NATURE’S TURN: Awakening from dormancy

As spring begins, I have a renewed appreciation for our community of growers, teachers, students and supporters of ecological relationships with the Earth.

March 14-27, 2016
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenixes), in photo taken March 7, 2016. A sure sign of spring. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenixes), in photo taken March 7, 2016. A sure sign of spring. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mt. Washington — A single red-winged blackbird sings from the highest twigs of a sugar maple tree. Flicking its tail, it broadcasts its arrival with bubbly, throaty phrases and chipping. More blackbirds appear, showing red epaulets as they fly over their favored terrain: wetlands at the edge of fields where hills roll down to a thawing pond. The red-wing’s “cher i queeee” seems the first phrase of my own spring song, the seminal sound of the season.

The robust though aerodynamic shapes of mourning doves, the melodious and the scolding tones of robins seem parts of me returned. Families of wild turkeys and uplifted, luxuriant white tails of running deer have reappeared. Pairs of chipmunks chase, risen from their winter under ground; they are ground squirrels come to the surface. Chickadees sing their “fee-bee” song to the warm weather. A large hawk enters the lane directly in front of me, gliding on precisely level wings — then veers right, its russet tail splayed.

A month earlier than last year, alder twigs are resplendent with dangling yellow-green and reddish catkins. Swaying in the breeze on a humble shrub they are as lovely a sight as exquisite earrings worn by a modest woman on a bright spring day. Next to the alders, silver flower buds punctuate black and yellow willow stems. Round buds of red-berried elder swell. Yellow jackets venture out of their burrows.

Burgundy Okra a beautiful plant for both vegetable and flower gardens. Turtle Tree Seed, Copake, N.Y.
Burgundy Okra a beautiful plant for both vegetable and flower gardens. Turtle Tree Seed, Copake, N.Y.

In the garden, I dig overwintered parsnips with ease from a raised bed on which, as an afterthought prompted by the absence of insulating snow, I’d placed huge hay bales that span the width of the bed. Although the whole garden is rich in organic matter and a layer of compost was spread in the fall, the tines of my spading fork hit an iceberg 1 – 4 inches down in other beds, depending on exposure. The ground is frozen solid in shady areas. In sunny, south facing spots little sprays of camassia and crocus and the wide green leaves of daffodil have emerged.

Rainbow Chard, a beautiful plant for both vegetable and flower gardens. Turtle Tree Seed, Copake, N.Y.
Rainbow Chard, a beautiful plant for both vegetable and flower gardens.
Turtle Tree Seed, Copake, N.Y.

Mild weather encourages mending fences and posts upset by frost and snow. Dried stalks of perennials, left standing with seed heads to feed the birds, now require removal. Glaring in the spring light, winterkilled twigs and crossed branches on berry bushes and other woody plants summon the pruner.

As spring begins, I have a renewed appreciation for our community of growers, teachers, students and supporters of ecological relationships with the Earth. My commitment to edible landscaping is recharged through the experience of sharing delicious, beautiful, health-giving home grown vegetables with family and friends year-round. Renewed, also, is my interest in expanding my awareness of how our gardens can best function as a part of the ecosystem in which we live. New on my horizon: to refine and intensify my practice by learning more about, and communicating, what soil scientists are teaching us about how gardeners and farmers are a part of the solution to cleaning up our planet’s atmosphere.

Resources:

https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/

www.birds.cornell.edu

https://www.nofamass.org/carbon

5-pack bundles of seeds for edible landscaping, pollinators

https://turtletreeseed.org/product-category/gifts-books/seed-packet-combinations-and-t-shirts/

https://www.fourseasonfarm.com/