Going, Going, . . . Almost Gone!
Opening day came on April Fool’s Day this year. (An omen? I hope not.) The Red Sox and Yankees took to the field in the Bronx at 1:05 pm. After six months since last tuning in to the WEEI Red Sox Radio Network, I had to think for a minute to remember which preset the station was programmed to on our radio. Once found, the familiar voice of Joe Castiglione signaled the beginning of another season.
“Way back, way back, this ball is gone!”
So is our snow. Well, almost. There are still about three inches “at the stake.” About a foot remains in the hollows and shadows along the stream beds, but it’s retreating fast.
The south-facing slopes in our meadows have started opening up dramatically in the past few days.
The winter landscape easily masks the activities of the critters that remain active beneath the snow. Once that insulating blanket is pulled back, clues to their once hidden networks are revealed. Pathways from the compost pile to the animal hotel under our overturned stock tank are well worn, as are the foraging networks that criss-cross the meadows. Our greenhouses are favorite destinations, too.
I took a few moments yesterday to wander in the sunshine with camera in hand. The sun’s path is getting higher each day and the midday light is not the easiest to work with, especially on a scene that ranges from blindingly bright snow to the deep shadows beneath the hemlocks.
During the summer months this old birch (above) can easily be overlooked in the mix along the stream. Yesterday’s light dramatically exposed its outer layers. As when observing the weathered lines on an aging person’s face, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories this tree could tell. Standing sentinel over our middle meadow it has seen the transition from a Great Depression era hillside farm, to seldom visited hay fields, to the “log it and flog it” abuse that left deep scars in 2003, to this day when a pair of dreamers share a vision for the land’s return to food crops and grazing.
As trees go, the lifespan of a white birch is short. It’s an early successional species that may reach 150 years old in good conditions. This old gal is showing the hardships of time. At 80 or 90 feet tall she one day soon may fall to the wind. When that day comes I hope to use her remains to fire the evaporator, making sugar from her neighboring maples.
While I enjoyed the sunshine on the textures of field and forest, the sound of a falling axe reminded me that it was time to get back to work. On Monday, April 8th, we will pull the taps from the trees and mark the end of another “sugarin’ season,” but, for now, there’s still sap to boil.