Ten days and the arugula seeds have sprouted and are sticking their first leaves above the soft earth. What do leaves feel when they first poke out of the earth, breathe the air, and feel the sun’s rays? Is it as momentous as a baby’s first breathe, a chick’s first peep?
In about ten days the cherry buds will open and fill the air with their powder fresh fragrance. The quiet tree will buzz with thousands of bees. That’s momentous.
The United Nations Environment Programme reported on February 26 that 40% of invertebrate pollinators such as bees and butterflies were in danger of going instinct. It’s so sad what we humans are doing to this amazing world. We are so incredibly lucky to have an earth so full of life. Every species, no matter how small or insignificant they seem to us, is precious, an important thread in the fabric of life so complex we can’t begin to fathom. We keep plucking these threads of life and throwing them aside, unaware that at some point, the web of life we depend on will be too fragile to keep us alive.
Special is being courted, but she’s far more interested in seeing what juicy morsels she can dig up in the stream than she is by the young rooster’s performance. Chickens enjoy hunting in streams. It’s not something you read about in books about chickens is it? “Be sure and provide chickens with a hunting stream.” Have you ever read that? Actually, you rarely read that chickens are adept hunters. I’m glad they are small birds. We’d be on their menu if they were giants.
Bit by bit, we’re preparing for next winter. There is a slow, steady beauty to cutting wood and stacking it. You spend all spring and summer cutting and stacking it, only to slowly tear down the stacks through fall and winter.
We had a surprise this afternoon when we accidentally uncovered a wintering northwestern salamander. Before covering it up again, I took a picture. With the pond and woods, there seem to be plenty of these salamanders around. It’s always a joy to see one.
So many of the fruits we love to eat are so beautiful long before they become fruits. The plum branches we pruned bloomed when we brought them indoors. Soon they will be blooming outdoors too.
I’m pushing it, planting vegetables already. But in the garden I see the new leaves of last year’s vegetables which seeded: baby leaves of ruby streaks and kale poking out of the ground. If those seeds are sprouting, with luck the rows of kohlrabi I planted this afternoon will sprout too.
The earth is alive with worms, bugs, and tiny winged things. Under the microscope this afternoon I saw a million creatures in a drop of soil: bacteria, fungi, amoebae, and nematodes. I’ve got to figure out how to hover over the delicate soil so I can weed and plant without compressing it. It is so full of life, that I take one step and a million creatures gasp under the weight of my foot, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Helium wings? Zip lines strung a few feet above the earth so I can fly over it without putting any weight on the soft earth? Tilling is madness when your soil is alive. The earthworms, and bugs, and fungi, and bacteria, and nematodes, and micro arthropods fluff the soil with all their burrowing and scurrying about and chasing after each other, that the soil is airier and lighter than any tilling could possibly accomplish.
A frosty morning after a clear night. Even the daffodil leaves are dusted with frost, giving their green leaves a muted hue.
Where do branches come from? Split a tree apart and it’s clear they come from the core. So when you look up at a tree and gaze at its branches, you can picture them penetrating to the core of the tree. That’s where branches come from.
Where branches come from isn’t on the minds of these hens. They’re busy looking for good things to eat in the warming spring earth. I saw a garden snake slithering through the brush today. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a garden snake in February before.
Special, one of Hazel’s chicks, has a call all her own. There is no doubt who has laid an egg or who has something to say when she opens her mouth. “Special, what are you up to now?” I think when I hear her call from the other side of the garden. She may have missed her calling to sing in a punk band.
A stack of tree bones lie on the ground, left overs from pruning a plum tree. What to do with tree bones? The thicker bones can be turned into coasters. Cut the coasters from the same bone, and you can later stack them and they’ll look like a single log.
They also make good firewood. Next fall or winter, this pile of tree bones, dried through the summer, will keep the house warm for a cozy evening. When you cut and stack these hard tree bones, it’s hard to imagine that most of the material in them came out of thin air. But it’s what plants and trees do, breathe in the carbon out of the air and turn it into mass. When I burn it, most of the mass will go back into the air, only to be sucked in and made into mass by other trees and plants. When humans die, we often say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” When trees and plants die, we should say, “Gasses to gasses, water to water.”
Spring should be called Colors. The drab hues of winter give way to the brilliance of cobalt skies, iridescent hue of flowers, and emerald green of new leaves. The crocus are out which means winter has gone for sure.
Billy is enjoying the early spring sunshine. This is his eighth spring. He’s such an old man. He’s the oldest chicken here. Each morning when I see him, it makes me happy. “Billy is still here,” I say. “It’s a good morning.”
The stinging nettles grow taller every day. Touch them with your fingers and you’ll feel the burn of spring in your fingers for a few days, maybe a week. It’s not a blistering, frightening, insufferable, life-threatening burn like poison ivy or poison oak. It’s an “ouch” and then your fingers tingle like they’re high or something. It’s sorta meditative. It’s just enough tingling to make you aware of your fingers, to make you be present. In a few days it’s gone and you’re tempted to touch them again.
With blue in the morning sky, a walk in the woods is called for. Deep in the woods, Indian Plum or Osoberry are in full bloom, dangling their white flowers under budding leaves. These dainty white delights are among the earliest wildflowers to bloom around here. Their Latin name, Oemleria cerasiformis, sounds like a morning chant: Oem le ria era si form is, oem le ria era si form is, oem le ria era si form is. I can picture a line of monks chanting this during their morning meditation in the woods, can you? Or would this chant work better: O em le riaca si formis?
Cerasiformis means cherry shaped. Oemleria cerasiformis is the only species in the entire genus of oemleria. It’s one of a kind.
The main chicken bridge here is one of a kind too. I have reason to believe it may be the most crossed, busiest chicken bridge in the world. All day long the chickens go back and forth to see what is on the other side.
The morning skies did not fail. The stinging nettles (urtica dioica) are up and I gathered this year’s first harvest of nettles. Tossed into a pot of chowder, they add a spring touch to a hearty lunch. Take a bite, savor the taste of spring and chant to commemorate this first of the year nettles: urt ica dio ica, urt ica dio ica.
Few flowers smell as sweet as sweet daphne. It blooms in late winter and early spring, filling the air with sweetness. You can’t smell it and be sad. A native of southern China, it is popular in Japan. The Korean name, “churihyang” means a thousand mile scent, a very fitting name as its fragrance carries a long way.
I remember the first time I biked past one and had to stop to see what flower smelled so wonderful so early in the spring. I asked the woman at the house where it was blooming, what it was, and she told me and said I could take a cutting. “Stick it in the ground and it will grow,” she said. I thanked her, but since I didn’t have a garden at the time, I left without a cutting. Now I have a large bush which is in full bloom.