Saturday, May 3, 2014

And then ...

First rainbow over the fields that a week before were buried under a foot of snow. (May 2, 2014)

The world has gone from frozen white to liquid silver, overnight, or so it seemed.  The dun of the winter battered fields is tinted faint green, especially on the southern slopes where the still infrequent sun has warmed the soil, heated the grasses into growth.  Along the tree line that separates our yard from overgrown field, the popples are fuzzed with new catkins, and the pussy willow buds, once plump and pearled gray, are swollen and shaggy, dusted with faint gold pollen, the earliest of the spring.  Eventually each bud produces a myriad of tiny seeds that carry on the wind and settle to sprout into new bushes.  Thickets of red stick, hidden since December, glow like garnets against the drear of this cold spring. 
Along the roadsides, the ditches run fast and burbling filled with the melt from snow that is sometimes a foot or more deep beneath the thick furs and spruces of the woods. The rush of moving water creates a melody with the wind, tumbles down to the streams and rivers still swollen beyond their banks, flecked now and again with thin floes of ice that bob and swirl their way downstream. Where the water has slowed and pooled in the ditches, caught by a rise of land or a tangle of brush and dead leaves, it mirrors back the thin cerulean blue sky, the cotton candy clouds of this freshening season. 
The field a week earlier

A week ago, with cold rain and intermittent snow still falling, our world still slumbered, but in the last few days, the promise of summer’s golden hours have been borne in on the wings of the tree sparrows who have returned to the summer cottages we provide them.  Their arrival always coincides with the reawakening of the cluster flies, also known as attic flies, from their winter hibernation.  The flies follow the sun, gathering in small swarms and clutches along the warmest sides of the house, and the swallows swoop and soar around and around, now low then high, gobbling up the still sleepy flies from midair.  The bigger creatures have awoken too, or moved from cozy dens where they have wintered. 
Tree swallow outside the living room window
All last week when we walked the dogs up our muddy road, the cloven prints of moose pocked the dirt, zig-zagging from one side to the other, disappearing at last into the woods or field.  There were rumors that the deer had been especially hard pressed by the nearly fifteen feet of snow and the bitter cold of this winter, and although we had kept a careful eye along the verges of the fields plowed last fall, we had not seen a one.  We were worried.  And then, there they were.
A doe, still dark with her winter coat and a yearling ambled up from the wetlands along Salmon Lake Brook and through the thickets of red stick across from the house.  Monty saw them first and sounded the alarm.  They stopped, hesitating for a moment, big ears twitching, noses lifted and scenting the air.  Then they skirted the apple trees and tiptoed onto the rutted road, stopping again, looking about before ambling into our southern field.  They dropped black muzzles and browsed, inching slowly up the field, eating their way the whole six hundred feet to the edge of the woods, where they melted like ghosts into the trees.  They were the scouting party. 
Strolling down the road beside the redstick
A day later, a single hen turkey moved into the south field, feeding on spilled weed seeds and tiny new grass. There has been a fairly substantial flock of the wild birds roaming our two-square-mile neighborhood for most of the winter, but none had ventured here.  That the single hen seemed to be staking territory to raise a brood was a good omen.  At dusk, three more deer appeared from across the road and suddenly the world was full of life. Deer leaped across the road in arcing bounds, raised their heads in the fields to watch as we passed by.  Yesterday as we drove up the hill from town, we counted nearly two dozen, some noticeably pregnant, all grazing intently, unconcerned about our presence.  It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so many and we are overjoyed.
We have posted our land for the last seven years, after a hunter with more bravado than brains sighted in his scope by aiming at our houses.  Adjacent landowners who use the fields for growing hay had not, and since this area has long been known for good hunting, there was always a rush of traffic, especially on opening day. We often joked that we could make money if we set up a coffee-and-doughnuts stand that one day.  But there are a lot of what we call heater hunters in this neck of the woods.  Those ”sportsmen” see hunting as simply driving around in a warm truck rather than actually walking the land, and after several years of badly rutted fields left behind by such hunters, our neighbors posted their land  to hunting on foot only. 
The traffic during hunted season has thinned considerably, and deer find the open fields behind our house a good sanctuary.  This morning, three grazed the field across the road while a
Deer in the back yard
moose nibbled on young shrubs near the woods line.  This afternoon, four deer made their way down from the back woods  to the septic field, which as Erma Bombeck once said, is always greener, and browsed hungrily for almost two hours about a hundred feet from the bedroom windows. 
We are moving into spring, and beyond it, summer stretches like a promise.  Flats of onions and leeks, large and tall zinnias, and a couple rosemary plants are up and promising good meals and beautiful blooms to come.  At noon I swung by Kristine Bondeson’s Down to Earth Garden Center ( to pick up the San Marzano and Moskevich tomatoes we paid her to grow for us and several flats of pansies.  The flowering baskets from the annual plant sale sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa, Northern Maine Community College’s honor society, are filled with tiger-striped petunias and hung by the garage doors, and I’ve finalized the plans for this year’s herb garden.  Next week we will lay black plastic to warm the soil, and soon after, begin planting.
While the day has been cold and gray, more April than May, we have made good use of it – playing fetch with Monty in the snow-free yard, watching our dear girl Hannah, happy the cold has begun to ebb, stretch out in delight on a patch of grass.  A turkey curry soup, thick with leeks and carrots and parsnips all grown here, and turkey from a neighbor-friend, simmers on the stove. Only the celery is not locally grown.  A leg of lamb, also raised on the same farm a few miles away, is marinating in balsamic vinegar, rosemary and garlic for dinner tomorrow with Kasey, Andrew and the boys.  They spent the day planting a hundred Christmas trees at the new "old” house which will soon become their home, the trees a fledgling business. .
It has been a long and difficult winter. Snow, extended bitter cold, dark days, and more sorrow than we thought we could bear, but we have made it through, sustained by good friends near and far who we hold always in our hearts.  The freezers have enough food left to carry us through to the next harvest; the woodpile, for once more than adequate, only needs topping off – a cord or two; and we can plan some days of leisure amongst those filled with the work of mowing and gardening and preparing for next winter.  We move with the rhythm of the land and it carries us with it.  By doing so, we can believe that things will be right with our world.  

No comments:

Post a Comment