of trout. I had to take an ice chisel and open up a hole in order to accommodate an introduction of fish.

I know this won’t last forever, but taken as a whole, it sure has a dampening effect upon my spirits. It all goes to show how closely we are tied to the climate, the weather and the seasons.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Record Early Phoebe

What a whirlwind spring we have enjoyed thus far. Temperatures in the 80s have finally given way to more seasonable conditions. But before the changeover, I noticed something that seemed hard to believe.

Last week, a bird briefly fluttered over my back door. This is a place where phoebes typically build their mud nests…and a place where I always attempt to thwart them.

But phoebes are flycatchers and as such, do not normally arrive in our climes until at least mid- to late-April. So to see a phoebe in March was astounding.

I doubted myself, too, and wondered if I weren’t mistaken. But today, Sunday, March 25, all doubts were erased. There, on a grape arbor, was a phoebe.

The coming cold weather won’t be good for the bird, of that I’m sure. But I know that lots of other birds have arrived unusually early and also, many plants have erupted prematurely. But this has happened in the past and it will, no doubt, happen again. Nature is a pre-set machine and it makes provisions for such anomalies.

At any rate, it sure is good to see all the spring birds and early plants.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First Day of Spring 2012

What a ripper of a first day of spring we just enjoyed. With temperatures in the 70s, nature literally burst open at the seams.

I was greeted at dawn by the first flock of returning Canada geese passing low over my Waldo cottage, a good sign of even better things to come.

Then upon peeking outside, I saw not one but several types of skipper butterflies. And mind you, this is still March.

The downside was that I had an exe exam scheduled for 11:15. But even that turned out okay, because on the way home I stopped at one of my favorite beaches and harvested a big bag of blue mussels. To pick mussels in March, clad only in sneakers, jeans and Tee shirt, is unheard of. But with temperatures by now up in the 70s, that was the way of it.

After this, I headed to Palmyra to get a prescription refilled and on the way home, swung into the bumpy, potholed road that leads to Unity Pond. Several mourning cloak butterflies jumped in the air in front of my car, another first for this date.

The pond was mostly ice covered, but it was a thin layer of black, mushy ice, tinkling as the breezed pushed it here and there. And some water was open along the shore, so I took a few casts just to say that I went open-water fishing on the first day of spring (current laws allow for open-water fishing or ice-fishing year-round in lakes and ponds. Brooks and streams remain closed until April 1, a really nonsensical, misguided breach of common sense).

While fishing the pond, I watched a number of goldeneye ducks paddling around at the edge of open water. Red-winged blackbirds serenaded me from a nearby marsh.

On the way home, I stopped and took a photo of a roadside bank that was covered with bright yellow coltsfoot blossoms, something not to be seen too often on the first day of spring. These usually appear around the second week of April. But then again, the curled dock growing just beneath the coltsfoot-covered bank has never appeared this early either.

On the way home, I spied two newly-arrived turkey vultures gliding low over some woodland.

Back home, I noted that my fish pond had become ice-free, so I dug some earthworms and set out a line, just in case last year’s marauding mink had left me a trout or two.

At day’s end, I sat and played reels and jigs on my pennywhistles, all the while sipping on some nut brown ale. When darkness finally enveloped my little woodland clearing, I took my telescope out and checked out some double stars in the constellation Orion.

And so ended my first day of spring, a memorable and enjoyable one as ever I can recall. I hope you all relished the day as much as I did.

Captions for the three photos, top to bottom, are 1. Tom by his greenhouse thermometer on first day of spring, 2012, 2. Curled dock up and growing on first day of spring and 3. Coltsfoot blossoms enliven a Belfast roadside.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pussy Willow Time

Get ready, because it’s coming fast. Of course I refer to the rapidly advancing approach of spring.

Already, some plants have evidenced signs of growth. The dame’s rocket growing in front of my house has turned from a dead-looking, drab, graysih plant into a green, growing, vibrant one.

And, of course, pussy willows should soon enliven the scene along country roads. These fuzzy, silver catkins make wonderful dried arrangements. The key word here is “dried.” Let me digress a bit regarding how to get a full year out of the current crop of pussy willows.

As a child (I suspect that most every country kid had the same or similar experience), my grandma would loan me her Barlow knife with the instructions to go out and get her a bunch of pussy willows. This grown-up charge did lots to inflate my young ego and I dutifully went back in the woodlot to where some pussy willows grew in an opening.

Somehow, grandma always knew just when the pussy willows were at their peak for cutting. I wonder now if she didn’t go out back first, just to make sure of my success. She was crafty and filled with wisdom, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Anyway, I would come home with an armload of long-stemmed pussy willows, the catkins plump and silvery-white.

Then grandma would select the best of the best and place them in a tall vase. And then she filled the vase with water, a mistake as I see it now.

Pussy willows and indeed most willows, readily set roots when cuttings are placed in water. This means that the ornamental pussy willows we cut and place in water will continue to grow. Eventually, the catkins become covered with yellow pollen, the leaves begin to fill out and the cuttings no longer resemble the original product. There is a way around this.

Cut the willows and place them in a vase, minus water. That’s it. They will dry in only a week or perhaps less. And they retain their appearance for as long as we wish for them to. The only problem is that dust accumulates on them after about a year and it is hard to dust pussy willows without breaking off the catkins.

But that’s no problem, because by the time the old ones have become dilapidated looking, the next year’s crop is ready for cutting.

So keep your eyes peeled for that favorite stand of pussy willows and if you want a long-lasting bouquet, just hold the water, please.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Manage Those Garden Weeds

Spring draws near, seed orders should arrive in the mail any time now and gardeners will soon have their hands in the soil, tilling, mixing and planting.

While it is yet a bit early for any outdoor gardening activities, it isn’t too early to begin thinking about how to deal with those pesky “weeds.” I say this tongue-in-cheek, because I make use of many of these wild plants that crop up in my garden beds.

I plan to address this topic more thoroughly in the future, but for now, let me ask readers to plumb the depths of their memories and try and recall just what weeds are present in their gardens. Of course this does not imply that any of you are not diligent in keeping neat and orderly garden beds. I only mean that every garden is subject to weed introductions through various means, including wind-blown seed and the incorporation of foreign matter (compost) in garden soil.

Once you recognize and perhaps even catalogue your weeds, then we can begin talking about managing them to their greatest potential. I purposely leave some young weeds alone in spring, so that they may grow to a useful size before hauling them out and planting my vegetables.

So yes, you can garden for cultivated vegetables and also, garden for useful wild plants. It’s just a question of balance. And for sure, once you become better acquainted with some of these wild plants you will probably become enamored of them, at which point they will no longer be “weeds.”